Against stereotype

No one likes to be stereotyped, yet nearly all of us do it.

When you think of a typical fast-food worker, do you think of someone enthusiastic, outgoing and friendly? If you worked in “quick service” (as the industry refers to itself) or have a loved one who did/does, you may have a different view of the typical behavior associated with these workers. And as more older people work in this business, there are pockets of exemplary behavior.

But let’s go back to a typical worker, not the outliers.

I rarely go to fast-food outlets, but when I have, my observation of the workers is mostly folks who do the minimum and act like they don’t really want to be there.

So imagine my delight to encounter one of the aforementioned outliers the other day. He cheerily took my drive-thru order and when delivering my order he was enthusiastic, energetic, and friendly. He smiled and engaged me, looking me in the eye and chatting beyond just the transaction (“here’s your order”). How great!

I didn’t think about talking to him about his attitude or his boss to see why his behavior was so pleasantly beyond the stereotype. I wonder if he’s nearly always this way, or if he was having a particularly good day. Did he show this behavior in the interview, making it easy to hire him? Does he get along well with his manager, getting kudos and encouragement, or is this just the way he always is?

So many questions. I always want to know why people behave significantly better than their peers. Then we can understand how to hire or incent others to follow the exemplar’s behavior.