When you work for a man

Years ago, most offices had a saying stuck somewhere on the walls. Maybe it was near the photocopier, or near the coffee pot, or near the water cooler — that’s where everyone’s supposed to congregate. (Funnily enough, I never saw people crowd around any water coolers where I worked.)

These words were a motivational saying that came up when a copy repairman arrived. When he repaired the copiers, the man needed something with words and graphics to test the copier, and he brought his own pages with him. He gave a copy of the week’s or month’s motivational quote to the receptionist or secretary before he left, and she usually made a few copies—one for her boss, who eventually posted it in a prominent place, and one for each of her closest colleagues. -Workers. In every office I work in – in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas – there have been copies of this saying. It began, “If you work for a man, work for him…”

A long time ago, the last version of these words disappeared from my profiles. The crux of the letter, of course, was how it began. If you work for a man, work for him. Give him – or your business – the attention he deserves, because he – or the company – is paying you to work.

In an internet search, I found two similar quotes to the ones that graced offices and break rooms in the past.

If you work for someone, then you work for them: speak well of them and stand up for the organization they represent. Remember, an ounce of loyalty equals a pound of intelligence. If you must grumble, condemn, and find fault forever, resign your office and when you are out, complain to your heart. But as long as you are part of the establishment, do not condemn it.

~ Elbert Hubbard

When you work for a man, work for him. Give him your dedication, honesty, sincerity and 100% of your skills. If you must curse him, do it from the outside; Quit and then damn it to the high heavens if that’s your wish. But while you’re at his job, don’t do anything or say anything negative about him or her.

~ James Ellis Dolan

The second version looks more like the one we’ve had in offices all over the Earth.

Today, we need this quote or something similar posted in offices, in retail stores, and in fast food restaurants. We need words like this everywhere today, at least in the United States. Customer service and company loyalty is really lacking.

It might be a good idea if we made words like this part of our education system and shared them during new employee orientation and training. However, I wonder if it would make a difference. These words may not be specific enough for today’s employees. We may have to explain what is appropriate and inappropriate employee behavior.

When you work for a man, work for him. Give it your best. Don’t spend time checking personal emails, building lists for people’s personal websites, or doing your online shopping at work. The workday belongs to the man or company that pays you, and you are paid to do a job, not to do your personal business. Company phones, photocopiers, fax machines, and computers are there for company business. If you must talk on the phone, please try to do so at lunchtime or a coffee break.

~ Marilyn Mackenzie

I wonder if posting such words in a prominent place would really make a difference. When issues of customer service or loyalty come up in the workplace, employees nod their heads up and down in agreement. They agree that Joe, Charlie, and Susan should really do better. But they don’t seem to understand that advice is for all employees.

On their days or evenings, they get totally annoyed with the beauty salon receptionist because she is talking on the phone with her boyfriend, not paying any attention to the customers. They get angry at the store clerk for using the phone to make personal calls. They hate it when the cashier and the grocer have an argument and ignore customers’ needs.

Then, when they got back to their own jobs, they let the phone ring and ring, allowing calls to be diverted to their voicemail. They spend the first thirty minutes of the day checking their personal emails. When their kids get home from school, instead of just making a quick call, they spend thirty minutes talking.

At any time of the day, employees may be in the midst of important personal calls—with collection agencies, potential future employers, or with their children. But this is different. Other employees who have the problem are not working as often or as quickly or as long as they should.

What happened to those damned efficiency experts? remember them? If they were to visit today’s offices, retail locations, restaurants and other businesses, would they find efficiency? Or will they find that the average employee today only works about five hours out of an eight-hour shift. I think we all know the answer. Today’s employee has forgotten that when he works for a man, he has to work for him.