I love a parade

I recently started a new job. I have two 10-hour shifts under my belt; certainly enough hours to bring into question my sanity and the limited endurance of my arches.
This is an entry-level position, paying minimum wage. Why, you ask?
I had some notion that if I participated with a local food producer, with someone who strives to do things right, whose mission statement does not speak about bottom lines being top priority, to work with someone whose history in farming was deeper than geography, perhaps more about genetics, a calling if you will, that if all these parameters were in place I could help change the face of how people buy their food and what drives their choices.
Was I right? I’m not nearly as certain as I was starting out.
I have been self-employed for the majority of my working career. What happens in this case is the businesses that form my client base become my own, their success becomes (in my mind) dependent on my work ethic, on the level of skill with which I operate, and the respect I extend to any soul that walks through the front door of the business.
But I have discovered, much to my dismay, that this does not parallel the approach of many employers.
This recent employee training manual I was presented with expounded at great length, at what appeared at first glance to be limitless, the number of actions that would result in the termination of my employment and very little was written about those actions that would help the business thrive. And that imbalance has caused me restless nights and an anxiety that I am not quite sure what to do with.
I was shopping at my favourite grocery store the other day and in the span of just a few minutes, I witnessed, as a customer, the incredibly disrespectful behaviour of two managers, one in the bakery and the other in produce.
These managers chose the most public forum to chastise their minimum wage employees for their alleged sub-standard performance.
The two employees reacted with quiet, head-down, folded-in body language and I was left with the desire to drag the managers outside and pound on them until I felt better.
It has changed the face of my shopping experience and I am disappointed, not to mention outraged. My favourite shopping experience has been spoiled and my noble efforts to buy local and reduce my carbon footprint and promote the ethical treatment of food animals, feels sullied.
I am shaking my head and wondering why. Does respectful treatment not beget respectful behaviour? If we demonstrate an eagerness to expect the best of others by giving the best of ourselves, is that not a winning combination?
Given the opportunity I would re-write this employee training manual. I suppose the Canada Labour Code requires all actions that would result in dismissal to be understood by each employee, verified by a signature of understanding, and perhaps this is not a negotiable item to include on the many pages, but it would certainly fall far behind those words that would encourage respect and enthusiasm and being part of a positive experience, a team.
I know that my perspective is often one of dreamy hopefulness and sometimes without a dose of realism and I get that can be wearying for those who see the world with clarity and eyes wide open. But shouldn’t the starting place be one of hope?
Consider for a moment the philosophy of Tony Hsieh who helped create Zappos, an online shoe store.
Hsieh developed the “workplace utopia of the 21st Century,” according to Positive Psychology. Hsieh wrote “Delivering Happiness”, a book that translates the notion of selling not shoes, but happiness.
It is a fascinating read and what a change we would see if Hsieh’s ideas were incorporated into more business models.
Having fun is obligatory, impromptu parades and decorating one’s office area to reflect each employee’s own particular brand of oddness is SOP.
Perhaps I will wear an orange hat to work tomorrow and I will most certainly walk through the door smiling. Then we’ll see how I exit.
wendistewart@live.ca

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