Vax records in hand, COVID negative swab results in, ArriveCan app downloaded, this past September I arrived one early Saturday morning for my first out-of-country live speaking engagement since February of 2020.
When I got to the airport, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
I’m not just talking about the volume of people (it made March Break look like the open Prairies.) I mean the behaviours from some of us travellers.
Essential Services Workers’ Facing the Brunt of COVID Exhaustion
We’ve heard a lot about “The Great Resignation” of people in pretty much every industry, particularly frontline service. And is it any wonder with situations like this:
Within 15 minutes of arriving, having deposited my bag and making my way to the “line” (there were so many of us a line would not quite describe it), one of two Air Canada agents, the one with a voice loud enough to be heard above the crowd, tried to explain which of three areas to gather in based on time of flight (of course you want 8 am flights to go first, 8:30 am next, 9:00 am…it just makes sense!). Well, one man got right in his face, as if he’s never heard of the concept “physical distancing,” pulled down his mask (so the guy could get a really good listen, I guess), and proceeded to tell him how this agent was single-handedly ruining his vacation! Well, clearly, this dude needed a holiday (as well as a lesson in manners and kindness).
I was shocked!
I was shocked by his behaviour. I am shocked anytime I see people being angry, impatient, grouchy and yelling at the people working in public-facing roles. If you wouldn’t yell at your doctor for being late, don’t yell at her receptionist. If you wouldn’t give attitude for waiting on hold to speak to HR about a job you want, don’t give attitude to the call center agent.
Here’s a test: if you would be comfortable with your boss, grandma or a journalist from the New York Times witnessing your treatment of others, then you’ve probably passed the human kindness test. If your boss would write you up, grandma would stare you down with a “you were raised better than that” look, and the journalist would be inspired to write an expose on “the crumbling of humanity in day-to-day life,” then it’s time for a behavioural check.
If I Wore Your Shoes
As that expression goes, you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, however, what if, in the case of my recent experience, none of us had actually worked in the airline or related industry. What if our only experience was as a “frustrated” member of the public. Can we still be patient and empathic even when, in my case, it took 2.5 hours to get through all the checks?
I “Thank” we can…
- Substitute Technique – Since your kid, niece or nephew or another young person you know likely works in service, treat others the way you hope others treat them.
- Gratitude Technique – Remember that it is a privilege to be served. (And in this example, it truly is a privilege to be able to afford to travel, have a job that requires travel, that frankly, someone figured out how to get a tin can to fly through the air in the first place!)
- Distraction Technique – Anytime you think you might run into delays, have a plan for how you’ll manage it. From having AirPods, and a book downloaded, chatting with others in line, making a mental list of all the people who have positively impacted you in your life, etc.
- The FROG Technique – Focusing on finding glimmers of greatness to appreciate by living to forever recognize other greatness in the moment (read on below).
Leaping in with FROG
As tired as I was at the airport that early Saturday morning, every single time I heard somebody yell at somebody, I decided I needed to make sure that I explicitly and publicly expressed my appreciation to that person.
The goal: cancel out some criticism with some appreciation.
And you know what? A little gratitude ripple effect started. I met many great people standing in line, learning about their kids and where they were flying and what they were looking forward to whenever they got to their destination. They smiled more at the workers at Pearson, probably because they were thinking and talking about joys.
I also think I was able to thank about a dozen or so people directly. And their reaction of being so grateful that somebody actually appreciated them caused them to smile with their eyes, make a bit of conversation with me, move on to the next customer with a little bit less heaviness.
Recognition isn’t the job of those peoples’ managers exclusively. It’s everybody’s job.
I know you are with me on this. I shared a shorter version of this post on LinkedIn, and here are some of the things you said:
- We all need to take the time and effort to express our gratitude
- A little kindness goes a long way
- Service people sure do need love
- It’s a tough gig in a high-stakes environment at the best of times (then add a global health crisis)
- It costs nothing, and it is very easy to be kind and show appreciation
One thing that (unfortunately) stands out is how quickly we can forget sentiments like #allinthis together. Appreciation seems to be one of the first things to go when a crisis is over. Appreciation is the WD-40 of relationship system management – thank you for FROGing and caring enough!
Many people complain, yet very few express gratitude for those trying to serve them, and the appreciative acknowledgement matters.
See the Person First
If you have the privilege of being served as a member of the public, consider how much better your experience will be in the long run if you make a concerted effort to appreciate the person right in front of you. We cannot forget it is a person – not a job – that we are interacting with. It’s basic courtesy. Your grandma would be proud.
Plus, let’s not forget, we never know what other people are going through and the battles they’re fighting that we will never see.
It’s not hard to find something to compliment in those you meet in your life and work travels (literal and metaphorical travels.) That’s why I keep complimenting hards on the ready in my purse because you never know when you’ll see the perfect opportunity to reinforce the greatness you see. After all:
If you look for greatness, you will see it everywhere.
Seek and You Shall Find
Within the first hour of being in Vegas, the two people who delivered the most service to me, the lady who checked me in the front desk and the gentleman who served me lunch, were incredible.
Of course, if you know me, I FROGed them. “FROG stands for Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness and the greatness I see in you is…”
My experience in the airport was not limited to travellers en route; I saw it when I was in this vacation spot too. So, I decided it would be a recognition focused four-days, and you know what? Not one single person I expressed direct and specific appreciation to rejected it. You don’t have to have squishy frogs in your purse to say thank you.
All we have to do is say the words: “thank you.” Seem small, however, it might just be the glue that holds someone’s day together.
For more FROGing ideas, check out these other resources: