[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

Minnesota and Iowa Highway Signs

These are the signs you see when you enter Minnesota or Iowa along Interstate 35. Guess which one leaves the better impression?

While traveling recently, I had the unfortunate experience of overhearing two male restaurant employees ogling a young female traveler as she walked through the airport. All of the people sitting around the servers' station got to hear all about how 'hot' she was, what they'd like to do to her, etc. They were completely oblivious to their surrounding customers and to the fact that their sexist (and graphically vulgar) behavior reflected poorly on the national chain restaurant for whom they worked.

I have seen a similar phenomen when I visit schools. I can think of many school organizations where receptionists, secretaries, and other front office employees seemed oblivious or indifferent to the fact that their conversations, behaviors, and work environments reflected upon the institution. While waiting in school or district front offices, I have been ignored, overhead confidential conversations about students, been treated to complaints about bosses and the school system, and heard vulgar language. I have seen signs on walls like 'Lack of planning on your part DOES NOT constitute an emergency on mine!' and 'I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.' I have seen students and parents treated poorly, either in person or on the phone. And so on...

I always wonder what parents or community members think when they visit these offices. Like me, do they wonder about the level of professionalism of the office staff? Are they concerned about the level of customer service that they are going to receive? Are they worried that their visit may become fodder for later public conversation or ridicule? Do they wonder why an administrator is ignoring this?

You only get one chance to make a first impression.