Even Security Guards Get It: Part I

My company has two different offices in downtown Chicago. One of them is at 175 W. Jackson in a building that literally occupies an entire city block – it’s huge. There are thousands of people in and out of the building every day and there are security guards that stand at every entrance and every corner of every hallway on the ground floor. If you happen to leave the office at a relatively normal hour, you’ll encounter one security guard that knows more about motivation and recognition than pretty much any one I’ve encountered in corporate America. Without fail, he’s there every evening doing what he’s paid to do. But throughout his shift, he can be heard telling the random passerby, “hey, great job today.” Or “thanks for coming in.” Or “you made a difference today…thanks for that!” You should see the way he makes people smile.

Here’s a man who will likely never set foot on one of the floors above the lobby, yet he (genuinely) recognizes that we all play a role in this great big community, that we’re human beings, and that every now and then we like to be thanked. I don’t know if he understands how rare that is…in fact, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care. He just sees these people trudging off after a long hard day and feels compelled to say something about it. And what he says is more than I’ve ever heard from pretty much any one I’ve ever worked for.

When’s the last time you walked the halls, poked your head into some one’s office or cubicle and just said, “thanks?” It takes all of 2 minutes, doesn’t cost a cent, and is maybe more powerful than anything you’ve done for your people in a long time. It’s simple, yes. But that’s why it works.

See Part II – Video Interview with Said Security Guard, Fred Wesley

Photo Credit: Simple

17 Responses to Even Security Guards Get It: Part I
  1. Tom Bolt
    November 4, 2010 | 4:41 am

    I worked at a major pharma company in NJ who had a security guard that was more of an asset to the public image of the company than he ever knew. If you were an employee he knew your name, where you worked and greeted you with a comment and called you by name every time you passed his desk. If you were a nervous candidate arriving for an interview, you were smiling and at ease by the time you disappeared into the bowels of the building to run the gauntlet of the occasionally much less friendly interviewers. I never saw his resume, but I’m fairly certain he did not have a degree in psychology, communications or HR, but he could have taught courses to those who sometimes forget that our jobs are about people.

  2. Charlie
    November 4, 2010 | 6:49 am

    @Tom I love this…the unsung heroes of the workforce. This might be an interesting feature.

  3. Meghan M. Biro
    November 4, 2010 | 12:18 pm

    Love this post Charlie! Refreshing = A simple hello often means more than being sequestered in an office not truly connecting with “the people”- Why not take two extra minutes to break down tired and unnecessary role barriers? Cheers to this notion.

  4. Charlie
    November 4, 2010 | 1:32 pm

    @Meghan i despise those “role barriers”. i understand the need for organizational hierarchy…but that doesn’t have to translate into a human hierarchy. we should all be on the same level when it comes to how we relate to one another in the workplace. some how that still gets lost on us, though. this security guard was a great reminder for me. thanks for the comment!

  5. John Hunter
    November 4, 2010 | 9:29 pm

    At the metro one of the workers started greeting people on the way home at night and to work in the morning about 2 weeks ago. I must admit I find it a bit odd (and I don’t think I am the only one). But also I do think it brings some humanity to the otherwise ant farm like quality of the experience :-/

  6. Charlie
    November 5, 2010 | 11:32 am

    @john it is a bit “odd” but I’m guessing that’s primarily because we don’t see it very often. some people see this as an invasion of space – i suppose i get that. i always try to say “good day” to anyone on an elevator with me as I exit…sometimes i’m amazed by looks i get. but remember, this is about how we act in the workplace – which can very much be an ant farm. no reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t be doing this more often. thx for the comment.

  7. Mama Joann
    November 5, 2010 | 12:21 pm

    Happy to say that gentlemen is my son! He’s a chip off the old block, his dad! Gotta love them!

  8. Charlie
    November 6, 2010 | 9:14 am

    @Mama so glad to have met your son! and what he does for all of us is awesome. can’t wait to spend more time interviewing him next week! thx for the comment.

  9. Chris Osborn
    November 9, 2010 | 2:23 pm

    Great post, Charlie. You are exactly right. A simple speck of common, human decency makes an amazing difference. Too bad so few “leaders” don’t get that basic concept.

  10. H. Delphine Clark
    November 9, 2010 | 5:24 pm

    I truely enjoyed this Blog, I just recently had the opportunity of meeting on line the oject of your Blog. I can understand how refreshing it is to see someone on a day in and day out, basis. One who is always the same…And sometimes the words that he may speak on any given day, could possibly what one particular person may need at that perfect time…I always tell people that you should always let your light shine, because you may never know who is watching you…and you can best believe someone is always watching you…Thanks for the blog…BE GOOD!!!!

  11. Office Worker
    November 17, 2010 | 9:50 am

    I work at 175 W Jackson and absolutely agree with Charlie that the effort that particular security guard makes is amazing. He is such a wonderful person to get to know and he ALWAYS makes me smile, even if I’m leaving late, having had a not-so-great day. Kudos to you for bringing his story to light.

  12. [...] Last month I posted a piece on the simplicity of employee recognition…the power of thanks. It was inspired by an unlikely source – a security guard named Fred Wesley. I promised an interview with him and I finally got around to putting the following together. It has been my great pleasure knowing Fred and he has a powerful reminder for us all…thanking your employees isn’t really that hard, yet it wields great power. [...]

  13. a co-worker
    December 14, 2010 | 5:56 am

    I work with Fred and I am glad that he’s making a difference in the tenants and visitors in the building! However, He is also an encouragement to His fellow co-workers! Perhaps we don’t let him know this, but especially after those rough days if we’re privilege to run into Fred, we leave feeling better about ourselves! To the gentleman who wrote this article on Fred, thank you! Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can make a negative or positive day in the lives we encounter at work. And to Fred, thank you for being a great example to us at 175!

  14. Beth
    January 6, 2011 | 8:32 am

    I, too work in the 175 W. Jackson building and am very late to posting my comment (Fred has been on me for a few months asking if I’ve read the column – sorry Fred!!)

    I am so glad that Fred was recognized in this manner. I, too look forward to hearing him as I leave for the day, smiling as I hear him tell everyone “Good job today,” or “You’ve made a difference today,” or my new favorite, “I can see pay raises in your futures!”

    Fred, thank you. You make a difference to so many people everyday!

  15. Marilyn
    January 12, 2011 | 9:06 pm

    What an awesome guy! I look forward to seeing Fred’s smiling face everytime I come in. The world needs more men and women like him.

  16. Deloris
    January 14, 2011 | 1:01 pm

    I think the article about Fred was great, it shows that there is still some kindness around. When I first heard him say “good job today” it made me smile you think I don’t even work for him but it was good to hear nevertheless. Keep it up the Fred we like it…

  17. H. R. Official » My 3 Favs from HR Fishbowl, The Human Race Horses and Fistful of Talent
    June 20, 2011 | 4:54 am

    [...] first post is from Charley Judy aka hrfishbowl. The post is titled “Even Security Guards get it.”   This is classic.  If you are in HR read  this, it takes 3 [...]

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