Love and compassion in a company

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wastemanagementBy Irene Conlan –

Large corporations aren’t usually known for their kindness and compassion for anything but the bottom line and, lately are known for their big bonuses for the top management. The worker bees are often forgotten and unrewarded.

Last night after the SuperBowl I watched a program called “UnderCover Boss.” It was one of the most interesting programs I have seen in quite some time.

Larry McDonald, President and COO of Waste Management, went undercover in his own company to experience first hand what his employees do on a daily basis and see how company policies were being implemented.

On the first day he sorted recyclables and had to sort the trash and cardboard out of  the trash coming by on a conveyor belt to keep these items from  jamming the machine. He couldn’t keep up with the speed of the line and jammed the machine aware of just how much the machine cost.  He had lunch with his supervisor and near the end of lunch she jumped up and ran from lunch to clock back in. She told him she didn’t dare be even one minute late getting back to work because the company docked them double the time they were late. He was quite surprised by this and made a note to look into it. At the end of the day he was sore and exhausted and wondered if he would be able to work the next day.

On his second day he was assigned to picked up trash. He was given a spear and a garbage bag and told that he should be able to fill a bag every ten minutes. He couldn’t do it and basically got fired.

On the third day he worked with a landfill manager  who literally was doing the work of several people and, even though she was overworked and not paid for the added workload, she was still  totally positive about the company. She invited him to have dinner with her family since he was alone in town. Here he learned first hand about her financial struggles and her burdens at home.

On the fourth day he cleaned portable toilets. His trainer was an upbeat man who made the job seem fun. McDonald did well and was told so.

On the last day he rode the garbage truck with a female employee. He had to learn how to empty the bin in the truck and admitted it was hard work. The woman driver told him the company is not “female friendly”  She took a can with her in case she had to pee on the route because the company didn’t give her time to find a rest room. She also told him how the company sends supervisors out to spy on them to see if they’re working.

O.K. We’re about to get to the love part.

When he returned to the company he began to make some changes that would benefit not only the five employees he spent time with but also all the employees of the company.

Each one he worked with directly had personal gains in pay and in what they did in the company.

The man who had him picking up trash had kidney disease and was on dialysis. He was given time to help other employees and dialysis patients because he had such a positive attitude toward work and his illness.

The man who cleaned toilets now couches other employees on how to make the job interesting and fun.

The woman at the conveyor belt was given assurance that she would no longer be docked double time for every  minute she was late and that he would look into these policies.

The truck driver was promised the spy tactics would stop and the company would be more aware of not only women’s concerns but all concerns of the truck drivers e.g., they needed time to have a bathroom break. She had a friend on her route who was retarded and came out to meet her when she stopped to collect the garbage. McDonald was deeply moved by this because he has a daughter who had been brain damaged as a baby. He was moved to tears. She was encouraged to continue her compassion.

The landfill manager was given a promotion, two employees to help her an a substantial raise with bonuses.

In the end Larry McDonald “got it.” He saw and experienced first hand that his employees are not just dots on the company map but flesh and blood, live human beings who hurt, pay bills, show compassion, love their families and friends and who make his company work or not work.

While his middle and top management personnel didn’t look too impressed and may thwart any changes suggested, Larry McDonald may never be the same. His employees, their  jobs and their lives, touched him deeply.

We can only hope that more presidents and CEOs learn to show love, compassion and understanding to those people who make their companies run.

If you want to view the entire program go to http://www.cbs.com/video/video.php?pid=eeih_jUDpC4RUe_O4m88dgi91p_wErmd&nrd=1

It is slow to start so be patient.

Irene Conlan

Irene Conlan has a master's degree in nursing, She taught nursing at Arizona State University, served as Director of Nursing Administration at St. Luke's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services for the Division of Health Care Facilities and Emergency Medical Services. Now retired, she is an avid blogger and manages http://www.theselfimprovementblog.com,http://www.theselfesteemblog.com and hosts the Self Improvement Radio Show on VoiceAmerica. Irene lives in Fountain Hills, AZ and has two sons and four grandsons.