Do the Right Thing

the-hard-thing-is-the-right-thingIt never really occured to me. It didn’t occur to my wife. Candy never thought of it either. The morning when Annie and I got in the car, it did cross my mind, but only briefly enough to send a quick text to Candy asking, “Do you think it’s OK if I bring Annie?” It never seemed such a concern that I should call in advance or question it. Although alas, that decision changed the day.

Our team decided a year ago to have a group event and volunteer our time and energy giving back to communities. We picked a GoodWill Center. Candy arranged the time and volunteer effort with the center, and at the last minute I decided to include my five year old daughter in this wonderful exercise of giving. She’s just in kindergarten, and well shucks, what better education than to include her in a day to giving back to those in need?

Annie and I drove the hour from Portland Maine to the GoodWill center and presented ourselves, along with the clothes and toys we had gathered that morning to donate. We were greeted by a floor supervisor who led us to the assigned task of the day. In the warehouse he brought batches of newly donated goods which we were to sort into bins to later be placed on the floor and sold to needing families. Annie thought it was awesome! digging through interesting clothes and sorting them into bins for the WoodWill center to sell.

While we set up shop and prepared to attack the task, the supervisor person re-emerged and declared that we could not stay because Annie was in violation of their safety regulations. It wasn’t a kind dismissal, but delivered more in the tone of “well rules-are-rules” sort of way.

Well, I understand following policy but still asked to talk to the manager who decided this. This was the same decider who was still hiding in her office. Annie and I walked to the closed office of the GoodWill site manager to politely inquire. My intention was just to build rapport and understand her concern. Well, immediately it was clear she was adamant – five year olds cannot be on the “sorting floor”. Ok, I get that but we’re just throwing clothes into big boxes and Annie would love it. She would, in fact, be awesome at it. We were never asked to sign any type of release and obviously I’m there as her parent responsible for her behavior and actions.

Nope, not a chance. Perhaps we could distribute the sorted clothes on the floor in the showroom? Nope, not in the policy. My daughter started to cry, and I knew there was no negotiating. It would only make things more difficult for her. We left, had a nice lunch and I tried to get Annie to forget about the unyeilding people at GoodWill.

Here’s the thing – consistently the best places to work communicate clearly that they trust their people. W.L. Gore, Umpqua Bank, NetApp, and many others have, for example, have adopted travel policies of “do the right thing.” GoodWill has a chance to communicate clearly to their people in the field that they have an opportunity to “do the right thing” as well. Or at the very least be human when delivering sad news.