“Just” is a stealthy word that slips into conversations by default. We say it without intention. We accept it without question.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “just” has seven meanings as an adverb. We are exploring this one: “by a very small margin; barely.”

Just a worker. Just a manager. Just a mom or dad. Just one person.

Does the word “just” marginalize the greatness of a person, a team, a company, a brand? We tackle the topic by talking to three people here at GreenSeed Contract Packaging. Each have different roles and responsibilities.

First in walks Alfredo Pacheco. His easy smile matches the casual style of his brown sweater and blue jeans.

Alfredo helping the shipping department by driving a forklift.

He is a husband, a father. He is in charge of “many things” at GreenSeed. Building maintenance, changing lights, cleaning floors, refilling toilet paper dispensers, “filling the gaps” where needed.

Rather than focusing on “just” a job title, Alfredo points out how people can find ways to make the company better. He says, “You’re on the team, and you help everybody grow and grow together.”

He says if someone thinks “I’m just the packer” and the line goes down, he or she might sit there. Instead, if a person feels they are contributing to the success of a company, they will help another line or pick up garbage off the floor to keep the line clean so it is audit ready.

As the company grows, “You work as a team. You’re going to keep growing. Everybody (has) more work. You help the company, the company help you,” he says. English is not his first language, but he hits at the heart of the matter straight on.

Then comes the cake metaphor.

“If I have a cake and you don’t work with me, I’m not going to share with you. If you work hard and help me make the cake, you can have as much as you want,” he points out. “If I do my minimum, you’re going to get the minimum. You work as a team, take the cake. It’s all yours. As much as you want. It’s same for the company. It’s good. It’s more production. Very important for the customer, for you, for me.”

This thinking has impacted GreenSeed over the nine years he has worked here. Alfredo describes it as a transformation. “The new year is not last year. The new year is change, more busy, more customer, more product, more growth.”

Much of what Alfredo says circles back to the company. But what about him personally? He says, “Yes. For me, I am happier. I can do a lot of jobs. Before, I could not. I am learning more and there’s more opportunity.” He says he is more positive. He has good things to share when he gets home. He is more relaxed.

As Alfredo is about to leave, he summarizes the “just” mindset better than a New York Times bestseller. He says, “They see you in the pouches, the quality, the pallets, the shipping.”

If what he says is true, can consumers also see the “just” mindset show up in products too?

Next walks in Ana Huante from quality control. She works at GreenSeed as a QA technician.

She wears a black t-shirt with white lettering that says: “No, I will not fix your computer.” A quiet strength shines in her dark eyes. She joined GreenSeed as a packer in 2012, then became a machine operator, and earned a promotion to QA technician in 2017. She is a mother of three. She communicates through an interpreter.

“When they use word ‘just,’ ” she says, “you’re not contributing much. Almost everybody does a lot of things. I’m not just doing this. I do a lot of things. When supervisors use the word ‘just,’ it minimizes what people want to do and what they do.”

She adds, “That word doesn’t exist for me.”

She believes a “just” mindset creates silos, and silos are bad for everyone.

“When someone has the ‘just’ mindset,” she says, “if they are a packer, they just pack. (The opposite means you are) more involved with the rest of the line, the leads, your supervisor. You are more observant of your surroundings. And pointing out more things to your supervisor.”

“All of us have the same responsibility, it’s just that some try harder than others. Packer to supervisor to manager — they have the same responsibility and should have the same commitment. The entire company has the responsibility of the success of the company,” Ana says.

What does success look like? She answers, “Success is better communication, everybody is happy, work as a team, everybody is working together, good results.”

Ana didn’t always believe this. She says that she “changed for good,” adding she has more confidence because of the opportunities she’s been given. “At the beginning, I really struggle and look at me now. I’m doing it!” she says brightly.

Lastly, we speak with Hector Leon, GreenSeed’s plant manager. The “just” mindset is something he’s thought a lot about over the years.

When team members feel valued by their supervisor, they want to help mentor and train other employees.

He has been with the company since its infancy, when the team was much smaller.

“You minimize people when you say ‘just.’ You have to give people the opportunity to show they can do it,” he says. “I want to make sure associates don’t feel ‘just.’ I want to remove that word from the plant.”

Like Alfredo, Hector believes customers can see the “just” mindset a mile away. “Customers expect to see all the pieces of the puzzle there. ‘I’m just’ (means) I don’t have impact.”

If there are pouches on the floor, he says, if they are leaking, if they don’t look right, it’s going to show up in the store. And this would negatively impact GreenSeed. “I know every person comes to do their best,” he says. “I want to make everybody feel part of the team. When they don’t feel ‘just,’ they will do everything for the success of the company — it will be reflected in the product and the customer will see that. We will make the best quality product.”

As a contract packager, audits are normal. Hector says that associates always get involved. “After the customer audit, our people say: ‘How did we do?’ I feel that support from them.”

How do you eliminate a “just” mindset? Hector explains it’s a continuous process. “Even though we have a culture,” he says, “everybody is different. Everybody comes from different backgrounds and experiences. It takes time to go from ‘I’m just a packer’ to ‘I’m not just a packer anymore.'”

Avoiding a “just” mindset creates opportunities. Hector gives an example: “Training is more than just training, it’s mentoring and sharing their story. One of the things I do, and encourage the supervisors to do, is to take one-on-one time, take the time to personally talk with people. You have to attach their heart to our culture as often as you can.”

Do you think using “just” minimizes the words that follow it? If so, what is the cost to your business? What is the cost to individual growth?