You, with the Smile

In the couple of years since I’ve worked at the hospital I’ve been watching a man in the cafeteria quickly climb the corporate ladder. When I first started, I remember seeing him going around emptying garbage bins, wheeling around a large, noisy, rickety gray plastic tub that he would take to the dumpster when full. Every few garbage bins, he would stop at a table and have a quick chat with someone he knew. Given that he knew someone at almost every table, the work was slow going.

A few months later I saw that he’d been upgraded to sweeper, where work primarily involved hours of pushing around a long, rectangular broom. Gaining a wider perimeter with his new task, he was running into way more people than before, and subsequently, getting less and less sweeping done. Very soon after that he was bumped up again; this time he was serving coffee at the Tim Horton’s line, though again with the same result. Almost every second or third customer that came up to get a coffee would be asked what they did the weekend, or if their sister had her baby yet, or if their grandmother was getting discharged. Predictably, his coffee line was at least twice as slow as the others.

Within another few short months I saw him make his latest job upgrade—this time I spotted him behind the hot food serving line. No longer attired with dark-blue maintenance staff uniforms, nor with light-green hospital scrubs – instead he had on a clean, crisp, white chef’s jacket, and starched black pants. He’d arrived.

In just about two years, he’d gone from garbage bin empty-er, to floor sweeper, to coffee server, to cook. That’s four jobs in just two years! Best of all, in each of those previous jobs he was borderline unproductive—spending a good proportion of the day waving, winking, hand-shaking, and working hard at the hi-how-are-ya. How did he keep getting promoted? Easy as pie: he just had to be himself.

The part I’ve hinted at, but haven’t told you yet is that this guy is the kind of guy that you love to run into—the kind of guy you’d love to be friend’s with. He’s always happy and smiley, endlessly hopefully and unbelievably optimistic. In short, he’s the kind of guy who makes you smile when you see him. Incidentally, this is precisely the kind of guy you’d want to hire and have on your team. Every time you see him he’s either whistling or singing; laughing or telling a joke. He’s got an infectious positivity. I’m not trying to suggest that whistling and singing were the keys to this guy’s career success—for all I know the man is a Michelin starred chef. Even so, I’m sure that his over abundance of positivity and optimism have done him no harm along the way, and I’m certain that his productivity should be measured in more ways than floors swept or coffees served.