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Judging quickly may not always be a good reflex

I was waiting in line at the cash register of my local grocery store this morning when I noticed something troubling. My wife usually takes care of grocery shopping but we traded place this morning.

The customer just before me was picking up his last bags and the cashier had started to scan my items and was sending them to the packer. In an attempt to help the packer (who didn’t look like she was enjoying her job), the cashier put a few items on the shelf next to the conveyor belt while scanning more items.

In a very direct tone, the packer told the cashier to “stop putting items on the shelf” and to “keep adding items to the belt instead“. The cashier tried to explain the reason of her doing to no avail.

It was obvious to me that the packer’s reaction was uncalled for but I kept the thoughts to myself. As I pushed my empty cart toward the packer so she could put the packed items back in the cart I noticed something impressive. The packer was using the shelf to sort out my items in order to group similar items in the bags – dairy products together, fruits with vegetables, frozen products with meat items, cleaning products were kept separately. I was amazed! In all the years I have done grocery, this was the first time I saw a packer so carefully organizing the items and placing them in a logical way. Did you ever get home to realize the loaf of bread was put in a bag under the apples and detergent? Or find the bananas under cans of diced tomatoes??

The packer probably took an extra minute to do her work but she was doing it professionally and the result surprised me. Once she put the last bag in my cart, she smiled and wished me a “wonderful day“.

Why was I so shocked?

As I drove back home I realized how we tend to quickly judge a situation without spending time to understand the context. Isn’t this something we do as managers? I look back at some of my experience (and some of my colleagues’) and remember a few instances where I quickly judged a situation and acted on the judgement to realize later how the decision was inappropriate. Had I taken the time to understand the context, my decision would certainly have been much more appropriate.

When I got home, I told my wife about the packer with the bad temper. She said “yes, I know her” and she went on to describe how she looked. I said “yes, that’s her“. With a grin on her face she said “she looks mean but I like her. She is really good at packing the bags properly“…

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