Organizational Behaviour

Celebrating the “Small People”: Getting Things Done

Two years ago, Carl Henric Svanberg, the Chairman of the Board of British Petroleum commented on the impact of the U.S. Gulf Oil Spill that was caused by a BP deep water drilling platform.  He said, “I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care, but that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people.” The uproar was immediate and damning. The comment was somehow belittling and condescending. Yet the “small people” are the ones who actually get things done. They are not small at all. They are the ones who make a difference.

In the past three weeks I have been going to the hospital to visit my father (who is again busy flirting with nurses), I’ve seen the “small people” in action. It isn’t the managers or the executives who keep the hospital running, it is the cleaning staff, volunteers, dietary staff, nurses, physiotherapists and others who make the difference. Doctors flit in and out, but they rely on the nurses and other staff to really understand the patient, to do the heavy lifting. They deal with worried relatives, difficult patients and demanding doctors mostly with patience and good grace.

I know at my college, the most unheralded people are the cleaning staff. They keep the college spotless, they always have a smile, and are willing to pitch in. They are an important part of our community. They make a huge difference. I know that we would notice the absence of the cleaning staff, I’m not sure if we would notice the absence of the management team.

So the next time you’re about to embark on a recognition program, perhaps you should consider the unsung “small people”, because they are the ones who really keep your organization going.  This is a big thank you to all of the staff at the University Hospital in London Ontario. You have made a difficult time for us much less stressful.


2 replies »

  1. This should be a PSA. The sad thing is, most of us don’t appreciate the small people until we are vulnerable. One of the episodes seared into my memory is of the cleaning lady who cleaned up my mess ( and it was a MESS) in a hospital. This woman offered more compassion and empathy than I think I’ve ever known from a stranger. And, i don’t even know her name.

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