The Greeter

I read the following the other day, and it got me thinking:

“A greeter greats people”, says Jim Churchman. . . “I try to project that’s there’s a happy spot in life, that anybody can find some happiness each day. If you come to Walmart, you usually come to buy something, but if you don’t, that’s fine. I’m spreading goodwill.”

“I’m spreading goodwill” – that sounds pretty worthwhile doesn’t it?

How many of us have belittled the “Walmart Greeter”? Have you ever said, or heard someone say, “Well, if you can’t get a real job, you could always be a Walmart greeter”? The idea is that the least qualified person could get that job. Or that job is so low on the scale of job that they must be willing to take anyone. Let’s face it, we think of it as a “joke” of a job.

But is it really?

In the short story above, the man chose that position. Why? Because he likes to greet people. He gets a lot of enjoyment out of it. He recognizes that his smile and hello may be the best thing in someone’s day. His effort to make someone feel welcome is a big improvement over so many other “encounters” we have at other places. Who of us likes to stand in line for a long time somewhere? Ever get to the checkout and be met by a grumpy person who barely makes eye contact? Ever been left to feel like you are imposing on someone by asking a question about merchandise? So in his mind, he is doing something he likes to do, is good at it, helps others and is an improvement over so many other experiences people go through in a day. Can you say that about your job?

He recognizes the value his job creates for people

So choosing to be a Walmart Greeter may be a really noble calling for some. They truly like to meet people. Someone who greets people at a church is considered a wonderful volunteer. Is the Walmart greeter any different?

Maybe the person has a desire or a need for some income. Can we begrudge them for that? For many of us, our jobs are a large part of our identity (if you don’t buy that thought, ask someone out of work how hard it is to answer the question, “so what do you do for a living?”). Maybe it makes someone feel a little better to say they work at Walmart than to say “I am a retiree”. In fact, in Jim’s case he was “retired”, as a former teacher and principal. He was looking for some way to stay engaged.

We hold some jobs on a pedestal. Other jobs seem like the bottom of the barrel. Maybe it is time to stop making those assumptions until we really consider the circumstances. Jobs are quite often the result of what a human being puts into them. A fancy sounding job with a lot of pay at a prestigious organization executed by someone who doesn’t care is not necessarily one to be envied. Maybe a simple, low-paying job executed by someone who cares is a better answer. But it is hard for us to separate the title from the truth. A little reflection might get us thinking differently.

I don’t go into Walmart very often, but next time I do, I am going to take a moment to notice the greeter. Maybe they will make my day a little brighter!

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Organizational Culture and Finding a Job

I was at a Job Seeker’s Meeting last week and was struck by the simplicity of a message. That message made me pose a question to the audience about their preferences for organizational culture as opposed to the “perfect job” or the “right pay”. I believe it has deep implications for anyone trying to decide “what’s next”.

The meeting had a HR representative from Caterpillar Corp talking about their HR hiring process and tips for job seekers. The striking message was as follows. Caterpillar has a person read every resume submitted for a position, not an Applicant Tracking System. If you get an interview with Caterpillar, they will have all of the decision makers involved. They will also take you on a tour of the building so that you can get a feel for what goes on there. All interviewees are contacted, in person, to tell them if they are going to be offered a job or not. My recollection was that this contact was either always on the phone or highly encouraged to be on the phone, I can’t remember this detail for certain.

So that led to my first question for the assembled group. How many of you had Caterpillar on your list of companies to work for? After all, they are in a rather mundane industry – large construction equipment. I do not think anyone had considered them. In fact, the HR representative from Caterpillar said she never thought she would work for the company either.

My second question was this. Would you be willing to take a lower paying job or one that was not quite what you have listed as a dream job to work for a company that cares about its people – and the people that interview with it? So many people have experienced (and rightfully complained about) companies that “never get back to you”. Many had stories of companies that took a long time after interviews, often not even communicating that the person was not selected for the job. They feel like a pawn in a game.

That gets to an important lesson from the day. Culture matters. Culture is what we all deal with, daily. In the end, I would argue it is more important than what the organization does for profit. It probably is more important than the specific tasks you are asked to do. If you are having fun, working in a positive place, or being around people who are pleasant every day, you are probably enjoying work.

Doesn’t that sound like the right thing to do?

Think about the job application process today.  First,  a person finds a job they might be interested in. If done right, that person spends a great deal of time and effort applying for a job. They tailor their resume for the job description. They probably write a cover letter. Most of the time, an applicant will do some research to see if they know anyone at the company. They might even do some research on the company’s website. Multiply this time the number of jobs most people apply for and the hours add up to a very large number.

What if you changed this model a bit? Spend time trying to find out about a company’s culture might be a much better use of time. Why not? You might find a Caterpillar. And a job that fits you way more than the “ideal”.

Asking for Help

Why is asking for help so hard to do?

Like the last option in a decision tree, we wait to ask for help.  Like some painful condition, it is to be avoided. It is almost as if we are conditioned to not ask for help.  Perhaps it is a part of our history, passed on from “Gronk” the caveman. Perhaps Cro-Magnan man was expected to take his club, kill dinner and drag it home on his own.  Asking his wife or comrades for help might have been a character trait that did not get passed on to following generations.

I think this question is especially true for men.  Asking for help means you don’t have the answer. You are letting the world know you cannot solve something on your own. It can be viewed as a sign of vulnerability. Perhaps it is a sign of weakness. You have to make yourself a little bit humble.

But if you think about it from another angle, it can be liberating.

Don’t think about it as asking for help, think of it as telling someone else you would “value their input” or “would like their perspective” or “want to know their opinion”. If you can turn around the need for help from you-centered to the other person-centered, I think it makes a difference. The difference is you recognize “two brains are better than one”. You are recognizing that someone else’s perspective will be helpful.

Let’s say you need someone to look at your resume.  Might changing your request from “will you look at my resume?” to “I’ve been looking at my resume for a while and could use another set of eyes” be more palatable – and more accurate? It seems easier to say. You are also giving the other person a better idea of why you are coming to them.

There is another way to think about asking for help. You are boosting the other person. You are making them feel welcomed. We all have an innate desire to help others. Most people get some satisfaction from being able to help someone else, even in a small way. Therefore, most of us, when we are asked to help, jump at the chance. When you ask, you are opening up that opportunity to the other person.

Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are “being a bother” if we ask for help. So like the proverbial male driver who is lost but won’t admit it, we wander around aimlessly. We might even be wasting our time. Worst of all, we might give up on a promising opening that just needs another set of hands.

I guess some people could view you asking for assistance as an indication of weakness, being a nuisance, being indecisive.  But who’s issue is that?  Yours or the other person’s?

Is it okay to be a “people pleaser”?

I’ve talked with a number of people who have said one of their strengths is they are a “people pleaser”. By this, they generally mean they are driven by being in service of others. They enjoy helping others out. At the end of the day, they have been successful if they have made someone’s day easier or more pleasant. Seems like a great characteristic to have, doesn’t it?

However . . . .

There is a really dark side to being a people pleaser. The dark side hurts both the pleaser and the person they are helping. Like so many other things in life, an excess of one thing is not good for you.

First, for the pleaser. They will stop whatever they are doing to help the other person. This may lead to them not getting things done – ever. The pleaser gives up the “self” – or at least self is subsumed. Their identity is wrapped up in what they accomplished for others. This characteristic becomes a barrier (or is it an excuse?) for inaction (“I can’t do that thing for myself now now because I have to do something for the other person”). Like an addiction, the service of the other person is the only place they get their satisfaction. Unfortunately, they don’t think about what they would like to do – or at least don’t act on it.

Second, this pleaser attitude is a detriment to the person they are constantly pleasing. They never allow the other person to do things for themselves. The other person becomes solely dependent on them.  You could argue it stunts the other’s growth (ever seen a kid whose parents due everything for them struggle to do things in the world when they are on their own?). Maybe even more sinister is that the other person loses appreciation for what is being done for them because it is routine. A service becomes an expectation, not an act of kindness.  It is actually doing a disservice to the other by not allowing them to grow, to learn, to be independent.

Some will argue that they “enjoy” helping others. Or that they are more qualified or able to get things done. Perhaps they are repaying a parent. Or they justify it as “I don’t want others to go through what I had to go through”. Those may be noble sentiments. But in the end, are they really helping two human beings reach their potential?

Part of the work/life/self blend that defines us must have a piece of self care. That does not mean you are being “selfish”. Selfish means “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” That does not describe a people pleaser’s problem. They are actually stunting their own growth. They are tied down to helping others.  Self care simply means you recognize that honoring self is critical to a productive, growing life.

The sad thing is many people pleasers end up unhappy and unfulfilled. They deferred personal growth for too long. They missed out on opportunities that presented themselves but have now faded away. They don’t get recognition, or appreciation, for their service. In fact, they are no longer pleasing anyone.

It may be the case that you are really good at helping others. You have a talent and motivation for it. But like almost everything in life, too much of a good thing is bad for you.

Are you, or do you know someone, who is a “people pleaser”?