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Why are people so serious at work?

It seems that the understanding one has about what is expected from him/her at work, or as Jung would say, the mask one puts on at work, has to demonstrate seriousness, rigor, with a touch of boredom. This remark is not only valid for people’s behaviors but very often also for institutional internal communication. Have you ever felt “very lonely” when trying to crack a joke or put energy into a meeting room and being the only one to have a smile on your face? Or reading internal notes or company papers which focus on facts, on the business, on results but forget to address anything else than your brain?

Or are we just on stage, playing a theater piece, for the sake of our peer’s/superior’s respect? I have stopped counting the number of business class passengers asking for the Financial Times and reading the sports part only…by the way there are more specialized and comprehensive newspapers & magazines for this highly specific piece of knowledge!

Are we really so much more productive and credible when showing distance to people and events? I dare say no, because there is only so much a human being is willing to do and provide to the company without its heart being also addressed.

Internal procedures have to be defined and should be respected most of the time for consistencies sake but too often, procedures, addressing your brain with a systematic sequence of actions to be fulfilled, are being followed and end-up being counterproductive for the company; going through each point of the check-list defined by the company to answer your customer’s request may hinder you from “reading” your customer’s real hidden demand. This same checklist may take you 45 minutes to go through and your customer will receive a complete, professional response to his demand. But really listening to your customer for 5 minutes may help you identify that his need lies somewhere else, that you could generate further business and create referral business thanks to your unique way of handling this customer’s interaction. It may well be that you will better serve the interests of your company by not following the rules. I am entering a danger zone here, because this goes against business ethics and the commonly accepted principle that following the rules is the norm.

(On a side note, when I talk about “Listening” to your customer, I mean the Chinese calligraphy for listening: with your ears, your eyes, your heart and only focusing on the person in front of you.)

Breaking this norm requires guts, enough discernment, empathy and ultimately management support. It also requires a solid connection between your brain and your heart; in a fraction of a second you will balance pro’s and con’s and finally take a decision, which you will be ready to defend in any circumstances.

If you succeed, you will be a hero and the system will forget to ask you how you got this success. You may even get celebrated. If you fail though, there are very clear procedures in place to tackle this. And most of these procedures will be pointing at your mistake, your responsibility and your lack of discipline and loyalty to the company. What if the procedures would systematically take advantage of the new knowledge gained and spread it through the system? What if this mistake would become an event, worth learning from and being celebrated? This would address the heart of the person.

A celebration can have various forms and can, like any event, range from small to big, from a smile to a drink with the team or from cracking a joke to going out and party or any shape and form one feels and wants giving to it.

So, celebrate! Whatever has happened and do it from the bottom of your heart! No procedure will do it for you and it is so much more fun.

If you wish to connect with me or any member of my team celebrating and making our customers benefit from it, have a look at www.lhcconsulting.com



André Mack Director at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting

André Mack has extensive experience in the in-flight catering industry and in management consulting. He has specialized in the areas of strategic marketing, customer service and business process re-engineering.

He is Director, Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, and alumni of University St. Gallen, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and holds an EMBA from HULT International Business School.

The consulting mandates in strategic business analysis, re-engineering of management and operational processes, operational and quality auditing of hospitality business units, as well as the development of hospitality learning centres, have allowed him to touch base in New York, Sydney and many countries between these two destinations.

André speaks French, German and English, mixing it up sometimes with the various Swiss German dialects.