Behave! | Work Series

Our school principal, Father Francis Mascarenhas, would occasionally visit some classes for observation. Although it didn’t seem random for my class, his visits were usually a surprise. There would be an absolute pin-drop silence as soon as he would set his foot inside the class. I recall the experience of one being a mix of fear, respect, maybe more fear than respect.

We would all pretend to be seriously attentive, paying attention to the teacher at the blackboard (I belong to the era without smartphones and smart boards and everything smart), do all the right thing to get his attention. The class that could sometimes appear like a busy train station would magically transform into a disciplined library from Harvard. The result; an astonishing disciplined class from the time the principal stepped in until he stepped out. We did pay a lot of attention (I mean for those who were not paying) to what was going on in the class and did pick up a few things. It forced us to become attentive and focused. Whatever the compelling reasons were, it worked.

I know what you are thinking. Why don’t I get to the point? Well, let’s do it.

Imagine. Just imagine, our customers doing the same, placing themselves inside your office. I mean right in the middle.

What would happen? First off, it would seem very odd. How can we discuss openly in front of our customers? Some things are best kept behind doors. What about our departmental conflicts? What about our individual group’s agenda (Customer first anyone?). What about the time-wasters and naysayers orbiting around the office prying on fresh preys for gossips or recounting all that is wrong with the place? What about a real waste of resources like copies waiting for days to be picked up from the printer, colour prints when it’s not necessary? What about the hours spent in meetings to plan for more meetings. Enough!


We have nothing to worry. After all aren’t we a professionally run organization? Sure!

Well of course. We will put our best foot forward — no chance embarrassing ourselves. Hypothetically speaking, there will be a clear demonstration of perfect behaviour from everyone. The excellent collaboration will begin to take shape, even if it’s a just a pretense at the beginning. Working on a solution? Let the best idea for the customers win. Don’t we have to show we put our customers first? Efficiency will be at an all-time high. Those roaming bandits stealing our productivity are no longer welcome around us. No time to chit-chat about the last episode you watched on Netflix, after all, we have a company to run. Office politics? No time, we have new ideas to launch next week. Can you join me for Starbucks? Oh, I wish, I have a client issue to solve now.

Too much going on, yet there is a strange harmony. Things are awesome. Everything, well almost everything seems to be working well. What did just happened here?


I know I have over generalized. Your office may not resemble the 1999 super hilarious classic “Office Space”. It could be worse. But I am guilty of taking all the fun away from work. But I think you got the point.

What caused this switch?

Is it fear or respect? Obligation or courtesy? A need to appear better or do what’s right for the customer? Humans are social animals. We care about the opinions of those around us, so simply knowing that someone is watching us can be a powerful motivator to do our best. Regardless of the plausible reasons, we do alter our behaviour when we need to.  Just like I did when the school principal would sit in our class.

Just wondering…

Why do we need someone else to alter our behaviour when we are perfectly capable ourselves of doing what is right? We all have it in us, so why the catalyst? Perhaps some things matter to bring the best in us. And as long as that works, who cares. Perhaps in the near future our customers may actually start paying surprise visits. How about we behave the same way as if the customer is sitting with us — all the time.


Why stop at customers only. How about parents, spouses, friends, family, neighbours, or society in general? We don’t need someone to show us how we should behave, or do we?

Share your thoughts.

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