Speaking Up

Jun 5, 2022

Have you have ever gone to a restaurant or a drive through, ordered your meal, placed it next to you on the passenger seat in eager anticipation of the moment you get home,  sit down and take your first bites, only to discover that what you got is not what you ordered?  I know the answer is yes, because that’s life and it happens.  Now, typically the next step is to call the restaurant and complain.  You paid money for something and therefor have an expectation that you got precisely what you paid for, which is a totally reasonable bar to set.  The same can be said for any type of transaction where expectations fall short and we, in the position of the consumer, voice our opinion of what happened.  It may be to a manager, or supervisor, or even directly to the person with whom the exchange took place.  We don’t get what we wanted and we’re going to make sure someone knows about it.

Have you have ever gone to a restaurant or a drive through, ordered your meal, placed it next to you on the passenger seat in eager anticipation of the moment you get home, sit down and take your first bites, only to discover that, not only is the meal far more exquisite than you could ever have anticipated, but they also packed you up a free desert, you noticed they forgot to charge you for doubling down on the bacon, or you got an extra McNugget in your happy meal?  Once again, I know the answer is yes, because that’s life and it happens.  Now, typically the next step is to finish your meal and move on with your life.  That’s it.  Not more action required. It’s the end of the story from there.  Why is that?

Whether we are at a restaurant, the local hardware store, at the karaoke bar or at work, as people we tend to gravitate more towards telling others what went wrong as opposed to what went right.  I openly admit that I am quick to criticize other departments and teams for not following through, checking in, or taking actions that I generally disagree with.  It takes a conscious effort to recognize the things done right, what went over and above, or even for just matching what we assume should have been done in the first place.  It is a discipline that I try very hard to exercise and every now and again I need to check and remind myself that, more often than not, events do match or exceed expectations, and those events are worthy of commending and offering thanks.

It’s a rather off-putting interaction for many when I ask to speak to the manager of, say, the local grocery store.  The cashier instantly feels I am asking to do so in order to complain about the level of service I just received.  It’s unfortunate that we default to this feeling, but when I instead inform the manager that I wish to acknowledge and provide commendation for the individual who went out of their way to seek out enoki mushrooms from the back so that I could perfect my dinner prep, their reaction turns to a mix between surprise and confusion.  We aren’t used to being sought out for things that went well, but imagine how much brighter your day would be if a point was made through a few very simple and deliberate actions to acknowledge something good that transpired, no matter how small it may be.

The workplace should be no different.  Making a point to notice the things that people do to positively impact those around them can be far more rewarding and uplifting than only taking stock of the things that went wrong.  Which is not to say we should completely ignore the frustrating moments altogether; they have and deserve they place among our feelings, I’m just saying it’d be nice if we could find strategies to prevent those frustrations from consuming us.   This past week one of my peers came by my office for no other reason than to directly acknowledge recent events, which apparently had a positive impact in her life.  I had no idea that I contributed to this and it was certainly without intention, but her very deliberate action provided me a positive outlook for my entire week.  So much so that it made me want to write a post about it.  And so to her I say a very public ‘thank you’ for not only making my day and week, but for reminding me on the importance of recognizing others, and that there are very simple ways in which we can all positively effect one another.

How we treat each other as people, individuals and human beings, rather than service staff, clerks or co-workers, can generate such a remarkable connection that it almost ‘resets’ all of the other noise that fills in the gaps of our day.   The act of swinging by my office for two minutes in the morning erased the troubles I had been feeling for the past month; or perhaps acknowledging the person who prepared your morning coffee by name could set a different tone for the rest of their shift.  Maybe it’s calling the library back to thank them for the recommendation, asking to speak to the line cook (when they are not in the weeds) to personally acknowledge the work put into your eggs benny, providing kudos to manager at the toy store for creating a setting in which kids are allowed to be kids and they are spoken to with respect and understanding.  There are countless moments within in a day and, if we pay close enough attention, we can recognize that the vast majority of them are positive.

Google reviews and Facebook likes are all well and good, but if you can personalize the experience through conversation and direct interaction, the impact and results can reach so much farther.   It’s amazing what can change with a little observation and a few simple words.



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