You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Work Here – We’ll Train You

2 BC women, not too happy When Vickie started working here, she went out of her way to serve her customers quickly, and with a smile. Now she takes much longer, and often just tells them why something can’t be done.

What happened to Vickie? In her first week when Vickie checked with another department in order to give fast answers to customers, her co-workers coldly informed her "That’s not our job, and the credit people will complain to our boss." 

Later, when Vickie figured out a shortcut to speed up a procedure, her boss said, "Our policy is to do it the old way. Don’t waste your time on that." Vickie quickly learned that extra effort and improving  a process was frowned upon.

On the other side of the coin . . .

Atlanta’s Fulton County Government Manager John Sanford broke his quick stride across the spacious office lobby to bend over and pick up a tiny piece of paper from the carpet. He continued describing his goals for his 11,000 employees to a visitor without missing a beat. Half an hour later, Matt, his Operations Director, joined them walking down a long hallway. Suddenly, Matt sprang ahead and snatched up a paper clip from the floor.  It looked to the visitor as if Matt wanted to get there first. John gave Matt a quick wink, as if to say, "We share this."

What creates an atmosphere, culture, or set of behaviors like these?

Signals and consequences.

Signals: We notice what other people in the organization do, in this way learning what is valued around here.

Consequences: We receive positive or negative responses for what we do. Vickie got a negative response when she tried to do something extra for the customer. Matt got a positive response when he picked up trash (not exactly his job).

We "catch" our work habits from the people surrounding us, especially those we look up to.