I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a girl at work. The summary of this conversation was basically that she was getting messages from an old co-worker about where things were at her old place of employment, such as various supplies and files and the coffee for when guests came to visit. Her position at her old employer was an assistant to a high level executive and hadn’t been filled yet at the time of the conversation. She said the person who was texting her was annoyed because he made more money than she had but since her old position was still vacant, her old job’s tasks were divided up amongst several people until a replacement was found. She found it funny but also agreed with this guy that it wasn’t “right” that someone in his income bracket was getting the coffee for guests. I have a huge problem with that kind of thinking. Huge.
Upper management in many many companies is continually asking why there is a divide in offices? How can we bridge the gap? How can morale be improved? How do we obtain good “mojo?” If we are all pieces and parts of the overall success of a company, we should all help where it’s needed, when we can. I’m not suggesting we pull high level executives from big deals and time sensitive projects to get coffee all the time. I’m talking about when there’s an immediate need or a shortage or you’re simply the first point of contact and trying to make a genuine good first impression. That’s my take. If getting coffee to make your guests feel comfortable is beneath you, try telling that to your guest and see how that goes. “Oh, would you like a cup of coffee? Great! But I can’t get it for you because I make over $65k annually but let me go try to find a $25-40k worker to get it for you, because that’s in their skill-set. Be right back! But hey, don’t go anywhere and please become my customer and give me your money because we at (insert any company’s name here) will ALL always work hard to treat you right because you matter and we here at (insert same any company’s name here) will ALL work harmoniously and together as a team to make sure you are always completely satisfied! Unless you ask me for coffee”
This is more than a work issue to me. More than management versus assistants or blue collared workers. More than higher education and skill set. It’s a character defining moment. It’s insulting and it explains why she never helped in my areas while I worked with her because she made a considerable amount more than I did, even though we were both assistants. She never got a single cup of coffee for any guest. She couldn’t even be bothered to help answer the phones if I had to be away from my desk. The buyers helped. The director of finance and administration helped. Sales reps helped. But not her. I guess she figured my overall abilities were beneath her and defined by my income bracket. Her busy trumped everyone else’s busy. That mindset insulted me and every other person who did pitch in to help. It also explains why I sought employment elsewhere. That same uppity mentality was found in other areas of the company and I simply couldn’t thrive in that environment.
Is it eerie that she texted me yesterday with questions about where I used to pull info to make specific weekly reports? Geez you’d think they’d teach that at her imaginary assistant school. At least she knows where the coffee is. Whether she actually ever gets anyone but herself a cup is no longer my problem. But the cycle goes on.
I’m happy to report I now work in an office, albeit much smaller, where we ALL get coffee for anyone who wants it. Or water. Or tea. For each other. For guests. For volunteers. No matter what you earn, we are all treated as having value and worth, by every single person in the entire place. I love that. I feel like I’m home. Won’t you please come in? May I offer you a cup of coffee? Be our guest!
*Image: from Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast”