workplace ethics

Workplace ethics: Appreciating the people behind the scenes

Workplace ethics – Appreciating the people behind the scenes

This guy is on the side of the road hitch-hiking on a very dark night and in the middle of a storm. The night is rolling in and no car goes by. The storm is so strong he can barely see in front of him.

Suddenly he sees a car come towards him and stop.

The guy, without thinking, gets in the car and closes the door, only to realize that there is nobody behind the wheel. The car starts rolling forward slowly. The guy looks at the road and sees a curve coming his way. Scared, he starts to pray, begging for his life. He’s still in shock when, just before he hits the curve, a hand appears through the window and moves the wheel.

The guy, paralysed with terror, watches how the hand appears every time they get to a curve.

Gathering strength, he gets out of the car and runs to the nearest township. Wet and in shock, he goes to a bar and asks for two shots of tequila and starts telling everyone about the horrible experience he went through.

A silence envelopes them all when they realise the guy is crying and isn’t drunk.

About half an hour later, two wet and weary men walk into the same bar and one says to the other, “Look, Mfwetu, that’s the idiot that got into the car while we were pushing it down the highway.”

Moral: We sometimes take things in our lives for granted, whereas in reality it is only because people are putting in a lot of work to keep everything functioning smoothly, that we get the impression that “everything works by itself”.

During a discussion of gratitude in Garnett House, the girls started thinking about all of the “hidden ” people who support their life at the School. First they thought of obvious people who work behind the scenes to make the community run smoothly, such as the staff in the kitchen and offices.

They then started to delve more deeply and ask questions about what happened behind the scenes to keep the school functioning. Through this exploration the students identified many less obvious but very important people such as security staff, maintenance staff, and staff in the sewing room.

The students cut out and decorated “gratitude people” from stickers, and wrote messages of appreciation on them for each of the different groups of staff members. Together the Garnett girls scurried around at night under cover of darkness and placed the gratitude stickers around the school community, so that they would be a surprise in the morning.

The next evening the students thought about even more important people within the community, so more messages of gratitude were created and displayed. The feedback to the girls was really wonderful. One security man said that he had cried because he was so happy that we had noticed what he and his colleagues did for the community.

By showing gratitude to the people who work hard to keep the show going, we can generate good feeling and create a pleasant working environment.


Thinking agility

This man had a flat tire next to the insane asylum. He jacked up his wheel, took it off, put the nuts in his hubcap, and put it up on his hood. They fell off into his grill, and he couldn’t get them out. He thought, “Oh, Lordy. What am I going to do?”

Across the fence one of the inmates was watching him and said, “Just take one nut off each of the other wheels and put them on that one, that way you’ll have three nuts on each wheel, and it’ll get you where you’re going.”

He said, “That’s a brilliant idea. Why, you’re not crazy. What are you doing in there?”

“I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”

Moral: In order to maintain a balanced view of the world, we need to assimilate information from people who have a different approach to life than we do. If we only tune-in to people who provide the sort of advice that we want to hear, we can make it impossible for us to develop our thinking abilities.

It is evident that one needs humility to learn from everyone, especially those whom we perceive to be beneath us in status or qualification. Confucius explains that Kong Wenzi was given the title of ‘cultured’ because he was ‘diligent and loved learning, and not ashamed of asking advice from those below him’.

The possibility of learning from everyone… reminds us once again that learning, for Confucius, is an active, lifelong and life-wide process that is intimately linked to real-life application.

By considering ideas that do not fit into our preconceived notions, we can give our minds the agility to simultaneously grasp diverse ways of thinking about a situation.

Relying on yourself

It was October and the Indians on a remote reservation asked their new Chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a Chief who had been brought up in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets, and when he looked at the sky he couldn’t tell what the winter was going to be like. To be on the safe side he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared.

However, being a practical leader, he decided to find out the real answer. He galloped away on his horse, went to a public phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?”

“It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,” the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared.

A week later he called the National Weather Service again. “Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?” “Yes,” the man at National Weather Service again replied, “it’s going to be a very cold winter.” The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.

Two weeks later the Chief called the National Weather Service again. “Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?” “Absolutely,” the man replied. “It’s looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters ever.”

“How can you be so sure?” the Chief asked.

The weatherman replied, “We’re never really sure about our readings, but the Indians always seem to get it right, and they’re collecting firewood like crazy!”

Moral: Sometimes we try to find the answer to a situation by looking around to see what everyone else thinks. The reality is however, that we have the strengths and abilities to solve our own problems most of the time, through application of our own skills and knowledge.

I have discovered that in order to plan, I have to release my directed thoughts and go into a mode of free daydreaming. During these reveries, I can envision myself putting together materials that I would need to build a boat, a plane, or a house, or a beach cottage.

Over the years, I have done all these things. I learned how to do things with the help of library books and talking to other people who knew more than I did about a project. I would start at the beginning, stick with the work, and finally complete the project.

Some things have taken afternoons, weeks, months, even years to build. In those projects, I have discovered an indescribable freedom and contentment of the heart and soul that is hard to come by any other means.

My family and friends have encouraged me, cheered for me, and listened to me talk about my work. Some have even helped me from time to time… To start on that journey, to construct something, is to believe that I can and will do it. When I have made the dream a reality, then I am contented, joyful, and proud to share it.

Through self-belief and persistently applying our skills and knowledge, we can accomplish things that would have seemed impossible when we initially believed in our ability to effect change for the good.

Know your strengths

A man walked into a bar with a dog and said to the bartender, “My dog can talk.”

“I tell you what,” said the bartender, “If your dog can talk, I’ll give you a free round of beer.”

“OK,” said the man.

The man turned round and asked his dog, “What does sandpaper feel like?”

“Ruff,” said the dog.

“What covers the trunk of a tree?”

“Bark,” said the dog.

“What do you have on top of a house?”

“Wrooof,” said the dog.

“OK,” said the bartender, “Take this beer and get out of here.”

The man and the dog went to a park bench where they sat silently sipping the beer. Eventually the dog turned to the man and said, “You know, I don’t think they liked our show, but I’m not sure why.”

Moral: You may sometimes feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but that could be because you are only exercising a very small set of your full capabilities.

The authentic self is the you that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you that is not defined by your job, or your function, or your role. It is the composite of all your unique gifts, skills, abilities, interests, talents, insights, and wisdom. It is all of your strengths and values that are uniquely yours and need expression, versus what you have been programmed to believe that you are “supposed” to be and do.

You may get a much warmer welcome by doing things that you are not expected to be able to do, instead of just doing the things that people think you can do.

Leadership styles

The lion walked up to the mouse and roared, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The mouse squeaked, “You are, you are.”

Then the lion walked up to the fox and roared, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The fox barked, “You are, you are.”

Then the lion walked up to the elephant and roared, “And who is the king of the jungle?”

The elephant picked up the lion by the tail, whirled him round his head and dropped him in a bush. The lion poked his head out of the bush and said, “There’s no need to get in a bad mood just because you don’t know the answer.”

Moral: There is more to leadership than assuming that you’re in charge. This may impress mice and foxes, but is not always an effective management technique.

High-quality leadership involves leaders…

  • Being clear about personal and organisational goals
  • Monitoring their [team members’] achievements
  • Changing processes to [allow their team members to reach their goals]
  • Having a simultaneous ‘push’ to get things done together with a charismatic ‘pull’ [to persuade their team members that “they can do it”], and
  • Fully involving staff through consultation

True leadership means inviting other people to come on a journey with you. The journey may sometimes seem perilous and challenging, but ends with a sense of personal accomplishment and triumph for everyone involved.