I was recently in a client’s training room.  This room is also used as their lunchroom.

It has a tiny kitchen with a sink, a power point and a cupboard under the sink. That’s it.  The dishes live in another room.

Well, the dishes are meant to live in another room.  Where they actually reside is in piles on the sink. Apparently, they are clean – but I wash the cup I’m going to use every time – just in case.

I asked one day what is the deal with the dishes? Do they have a roster to clean things and put them away? No.  Everyone has to wash their own cup and put it away.

“That system is working really well…” I said and we all had a good chuckle.

The reality is that they don’t have a system and there is no accountability.  It’s only the dishes so it’s no biggie – but what if this approach is used in other areas of the business?

This situation highlights 1) if it’s everyone’s responsibility, then it’s no-one’s responsibility and 2) what you tolerate becomes the norm.

If one person doesn’t wash, dry and put away their dishes and no-one says anything about it, then that has just provided consent to everyone else to do the same.  So the dishes generally don’t get done.

The only person likely to deal with this situation on a regular basis is the office martyr. And really, do we want the office martyr to deal with these issues? You’ll never hear the end of it.

What if we were to use the same approach in more important elements of the business? What if we don’t call out inappropriate comments when we first hear them; or we allow people to use their phones in meetings or let people rock up to work late every day?  What if we allow our team to be disrespectful to each other?

If we tolerate disrespectful behaviour then we are saying it is okay and it will become the norm.

It’s the leader’s role to ensure that 1) the dishes in the sink get done and 2) to ensure that disrespectful behaviour is not tolerated.


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