Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Service Jobs

Can Be Empowering.

A service job does not have to be degrading, it can actually be empowering. Any job can be empowering if you take pride in doing it well. But in order for a service job to be empowering, in order to do it well, you have to accept and embrace the fact that it's a service job. If you cannot embrace this fact and instead try to maintain a feeling of superiority with regard to the job or the customer, you cannot be empowered by the job, you will always be in some kind of inner conflict about the job, and you will never do it very well.

I think one of the reasons why good service is so rare, and by good service I mean sincerely friendly, helpful, courteous service, is that so many people cannot allow themselves to serve another person, they cannot embrace what in fact, a service job actually is: paying attention to the needs of someone else.

I think a secure person can pay attention to the needs of someone else and not feel degraded or defined by that role. An insecure person cannot put themselves in a service position without being reminded of their own feelings of insecurity and inferiority. These feelings are intolerable to them so they adopt a superficial "service personality" but inwardly feel contempt and superiority toward the customers. The result is bad or insincere fake-good service.

I understand this position. It's very difficult to serve another person sincerely, especially one who is rude or condescending or downright insulting. But that, nevertheless is what the job entails. The smug inwardly superior position is an adequate defense mechanism that does push away the bad feelings temporarily and does allow one to continue in the job. But ultimately, those feelings will keep surfacing over and over again.

As I see it, the best way out of this bind is to see that this is a job and a role, not "who you are". The customer is in the role of superior and you are in the role of server. It doesn't mean that the customer is literally superior to you or your better in any way. It doesn't mean that you are their superior either. It just means that in this job, those are the roles. If you can accept your role in this scenario, you can set your personal life and preferences aside, and simply play the role and do your job. You can do it well and you can take pride and power from doing that.

You can also, if you have feelings of insecurity or inferiority, learn to deal with them directly rather than acting them out on the customers. I would recommend starting with admitting to yourself that you feel this way. Honestly assess your sense of self-worth and start doing things that increase it. Develop skills that you value. Learn about things that you value. Find your natural talents and do things that bring them out. It won't happen overnight, but you can find value in yourself and what you do. Once you value who you are, you can be empowered by any job, even if that job is serving other people.


  1. Replies
    1. I think initially it came from noticing some typically bad or insincere "good" service somewhere in Ashland and it got me thinking about the subject. I initially just wrote more or less what's in the first couple of paragraphs. Then a facebook friend posted something about how he used to clean out bathrooms in a bar and deal with other unsavory stuff there for several years and how worked through it. That inspired me to elaborate a bit on my initial observation and post this version...