Leave it at the door. We've all heard, and possibly even said, that before. We don't need your drama, family problems or political opinions here at work. We don't want to care about you as a human being. We just want you to show up on time and do your job. Don't think. Just do what is required of you.
The problem is that just showing up on time and doing your job is not nearly enough. We need far more from you than anything we can summarize in a job description. We need you to care, we need our success as a company to be as important to you as your brother who is dealing with a drug addiction. We need you to care about providing a good product and good service as much as you care who wins the game this week.
And it has to go both ways. As employers we have to start caring for you, our employees, as human beings in order for you to care an ounce about our business. We shouldn't view you as a replaceable punch on the time card and you shouldn't see us as a job, easily replaced by any other job available on Craigslist.
People are not going to stop being people when they clock in for work. Instead of constantly fighting against their humanity, why not start embracing it and use that to our advantage?
If I'm no longer forced to leave my humanity at the door -- compassion, relationship and relatability -- I am better equipped to make intuitive decisions that are often enhancements on any written rules. In short, both my humanity and my common sense are maintained.
My job -- the rule book and the guidelines -- tells me that a coffee with a flavor costs 50 cents more than without. Add vanilla and cinnamon and your latte costs an extra dollar. That is the rule.
If a customer orders a two-pump vanilla (half the usual) and two-pump cinnamon latte, the computer wants me to put in vanilla and cinnamon, wants that info so that I can charge more and also so the drink ticket shows exactly what the customer ordered.
I know better than the computer. It is my humanity that says "Hey wait a minute. This person will end up with four pumps of flavor -- the same as if they ordered just a vanilla latte -- so they shouldn't pay for two flavors." It's my humanity that allows for an exception.
The same scenario plays out in all kinds of businesses. By teaching a job, enforcing the rules and telling us to stop being humans (leave it at the door) we have forgotten how to make these decisions for ourselves. We have forgotten how to spot, and deal with, the exception.
We have forgotten that the customer is always right and instead replaced it with notions like "the computer is telling me this ..." and "our policy is that we ..."
Of course, every transaction can't be an exception to the rule -- and this is just as important as the realization that there simply cannot be a preconceived rule for every situation and transaction that may arise. Sometimes the rules must be bent and it is our humanity that resolves the multitude of grey areas.
Don't leave it at the door. After all, it's your humanity that has been missing from the job description all along, the part we don't have the words for. Bring it in.
Kim Bowsher started her management track at the original Starbucks in Seattle. She moved on to helping small businesses, putting to work the lessons she learned in the coffee business. She currently works with a private firm in Salt Lake City. Contact her at email@example.com.