Your Career and You: “Just Doin’ MY Job”

Publication1I just had a very disappointing experience that reinforced one of my longest-standing personal standards…that of simply doing whatever is necessary to get the job done regardless of whether or not the task is in your job description.

My long-suffering undergraduate Communication disciples at Curry College, particularly those in the Public Relations Concentration, hear about this a lot!

We went to lunch at a restaurant that used to be one of the top dining spots in Taipei. We have been there before and had a fabulous experience, so expectations were high.

♥ The restaurant manager greeted us and escorted us to our table…her job was done.
♥ The young lady who took our meal order was gracious and efficient…she did her job.
♥ A couple of other wait staff brought our dishes as they were prepared…they did their jobs.
♥ The young fellow responsible for removing empty dishes did so quickly and efficiently…he did his job.

Then it happened. Our (petite) teapot was empty…

⊗ The restaurant manager walked by and saw that we had no tea…she kept on walking.
⊗ The young lady who took our meal order walked by and saw that we had no tea…she kept on walking.
⊗ The other wait staff noted that we had no tea…but we didn’t need another serving of food…they stood and looked at our table.
⊗ The young fellow responsible for removing empty dishes removed our empty plates and bowls…

I finally called out to the four wait staff now standing and looking and asked as politely as I could muster if someone could refill our teapot.

One of the quartet broke away from the herd, came over, removed the teapot, took it to the back of the dining room, placed it on a counter, and called out to another young lady lurking behind the scenes (I would assume) for just such an occurrence. She appeared, removed the offending article, and disappeared.

Ten minutes later, she reemerged with our now-refilled teapot, delivered it to our table, and vanished.

Then it happened about 20 minutes later…our (petite) teapot was empty…

Ditto the above.

What’s the moral of this story, you ask?

Each of the above cast members has a specific job as (apparently) defined by the restaurant’s powers-that-be. And, either by dictate or by choice, each one does exactly what his or her job description defines as a duty.

“Efficiency” experts would have us marching to the mantra of “if everyone does his job, the job will get done.” And that’s valid in general…until the issue of customer service raises its hand to get our attention.

Here’s where…in successful companies…the focus shifts…from “I’m doing my job” to “I’m doing my job as a member of a team.”

Big difference here.

The former approach is task-oriented… “What incremental contribution can I make to the project at hand by doing my job?”

The latter is results-oriented… “How does my role within the organization contribute to our overall and lasting success?

I recall so vividly spotting the president of a company I worked for years ago washing dirty dishes in the staff break room. When I asked him why he was doing that menial task, his response was, “How can I expect others to care if I don’t care myself?”


I’ve observed folks at companies for which I worked or which I happened to be visiting since that time, and I’ve arrived at a very informal research conclusion:

“Those companies where every single employee sees him- or herself as a member of a seamless team of contributors are the companies that will realize sustainable success because every single member of that company cares.”

How about YOU???


About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Communication, Curry College, Customer Service, public relations, Undergraduate Communication and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Your Career and You: “Just Doin’ MY Job”

  1. Travel Smaht says:

    What president was washing those dishes?! I need to see if they’re hiring!


    • kirkhazlett says:

      This was MASCO back in the mid-80s, Drew. Things have changed since then…but the company’s still doing well! I was their PR manager back then.


      • Travel Smaht says:

        Hahah worth a shot! Good for him for taking the initiative though, I bet that sort of thing would be few and far between these days! And if all goes well with my blog, hopefully I’ll be working for myself one day =) (suppose that means I’d still have to do the dishes though hahhaa)


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  4. Kirk…wonderful example and observations. The issue is that the real job is “customer satisfaction” and your server staff should have known that each small task adds up (or not) to “is our customer smiling when they leave our restaurant.” My favorite philosopher.. Jimmy Buffett .. has a great song called “It’s my job” which praises the dignity of even the most menial jobs and why they should be done well:


    • kirkhazlett says:

      Thanks, David! Excellent example with Jimmy Buffett!

      I was very fortunate as I was growing up and starting work in high school and college to work with folks in so-called “menial” positions who took enormous pride in what they were doing and weren’t shy about letting everyone know. That mindset has stuck wtih me and guides me in everything that I do today.

      I really appreciate your reading and commenting on my post!


      • Kirk, it’s always a pleasure. Your points illustrate why I like to see real work experience on intern applications. Even if they’re a server at Denny’s or a lifeguard at a city pool it demonstrates (theoretically) basic work ethic.


  5. Ira W Yellen, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

    I had a similar experience, but not the kind you would expect. My wife and I were on a Luxury cruise noted for it’s customer service. The ship provided laundry service, but it was very expensive. To save money, I would go down very early in the morning an use the one of two washer and dryers. One time when I went to pick up the clothes, a man was ironing his shirt. I said to him, “You have a skill that I have not acquired”. As I was putting my clothes in a basket, he said, “looks like your shirt can use some ironing, and I don’t mind doing it.” So he did. I thanked him, and I said maybe we can do this again.
    At dinner time, I saw the man, and I was going to thank him again. I asked the officer at our table do you know him. He said that is the man who owns the Four Seasons Hotels.
    The funny thing is that my wife and I just stayed at his hotel in Istanbul.
    Now that is customer service.


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