TWO NOTEWORTHY employees crossed my path on a recent trip. We may wonder what made one of them a shining example of corporate loyalty and the other a not-so-shining example of disloyalty and disrespect. I think it’s an attitude of pride that rises, not from the top of a corporation as much as from the front line employees of that organization.
The two employees are both far from decision-makers for their respective employers, but one of them made enough of a positive impression on this traveler that when I have a choice, I’m more likely to choose her hotel chain. The other did me no harm and my travel was unaffected, but her negative attitude was enough for me to check other airline schedules, lest I end up on an airplane with that flight attendant.
I was in the waiting area when the crew for another flight arrived and stood waiting for the door to open. The pilots were ‘in uniform’ with company ties and epaulets their shirts. That’s what first got me – the shirts. One of them was well ironed with a crease on the sleeve and the other was rumpled. I found myself hoping that the guy with the well-ironed shirt was the pilot – and it wasn’t even my flight.
Then my attention drifted to the waiting flight attendants – much more in uniform and ready to be identified as the airline’s most direct connection with their passengers. Except that one of the women was wearing a blue skirt with a loose hem – about 12 inches in the back of her skirt was flapping.
She’d be really embarrassed if she knew about that, I thought. Surely one of the other attendants will clue her in – but they didn’t. My don’t-just-sit-there gene kicked in. Approaching the waiting crew, I leaned over so that I could keep my voice low and politely tell the attendant about the overlooked flaw in her appearance. I expected her be surprised and do something about it.
“Yeah, I know,” she responded. “I quit caring about my appearance since I came to work for X Airline.”
Score one for disrespect. I was the one who was surprised as I watched her walk down the tunnel to her job with the back half of her skirt dangling. She’s only one example among thousands of employees of that airline – but when I think of that airline, I think of her. She’s the one who, single-handedly, moved her airline down on my preference list.
Refilled my appreciation
The other employee whose actions affected my travel preference was a waitperson. I was giving a workshop in a well-known hotel and at break time, went back to the lobby to see if I could get a refill on my cup of coffee. But I was out of luck – the coffee station had been broken down and my expression probably betrayed my disappointment. Restaurant staffers were sitting around a table folding napkins, and one of them got up and came over.
“You were looking for a cup of coffee, weren’t you?” she said, gesturing toward my empty cup.
“Yes, but I see I’m too late.”
“Give me your cup.”
I protested mildly that I didn’t really need another cup of coffee, but she took the cup and disappeared toward the kitchen. Soon, she was back with a fresh cup of steaming coffee and a beaming smile. I was impressed that she’d go out of her way to do that when all she had to do to meet the requirements of her job was keep folding napkins and ignore another person who was too late for coffee.
“Thank you very much. That’s really unusually good service,” I complimented her. She stood a little straighter and her brown dress and apron took on the grandeur of a tuxedo when she told me:
“Oh, sir. That’s just the way we do things at the Hilton.”
And that’s how a morning shift waitress did more to make me think well of Hilton properties than all their marketing and management personnel combined.
I can’t put my finger on an external cause for the different attitudes these two employees demonstrated, so I suggest it comes down to character – one of them has pride in herself and her employer, pride that is lacking in the other.
On the job, or just talking about our employer, we never know when somebody will get a lasting message about us and our chosen employer – so your pride is one of your intangible contributions to your job that can actually make your organization and your position within that organization stronger. You never know who’s paying attention.
by Gregory Lay
Accidental Career blog ~ Going to work with purpose!
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