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By:  Bill Pilchak – 12/22/15

Some years ago, I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Bill Capodagli, author of The Disney Way, at an event presented by our Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by our friends at YourSource Management Group. Capodagli wrote a book and provides training on the many facets of Disney’s success, so business may emulate their methods.

One lesson impressed me, and I suspect would resonate with other small business owners who do most every job in their company, from janitor to CEO.

It seems that a newly hired Vice President arrived for his first day on the job, parking in the employee lot some distance from Disney World’s front admission gates. As he eagerly strode across the parking lot that would soon be filled with excited visitors, he too was excited: to see his new office and meet his new colleagues. As such, he strode past a piece of paper on the ground without even noticing it. Thirty feet past the litter, he felt a sharp push against the back of his shoulder. He turned to find a young man dressed as a soda-jerk holding the trash to his face and upbraiding him, saying: “Mister, you walked right past this!” During an orientation session later that morning, the new VP learned that The Disney Way means that it’s every employee’s job to do everything possible to enhance Disney World and the Disney experience.  It’s everybody’s job to pick up trash because visitors shouldn’t see litter. Moreover, it’s perfectly acceptable for a soda jerk to remind a “suit” that picking up a piece of paper isn’t beneath him.

So, when I learned that a client would soon be providing janitorial services to one of the Disney properties, I told Capodagli’s story. I felt the tidbit might be a valuable insight to his new customer’s culture, especially given his janitorial function. “Funny,” he said. “I recently picked up a piece of paper and threw it in the trash at one of our industrial sites…and got a grievance from the union for doing bargaining unit work.”

And there, in a nutshell, is one of the biggest problems with unions. While world class operations get their team focused on doing everything possible to improve their product, service or experience, unions not only foster an “it’s not my job” mentality, but an “it’s not your job, either” mindset. Of course, leaders recognize that when it’s “not my job” and “not your job,” the job won’t get done… or will only get done later so that service and the mission suffers.