Mr. Hamilton was tired of seeing a mess in the kitchen. Every day, people would leave things in the sink. It was a single sink tub with a faucet and sprayer. It was not equipped with a garbage disposal. That fact didn’t discourage people from tossing garbage in the sink, leaving a mess for someone else to clean up.
One day, someone actually poured coffee grounds down the drain. Mr. Hamilton saw maintenance heading to the kitchen too many times. He found himself unloading the dishwasher more than a few times, which was not easy to do with his bad knees. One of his employees, Tonya Banks, took it upon herself to clean the kitchen. It was not her job and Mr. Hamilton wanted to praise her for her efforts.
Every morning, Tonya headed to the kitchen for her morning coffee. She managed to always get there shortly after a few employees filled the sink with dirty coffee cups or disgusting oatmeal bowls. Mr. Hamilton vented his frustration to his staff without much change. He just left it alone for awhile. As a business owner, had a company to run, reports to generate, tours of the plant, meetings with city officials. He was fed up with complaining about a dirty kitchen. After all, these folks were adults.
Finally, some posted a sign above the sink:
“Please be courteous to others and clean up your own mess.”
The sign worked for two days.
Mr. Hamilton thought of another approach. While his employees went about their regular routine of putting coffee cups and oatmeal bowls in the sink every morning, stacking dirty salad bowls and microwave dishes in the sink at lunchtime, and placing used coffee pots on the counter at the end of the day, Mr. Hamilton did not say anything. He saw it all from his office. He knew that Tonya was the main person cleaning the kitchen.
One day, after their annual office pot luck, the kitchen was left with a big mess. The bottom of the sink was covered with salad leaves. Cookies and cake crumbs were all over the kitchen counter. Strange smears of food covered the counter and sink faucet. It was disgusting. Again, he held his tongue.
The next morning, Mr. Hamilton entered the kitchen and noticed the kitchen was sparking clean. The microwave, toaster, fridge, and sink were spotless. The glass coffee pots were clear as crystal and there was not a bread crumb, coffee ground or salad leaf to be found.
The next day, he called his staff in for a meeting.
“I have started an Employee of the Year award and Tonya will be the first recipient. She is commended for her tireless efforts of going beyond the call of duty.”
She walked up to shake hands with Mr. Hamilton and get her photo taken.
“The reward for this year is a $1,000 cash bonus, three months free parking, and season tickets to the college football games.”
Tonya opened the envelope and pulled out the big check.
“Within twelve months, there were seventeen calls to maintenance for a clogged drain. You are all college graduates. It shouldn’t take long to figure out that we don’t have a garbage disposal. Toss your garbage in the trash can. You can’t miss it because you pass right by the trash on your way into the kitchen.”
A few employees laughed.
“Tonya is an employee here, but she is not your maid. If you use a cup, wash it. If you make a mess, clean it up. I better not see one more cup or one more dish in that sink. For goodness sake, if you don’t want to wash it, use the dishwasher!”
Silence followed his little speech as the guilty parties held their heads down.
"Tonya was chosen as employee of the year primarily in how she took it upon herself to clean the kitchen. She is a problem solver and for that, she is relieved from cleaning that kitchen again. I don’t care of the toaster is on fire, the coffee pots are overflowing, or the suds are coming out of the dishwasher. From this moment on, everyone better clean up behind themselves or they would have to answer to me! Now, let’s congratulate Tonya Banks for all of her hard work!”
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