The other day I stood third in line at the post office to Xpress Post an order of books to a client. While awaiting my turn, both myself and the man in front of me, simultaneously noticed that a couple greeting cards from the adjacent shelves had fallen to the ground, immediately in our path. An in voluntary, “oh dear” popped out of my mouth as we both looked at the floor. I was about to bend over, pick the cards up and put them back in their rightful place, however, the man in front was faster. But he didn’t pick up the cards…he disdainfully shoved them aside with his foot.
Maybe it was the mother in me/the good citizen/neighbour, etc., but I found this man’s behaviour and action offensive. In response, and without words, I bent over, picked the cards up and replaced them in their proper slots on the shelf. Easy enough to do–took 3 seconds, tops. At that point this same man mildly scolded my actions, self-righteously proclaiming, “You didn’t knock those cards over! It’s not your job to pick them up…it’s theirs!“, pointing to the postal employees (who were busy tending to the customers in front of us). I acknowledged that, “Yes, that may be true but, look….they’re busy right now and it’s okay to be nice…to help out.” To that he merely grunted and shook his head a little.
We obviously disagreed and that was all there was to that…no line-rage erupted. Still, afterwards, I found myself pondering the experience, with a few particular questions on my mind:
1. Why do some of us think that it’s not okay, or “not our job”, to help out–especially at times when it costs us so little and we can see that others are busy “batting the balls” as fast as they can?
2. Do we really need to always adhere to such stringent guidelines for “getting the job done” and who should be performing it?
3. Is the concept of teamwork only meant for those employed inside the organization, eg. in this case, the postal station, or can customers be part of the “team”, from time-to-time, too, where appropriate? And…
4. How many times per day are similar scenarios playing out in workplaces? and just how much is the attitude of, “It’s not my job” or, “I won’t bend over to help out!”, costing both private and public sectors organizations, everywhere?
What are your experiences of a similar nature,
from your workplaces or elsewhere?
What do you think of these questions I’m pondering?