“I fell in love with the people of Boston Market; not the customers or corporation”
When I watched one of the more well-known episodes of Undercover Boss, Season Four, Episode Nine: Boston Market, where the chief branding officer, Sara Bidorf broke cover to terminate the employment of one of her employees, Ronnie, I was immediately struck by the memory of Jay Wilkinson and his talk about company culture on YouTube.
In his talk, Wilkinson acknowledged that when you are making changes within an organisation, it is the individuals that do good work, but have a bad attitude toward work that are often causing more problems than they are worth, referring to their presence within an organisation as “like a cancer”.
The way that Ronnie presented himself at work was certainly similar to the negative imagery Wilkinson used to describe an individual with a poor attitude that clashed with the corporate ideology. He expressed a strong dislike toward customers, believing that corporate “put them on a pedestal” and that they’re “nothing special”. He confided, unknowingly, to his boss how much he disliked having to serve indecisive customers, and do some of the more manual and laborious jobs in the workplace, such as taking the bins out.
Bidorf said that Ronnie’s attitude was “unacceptable”.
When Bidorf explained to the general manager, whose head she had gone over, utilising her superiority to terminate Ronnie’s role, he said that he was sad to see him go, but hoped that this would teach him a lesson about the working world, after all, you had to have a sense of commitment to an organisation to succeed, and loving his colleagues wouldn’t be enough.
The idea of attitude is interesting, as an individual’s attitude toward the workplace and their shifts can constantly be manipulated by their experiences. For example, if you have been treated in a way you think is unfair by a supervisor at work today, you won’t necessarily be elated to find out that they’re on shift with you too, tomorrow.
But, attitude is similarly related to an individual’s philosophy. If you have a positive outlook on life, you can argue that this shines through at the workplace, good day or not.
A recent trend on the social media platform TikTok, among young retail workers, sharing days in their lives, or insight into how long their working days truly are etc. lead to a philosophical change among several users: Work to live, don’t live to work, a stress on the importance of dedicating time to yourself for mindfulness, enjoyment and personal fulfilment, even around a busy working week. These videos showed transformations in young people’s attitudes to being part of the working world, due to having found a way to make time for themselves.
This lead me to recalling Wilkinson commenting on how when you find an employee that has the right attitude but doesn’t meet the quotas, this can be something they can be trained for, it is easier to tap into unused potential than it is to break down the attitudes of pre-existing employees which clash with the company’s, no matter how long they have been working there for.
TikTok user @radiantglowup dedicated herself to “documenting breaking the ‘live to work’ cycle”, and posted videos about how she strove to do this, to ultimately improve her attitude toward working. Her first video, which went live on August 27th 2021, stated that she was “working fifty hours a week in a job that is starting to make [her] anxious, it’s so consuming and there’s more to life. It’s time to change that”.
The first video recorded her waking up, cleaning her space, leaving for work, and instead of sitting in work, counting down the minutes until her shift begun, but instead, she utilised her proximity to the coast, and watched the waves until she had to go in for her shift. Videos two through five explored the need to rest and recover, and linger in a headspace which does not focus on work, enjoying TLC and alone time. The sixth explored the need to see friends and enjoy time with others instead of spending your free time counting down the hours until work.
After a mere week, she was acknowledging that her “mindset has changed so much. [she’s] starting to form a little routine, [she’d] made the bed every day (which [she’d] always thought was pointless), [she’d] kept [her] space clear and liveable (an impossible task) [she’d] never [had] the energy for it because [she] put [her] energy into work but this [was] [her] space, work [was] not [her] space. [She had been] in town early and decided to treat [herself] to a celebratory mini aero cupcake.”
Albeit an idea that ultimately sounds simple, this change in philosophy that @radiantglowup was recording was significant in making the idea of work feel less daunting.
I wondered how this idea translated across to other industries, instead of just retail workers, and thought back to another episode of Undercover Boss.
When Waste Management CEO Larry O’Donnell met Fred, someone whose job with the company was to manually clean porta-loos, he found out how important a positive attitude really was because when you are using a vacuum to remove urine from a toilet, as well as other waste, you can see how easy it would be to have a stormy mood. And yet, Fred had a sunny disposition and left O’Donnell awed, remarking that “If we could all be that way, what a great company we’d have”.
He was great at meeting the time constraints of cleaning the toilets, managing to juggle humour with efficiency, but even if he had had issues doing so, I am convinced his positivity would have allowed him to retain his role, because, as Simon Sinek said “the fact of the matter is we are social animals, and we respond to the environments we’re in. Always.”
And of course, our minds are an environment that we cannot escape. They too must be nurtured, so we can respond positively toward other stimuli, such as the working world in which we inhabit.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.
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