Be fired up for the job
No, this post is not about how to fire someone. 🙂 This is a summary version of what my husband and I have discussed several times over the two years of our marriage (and over the four years of our friendship).
It’s about passion for one’s work. This may not probably sound extraordinary anymore but nevertheless, let me share my learnings and experiences in client management and customer service or CS (both as a service provider and client). I think that poor services and treatment of clients can almost always be rooted to a lack of passion for the job. Many of us share these typical encounters: long lines in the bank during lunch break because bank employees also take this exact time to take their lunch break (not thinking that workers use their lunch break to transact with the banks); bookstore sale staff not being able to locate the book that you are looking for because they do not know the difference between anthologies and satire; courier service company staff refusing to call the originating branch where a document came from just to verify if indeed there was a typo error in the name of the consignee; telephone service providers who ironically cannot even call their linemen who are supposed to be fixing your landline after a storm; remittance center who refuses to hand over your funds because they do not have smaller bills of USD (yes, this actually happened to me–the center even suggested that I go back the next day!); and the list is endless…
Admittedly, corporate culture and values should be strongly inculcated in the minds of employees but I will not attempt to discuss this dimension here as it is another topic that needs more lengthy discussion. Let us then concentrate on discussing how fire and passion into one’s job can make a whole lot of difference.
Definitely, training and exposure in client management and customer service are important in enhancing our skills and competencies. I always believe in the beauty and importance of continuing learning. In fact, I am beginning an MBA course soon, with focus on renewable energy (to know more about it, you can go to this link). It is always wiser to continue investing in ourselves, particularly in this age of globalization and outsourcing (and intense market competition).
However, there are aspects of our jobs and careers that should be deeply-rooted in our core being. One of those is passion for the job. Just like in any relationship, if passion is gone, love also wanes and may eventually die. In the same way, our passion for the job constantly fires us up, pushing us to greater heights of accomplishments and fulfillment.
For example–in my example above regarding my encounter with a bookshop employee–it was disheartening for me to receive only blank stares when I tried to look for a specific book title. It was hard for me to understand why a bookshop employee does not know the different types and genres of books. I do not say this in a condescending way. It is just frustrating that someone who is surrounded with shelves and shelves of books does not care enough to even attempt to get to know their “wards”. I may be too biased because of my love for reading but I think that this should apply in any merchandise that one is trying to sell. If you are selling a stove, you must know exactly what are the different types of stoves and how one type is better than the other. This takes passion. That ‘connection’ where you find a deeper meaning to even the mundane details of your job.
At the core of this drive is the joy of being able to serve others. I think we are depriving ourselves of joys and a sense of fulfillment if we take our jobs for granted. We are shortchanging ourselves if we do not try our best to enjoy our jobs. Remember that our jobs connect us to the outside world and give us opportunities to serve others. I think the chance of doing something for others is a gift in itself. When we serve, we give a part of our time and ourselves. It may lead to a continuous cycle of giving and serving. If we served someone with a smile that day, that person will be gracious enough to do the same to another person. That single act of serving can lead to long-lasting friendships and even casual acquaintances who may eventually end us as our future colleagues, employers, or clients. And such attitude of graciousness should remain even if we are under extreme pressures or faced with difficult circumstances.
Let me share a very challenging encounter that I once experienced when I was still serving as a customer service (CS) manager of a global service delivery firm. Note that I have no prior (formal) experience in CS although I have considerable experience in client management. I think that even without such formal experience, it was relatively easy for me to adapt to the responsibilities of the job because I truly enjoy serving others. It is in the core of every work that I do, even when I was still in college working as an associate editor of our university paper. I tend to go beyond what is expected of me not because I care about credits but because I truly enjoy working. I get a certain high if I have already accomplished my tasks and satisfied my peers and clients. Perhaps (and I am just guessing here) that my former boss in that firm decided to hire me even if I did not have a formal training in CS because he saw that ‘inner fire’ and the commitment to perform and excel.
Everything was going well in the job when one day, a furious client went up to my office. He was so angry that, I think, if I was not a female employee, he could have easily punched me on the face. The offices are glass-walled and the lay-out is designed such that the managers’ offices (following almost a ‘squarish’ U-shaped pattern) are facing the cubicles of of the staff. The client began ranting at me, in an angry tone, so that all of my staff stood up from their cubicles and looked worriedly at me. I think that they heard every word that the client said even if I already closed the glass doors (which I never do). I just allowed the client to talk and rant and berate me and the company, until slowly, he began lowering down his voice. All the while, I kept on nodding my head, listening to his every word. It was disconcerting but I tried to be calm and took everything he said with serenity in my heart. I did not even try to defend the company’s position. I just put myself in his shoes. Realizing that I was actually listening, he eventually stopped and gave me a chance to talk. Needless to say, it took a combination of sincere apologies, wise words, calm but firm voice, and a concrete solution, for me to eventually pacify him. I have also promised to make up for their company’s incurred losses (which my company did not intend nor were caused by inefficiency on our side but rather a technical glitch which our airline partners also experienced) and beginning that day, I will be personally taking care of monitoring their job requests. This is not actually expected of me (I can delegate it completely to the CS Supervisor, who is just as competent) but in that kind of situation, I strongly felt I have to do this extra step. I also thought that the client will only give us a second chance if he is assured that I am there for him and his company, personally, in the long haul. Needless to say, he was satisfied and eventually remained as a valuable client of our company (he was already, at first, threatening to move their accounts to our competitor company). I was even in for a surprise bonus. Several months after that encounter in my office, I was happily surprised to receive a special invitation from him for the grand opening of his and his partners’ restaurant! For me, this is wonderful but totally unexpected “return” on something that I have done wholeheartedly without any expectation of reward. The mere fact that it was unexpected doubled the joys of being appreciated and considered as a friend (and a special guest at that!). This underlines what I have mentioned above: every encounter can lead to more meaningful and important relationships in the future. However, we will not find any meaning to the nitty-gritty of our “boring” jobs if we fail to appreciate the beauty in each encounter or task, however mundane we may think it to be.
Another important facet of job appreciation is possessing a strong pride in everything that we do. I am not sure if this is entirely a Pinoy penchant for simplicity or the tendency to humble ourselves, but I would oftentimes hear of employees–trying to be defensive when they realize their lapses–saying, “Sorry po, Ma’am, empleyado lang po ako. “ (Loose translation: “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I am just an employee.”) It is like admitting that you are just an employee, therefore, you are mostly useless and have no mind of your own, no power. I heard this statement recently from a lawyer in a public office (yes, he is indeed a lawyer) when I suggested that he should propose a concrete recommendation to his boss. He said he cannot do that because he has no power nor influence. It was disheartening. I have worked with public officials but I have always thought that my bosses listened to my insights and that I was hired to give them that–clear solutions and recommendations. Apparently, this lawyer does not think of himself as that capable person who can try to make a difference. In his mind, he is just an employee. No wonder we notice such lethargy in many government offices today.
A similar attitude is when we say, “My father is JUST a driver or a factory worker, and so on and so forth” when we can simply say, “My father is a farmer or a driver or a waiter”? Have we really asked ourselves what is so embarrassing or wrong with being a driver or a farmer? I think that it is time that we carry more dignity and pride in our work, whatever it may be. This will definitely motivate us to appreciate our jobs more. Let us be fired with the knowledge that our jobs are important not just to our families but also to the society as a whole. If our farmers stop planting, what do you think will happen to all of us?
Put yourself in the client’s shoes. We always hear this. It is always one of the key lessons that are being taught us in the corporate world. Do we really mean it when we say that? Take the case of bank employees who also take their lunch break at the exact time when working people would also be doing their bank transactions. Does it take a genius to realize that the lunch hour should also be the exact time that banks should open all their counters? Ironically, bank staff also choose this time to take their lunch break, closing the other counters in the process, compounding the inefficiency because of the long lines of clients who also have to rush back to their offices. This stems from the lack of appreciation of how it is to be a full-time employee who has his lunch break only to do his bank transactions. Admittedly, bank management calls the shot but front-line employees should be the ones recommending changes because they are the ones facing clients on a day-to-day basis. Remember, you have the power to propose changes and this does not stop in your job alone. You can propose and work for changes in every circle where you circulate in. 🙂
After all, our job extends to the many outer layers of our lives. More importantly, we carry the names of our forefathers so carry that name with care, joy, and pride, for when we besmirch our names, we also hurt the names of our great ancestors.
Be the best in your job, and be among the best citizens of this world!
This is not a paid blog.