‘There is always something to do in the kitchen’

I heard this line coming from the server at my daily morning coffee spot right as I was about to get up to pay and leave. No, it wasn’t directed at me; the server, head server I assume, was speaking, rather crassly, to one of the cooks as she had come outside her little world and started lining up the clean dishes on the rack. Clearly, this wasn’t her job. I spent the next 2 minutes listening to him telling her, condescendingly, of all the other things she could have been doing instead of being out in public view, silently in-sourcing a colleague’s chore towards herself.

She just smiled. She pointed out that all the things had been taken care of. She paid attention to the suggestion that she could be in the kitchen making soup for lunch, and then she pointed out that the kitchen was completely ready for lunch, soup included.

In the end, the male server just pointed out that there’s never a dearth of chores within the confines of the kitchen. The cook (and dishwasher) got shot down for showing enthusiasm.

Why does this happen so frequently at a lot of workplaces? Conversely, would a cook who never gets to see a customer interact with her products ever make good food? It’s the silent feedback loop, the silent motivator even, to imagine outside your mental and physical box and make the workplace better. Sure, she could just be a terrible cook, but then maybe she really belongs at the bar. Wouldn’t you want to grab on that opportunity to find a better bartender?

It’s this human tendency to box ourselves in with our assumed expertise and then put a label on it telling the world that we’re certified good at doing something. It makes things easier for yourself, your peers, and potentially for your sanity. But, at the same time, it makes your life dull, boring, and predictable. No one ever said that they were great at trying everything and loving everything. We need a box to fit in and to be accepted in society.

I think she handled the situation very well, without losing her cool. As long as she does her job well, what’s a little experimentation going to hurt?

They say that you have to make your own place in an organization. And then they make it hard. What can you do but just carry on with what you do best – being yourself and being human.

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