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Love At Work
Work is love made visible.
A kind and compassionate act is often its own reward.
William J. Bennett
I do a lot of management training each year for the Circle K Corporation, a national chain of convenience stores. Among the topics we address in our seminars is the retention of quality employees—a real challenge to managers when you consider the pay scale in the service industry. During these discussions, I ask the participants, 'What has caused you to stay long enough to become a manager?' Some time back a new manager took the question and slowly, with her voice almost breaking, said, 'It was a $19 baseball glove.'
Cynthia told the group that she originally took a Circle K clerk job as an interim position while she looked for something better. On her second or third day behind the counter, she received a phone call from her nine-year-old son, Jessie. He needed a baseball glove for Little League. She explained that as a single mother, money was very tight, and her first check would have to go for paying bills. Perhaps she could buy his baseball glove with her second or third check.
When Cynthia arrived for work the next morning, Patricia, the store manager, asked her to come to the small room in back of the store that served as an office. Cynthia wondered if she had done something wrong or left some part of her job incomplete from the day before. She was concerned and confused.
Patricia handed her a box. 'I overheard you talking to your son yesterday,' she said, 'and I know that it is hard to explain things to kids. This is a baseball glove for Jessie because he may not understand how important he is, even though you have to pay bills before you can buy gloves. You know we can't pay good people like you as much as we would like to; but we do care, and I want you to know you are important to us.'
The thoughtfulness, empathy and love of this convenience store manager demonstrates vividly that people remember more how much an employer cares than how much the employer pays. An important lesson for the price of a Little League baseball glove.
Climbing the Stairway to Heaven
No one can deal with the hearts of men unless he has the sympathy which is given by love.
Henry Ward Beecher
Throughout my career in sales, I've wondered about difficult customers. What makes them so mean? How can they be so unkind? How can a perfectly rational person suddenly lose all sense of human decency?
One day, I had an insight into their thinking. It happened while visiting my husband's music store. He was working with a customer and we were short-handed. So I did what every good wife would do: I tried to wait on customers.
'I'm looking for music,' said a gnarled man, a soiled John Deere cap pulled down tightly over his thinning gray hair. 'The name of the song is . . .' and he uncrumpled a grimy sheet of mimeographed paper from his jeans pocket, ''Stairway to Heaven.' Do you have it?'
I stepped to the wall displays of sheet music and scanned for the name. On a good day, the music filled slots in alphabetical order. On this day, the alphabet skipped around. I searched for several minutes, conscious of his growing restlessness.
'No, I'm sorry but it doesn't look like it's here.'
His back arched and his watery blue eyes narrowed. Almost imperceptibly, his wife touched his sleeve as if to draw him back. His narrow mouth twisted in anger.
'Well, ain't that just grand. You call yourself a music store? What kind of a store doesn't have music like that? All the kids know that song!' he spluttered.
'Yes, but we don't carry every piece of music ever . . .'
'Oh, easy for you! Easy to give excuses!' Now his wife was pawing at his sleeve, murmuring, trying to calm him the way a groom talks to a horse gone wild.
He leaned in to me, pointing a knotty finger at my face. 'I guess you wouldn't understand, would you? You don't care about my boy dying! About him smashing up his Camaro into that old tree. About them playing his favorite song at his funeral, and he's dead! He's gone! Only 18 and he's gone!'
The paper he waved at me came into focus. It was the program for a memorial service.
'I guess you wouldn't understand,' he mumbled. He bent his head. His wife put her arm around him and stood quietly by his side.
'I can't understand your loss,' I said quietly, 'but we buried my four-year-old nephew last month, and I know how bad that hurts.'
He looked up at me. The anger slid from his face, and he sighed. 'It's a shame, ain't it? A dirty shame.' We stood in silence for a long moment. Then he fished around in his back pocket and pulled out a worn billfold. 'Would you like to see a picture of our boy?'
©2008. Rick Phillips and Joanna Slan. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.