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Have You Disappointed Anyone Lately?

I have a friend who was born in Mexico and moved to the United States when she was a teenager. If you saw her, you would probably think that she looks European; in fact, she tells me that most people initially assume that she is Russian or Greek. Sadly, she also conveys that when those same people find out she is from Mexico, they act disappointed. It's as if, she says, they consider people from Europe more interesting than people from Mexico, and that she let them down by ruining their romantic notion of her ethnic background.

Business people often get similar reactions when describing their work roles to someone they're meeting for the first time. A merchandize buyer who recently attended The Leading from the Heart Workshop related how people are excited to hear that she works at a zoo, only to seem disappointed after learning that she does not work directly with animals. And several managers from a large nursing care provider describe getting the same response when telling new acquaintances that they work in accounts receivable rather than in positions involving patient care. Apparently, we lose interest in people if their jobs don't fit our stereotypes.

To be sure, many leaders foster a distinction between highly valued jobs and all the other duties. We revere salespeople while taking operations personnel for granted. We look up to physicians but down on orderlies. We admire teachers and mock cafeteria workers. It's no wonder our unsung workers perceive that they're disappointing us.

People possess an innate desire to contribute their best efforts. But if they sense that their contributions are not appreciated, they'll withhold their talents. Therefore, if you're not getting the very best from your employees, perhaps your attitude about their importance has disappointed them.

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