I was talking to a friend recently who was bemoaning the lack of human kindness in the workplace.
Why is work only about the bottom line and not about people she asked?
We spoke specifically about her work place and it would seem from all she said there was indeed little human kindness flowing in her organisation. My question was:
Did she want to change it – and if so - how could she go about that?
Or would she prefer to move to another company where her values were a better match?
These were of course her decisions but part of our conversation was did I know of any examples I could share with her and I have decided to share this one with you.
Some years ago I was working for a hospitality group training organisation as a field consultant. A GTO acts as a go-between between the organisation wanting to hire and train young apprentices and the young apprentices who want to work and be trained.
Hospitality is an industry based on small profit margins, long hours, high labour costs, aggressive competitors and a fickle clientele. Reputation is everything and building a reputation is essential to keep the punters coming to your establishment. So there are a few pressures of the industry. Almost regardless of the economic situation we have a skills shortage in this industry in Australia. Basic training last 3 years, an apprentice’s wage is a pittance only increased by extended overtime hours and your appreciation of chefs only increases as you see the cramped space and heat of a summer kitchen in Australia!
One morning I was contacted by a young apprentice who had managed to wrap his car around a tree and survive with a few bruises, cracked ribs and a broken leg to boot. He was expected to be off work for at least 6 weeks. He was working in a hatted** restaurant and was worried he would lose his place because of the time he needed off work and having spent some time with hatted chefs I was inclined to agree with him in fact I had known chefs to ‘get rid of’ apprentices for far less than this if it suited them! Often their attitude to a GTO was to find a 1st year with a 3rd years skills.
(**an annual award from the industry to the best restaurants for their food, front of house and appeal – these are hotly contested and apprentices love working in one of these because it shows the quality of their training and work.)
With this in mind it was with trepidation that I contacted the chef and advised him of what had happened.
You know you are dealing with a decent human being when they ask how the apprentice is first, before the circumstances of the accident!
I explained how upset the apprentice was about not being able to work for the coming weeks and asked ‘Chef’ what he wanted to do. This is what he said:
“Why keep him of course! We will put in a plan for his study – so that he does not get left behind in this part of his training. We will have him working on menu planning and costing and as soon as he is able we will get him back in the kitchen, firstly with sit down duties and slowly build up his stamina until he is back on deck. I would like to speak with his rehabilitation officer and TAFE and let’s work out a plan.”
Chef’s reply was so different to what I had expected that I have had a soft spot for him ever since – recommending his restaurant to as many people as I know because not only does he offer fabulous food, he looks after his staff in an exemplary manner. He treats them with human kindness.
Some time later I was talking to him about this and he added further
‘Well, it is important to treat your staff with respect and care but you know more than that it is a matter of good economics. By taking the action I did I showed my whole staff that I cared about them, that I saw them as an essential part of what we do and I gained their trust and loyalty at a time when being 1 down in a kitchen means everyone else has to work harder. When you act with kindness everyone is the winner and I would not do it any other way!’
If you are finding yourself in an organisation that has lost sight of human kindness as one of its values, maybe you are in need of a change – what do you think?
Until next time
Melody Green is a career adviser specialising in career planning workshops for the over 40s in Sydney, Australia. Her workshops offer practical tools to get your career on track and to empower you to express and engage your fullest potential in your career.