Office life: a lot like school?

Check out that cordless phone.
Check out that cordless phone.

Over these last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different jobs I’ve had. I got my first job at 16, working as a hostess for Outback Steakhouse. At the time, I didn’t think I made much money, but looking back, the gig wasn’t so bad (restaurant minimum wage plus tip share).

My main job at Outback was to seat customers evenly among the waitstaff. I worked pretty hard to memorize the table map and keep on the good side of the staff — the ones that would put up with me. Other than that, I rolled silverware. And I did eat a ton of the Outback bread with honey butter. Don’t get me started on that high school metabolism!

While the money was good, of course, the hours sucked, and it was my first taste of restaurant life; one that isn’t necessarily fun or easy, but it’s a slippery slope. I also worked the front desk at a gym (which I was TERRIBLE at), worked at a scrapbook supply shop, served as a carhop at a Sonic-like place, and slung frozen custard at Ritter’s.

I have said it for years and I’ll say it again: if I could make a living selling glaciers and Boilermakers (two scoops vanilla frozen custard, pump of caramel, pump of hot fudge, whipped cream), I would do it TODAY.

While I am passionate about fine desserts, I loved working at Ritter’s because the people were so pleasant. Not only the employees (I worked at two different locations), but the customers were all so happy. No one is pissed off when they’re about to indulge in one of the finest treats on the planet.

But with Ritter’s, I felt it wasn’t just the product or the employees. It was about the entire franchise; that even though each location is owned and operated by someone else, it was developed with the mission of serving people something that was delicious and high-quality — something each and every employee could be proud of when they handed it out the window.

Sure, maybe I’m getting a little too serious about frozen custard right now, but when you really think about it, isn’t that the only joy we can hope for when we go to work each and every day? In my recent employment adventures, I’ve learned that there really ARE companies out there built upon principles that simply revolve around integrity, and in general, not being an asshole.

I’ve never thought of myself as a person who wanted, or really needed, to be liked. But I’ve also spent a lot of time being “okay” with that left out feeling; given the alienation slapped on my forehead as a creative in the world of cardboard boxes. There’s no denying it, I was really disliked at my old job. And whether that was because of my case of resting bitch face; my choice of clothing; or the giant Justin Bieber poster in my office, it probably had some effect on the way things ended.

As I embark on my new employment opportunity, I feel very lucky to find myself in an environment where integrity is a part of the company’s core values. There is no time for gossip, wallowing, or pettiness. Employees are not clocking in and clocking out — they are living and breathing the values each and every day in all they do. In general, they’re just not assholes. And they all happen to be passionate about similar things.

When this happens, you actually get a work environment that’s pleasant. What??? I was reading an article in Real Simple, “Why Your Office is A Lot Like Kindergarten,” that explains a few simple rules to make things work in the office. The main rule: don’t be an asshole. Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.

Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. I think it has to be built into the office culture — a culture of kindness, if you will. It’s not something you can force on people, and it’s definitely something that should be a part of the hiring process, because if you hire someone who’s a dick, it’s never going to change.

I general, I am a kind person. Sure, I can be a smart ass at times, but no one bitches about that. Perhaps, in my previous jobs, it was more about being not being accepted that gave me more of the vinegar effect. Just in case, I’ve decided to keep my Bieber poster at home.

Don’t hold it against me, Biebs.

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