Our Blog

I was visiting a well known and well respected café in Palo Alto, California. I went to use the single stall restroom to find that it was in use. I waited patiently until the door opened and an employee of the café walked out. As she stepped out and held the door open for me, I walked in. Once inside, I found an average restroom (nothing fancy, but not dirty). Although the restroom wasn’t overly dirty – there were some pieces of toilet paper on the floor, as well as an empty toilet paper roll positioned about a foot in front the toilet. The toilet paper in the toilet paper dispenser was empty, but there was a roll sitting on top of the dispenser that was available to use. Although I wouldn’t necessarily consider the restroom dirty and it was in good enough shape that I felt comfortable using it – the empty roll on the floor wasn’t exactly appealing to the eye, giving off the feel that the restroom wasn’t well taken care of. What really caught my attention though, was the fact that it was an employee that had been in there right before me. Of course I don’t believe she put the empty roll there – but I do believe she probably did see it. So why didn’t she pick it up?

Companies and organizations need to get very clear on what their purpose is. What each employee should strive for and keep in mind throughout each day. For a café, I’d assume it would be to serve customers and provide them with the best food, drinks, and service. The goal or purpose for any company usually isn’t “keep the restroom clean”. However, everything that is done should be done with the ultimate goal in mind. When you’re clear on what your purpose is and what needs to happen to fulfill that purpose – employees should be able to see how they fit in and how their role helps contribute to the ultimate goal. When employees understand and feel apart of contributing to the purpose (operations/profitability/success) of the company, it gives their job meaning. When they feel that their job has meaning, it motivates them to actively contribute to the good of the company. When everybody has the same goal in mind (other factors are involved, that I won’t go into detail on right now), employees tend to pitch in where needed and even do things that are out of their job description (within reason, when and where appropriate). When employees don’t feel that their role actively contributes to the overall goal and they lack purpose, they ultimately lack motivation to do their job. They focus on their role alone, and are not dedicated to the company. Eventually, they may stop putting forth any effort whatsoever. When you create a culture where the whole company (in this case – the whole café including cooks, servers, cashiers, dishwashers, etc.) works together rather than separate, then it shouldn’t matter if the employee is responsible for cleaning the restroom. The fact that a clean restroom is important when it comes to good service – should be enough to trigger any employee to pitch in and throw away the empty roll laying there in the middle of the floor. Of course this carries over into any situation, not just the bathroom. Cashiers will step in when needed if possible, dishwashers will go above and beyond when the opportunity presents itself, etc.

While having a clear vision and a purpose may not guarantee a clean restroom, it does mean that (the right) employees (in the right roles) will be more apt to work collectively towards the shared vision.

I should point out that all employees I interacted with were super friendly and I was served the best chai tea latte I’d ever had.

I also did pitch in and throw away the toilet paper roll.

Posted by