The new CBS show Undercover Boss pulled in the highest post-Super Bowl ratings in nearly a decade. Over 38 million people left their televisions tuned to CBS during the show. The star of the show was Larry O'Donnell, the President and COO of Waste Management, the multi-billion dollar sanitation company with 45,000 employees. O'Donnell posed as an entry level worker. He cleaned portable toilets and sorted trash at a landfill.
A few weeks ago, O'Donnell helped me recognize one of his workers, a guy named Dale, who also happens to be the man who collects our garbage. On January 8, I heard the sanitation truck outside our home, then realized I forgot to put out the garbage. I ran down the stairs and told my wife that "I think he's actually waiting for me." She gave me a look of disbelief. But Dale had parked the truck in front of our driveway, and was waiting for us.
Suddenly, the door bell rang. It was Dale holding our newspapers. He handed them to my wife. He told her that he thought we were on vacation, but he decided to see if we had just forgotten to put the cans out. As I opened the garage door, I found Dale waiting for me. He asked if he could take the trash to the street for me. Dale took it to the truck and brought the can back to the garage.
As I told a Waste Management spokesperson, "on any day this would be a very nice thing to do. On this day, with the wind chill below zero, it was exceptional." I contacted Dale's bosses up the chain of command, eventually finding my way to Larry Donnell. "My hope in writing this letter is that you will find the time in your busy day to do something beyond the call of duty and tell Dale Laird that you value him as an employee who cares about people, even when it's difficult and Waste Management isn't watching him," I wrote to Waste Management.
A manager, two vice-presidents, and O'Donnell, contacted me. "Thanks for taking the time to send us this nice note," O'Donnell wrote me. "We will definately recognize Dale, and I intend to contact him personally for his exemplary service."
Before Dale went home on that Friday, he received a personal phone call from O'Donnell who thanked him. The following week, Dale's supervisor singled him out in front of co-workers for doing a great job.
Quite often, we fail to make the effort to recognize great service. Sometimes, it seems easier to complain, but if you play it forward and have the right people available to receive it, a good worker like Dale will feel like he's appreciated.
- Craig Cheatham, News 4