Pick up the trash, throw it away, and carry on with your work

During new employee orientation at my old hotel job, all staff were trained on a standard called lateral service.

The hotel cross trained all teams to support each other by pitching in on various tasks that were outside of our responsibility, regardless of job description.

Doing so not only promoted a culture of teamwork, but also eliminated the usage of the phrase, it’s not my job.

William, the veteran valet parker who trained me, walked me through the entire property on my first day. Any time he walked past a piece of trash, he would pick it up and stuff it in his pocket. Any time he noticed an empty glass or dirty dish, he would grab it and walk it back to the kitchen.

That’s lateral service. The guy didn’t complain about it, didn’t search for the culprit, didn’t post a passive aggressive note on the back of the house whiteboard, he just removed the item and carried on with his work.

Keep in mind, this was a luxury hotel. It was the hospitality industry, where you could literally get fired for not cleaning up after other people or yourself.

Sadly, when you work in a modern office environment, lateral service isn’t exactly common practice. Employees are guaranteed to leave empty cups and dirty dishes and open bottles of hot sauce all around the office, no matter how many times management reminds them to pick up after themselves.

It’s as sure as the sunrise. We are a society of spoiled, irresponsible children, primed for immediate gratification, and if we don’t have to be patient, then we won’t.

However, instead of posting written policies, customizing cleanliness incentives, installing more security cameras or photo shaming people on the office chat platform, just pick up the trash, throw it away and carry on with your work.

If somebody leaves out an empty bottle of beer from last night’s happy hour, just throw the damn thing in the recycle bin and get back to work.

It takes so little energy, saves so much stress and makes you feel so good about yourself.

The funny thing is, in this world where we have all become so narcissistic and trapped inside our own precious little bubbles, any little act of generosity will probably be seen as remarkable.

Dare to care and bother to bother. Practice lateral service by pitching in on tasks outside of your responsibility.

Nobody will applaud you for having basic manners, but at least you’ll be part of the solution, not the problem. 

How many other employees are modeling your service philosophy?


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