I was conducting a meeting a few days ago at one of our locations and in the process was talking to several of our frontline employees. In many ways, these people have the toughest job of all—dealing with difficult-to-please guests—and they seem to get very little credit or appreciation for it. But the thing that I found most insightful was the content of their conversations, which ranged from stories about their personal lives and their financial situations, to poignant moments about family traditions and holidays. 

One young lady was discussing how her life, and that of her kids, was about to change dramatically because their daddy was coming home after 6 months in jail. She had four children at home under the age of seven and one more on the way. She makes $10 per hour at her 30-hour a week job, has all those mouths to feed, and still manages to get to work on time. I remember thinking to myself—Where can you live for under $500 a month? Who watches her children while she is at work? How does she find the energy to do it all? I wanted to ask her more questions.

I overheard another guy, who washes dishes for a living, talking about how he was not going to be able to make his rent this month and that he worried about how he was going to keep a roof over his son and wife’s head. He said that he didn’t want to be back out on the street again, since he had been living there before he got married and had a kid. I stood there for a moment trying to imagine what “living on the street” is like. It really frightened me that this guy, anyone for that matter, could be just a short paycheck away from homelessness.

Another employee was talking about her traditional holiday-type celebration in her Spanish household. I asked her what foods she makes and how many people came over for her meal. She responded that she has about 15 people whom she cooks for and that all 15 of them live in the same house with her. In her home it includes her family of five, her parents, grandmother, sister and her husband and their kids, and her husband’s brother and his family. She told me that it was a small house but that they do have four bedrooms—which is nice. I couldn’t imagine how they all manage to fit into one small home. 

After listening to these stories that day, I found that I could not get the images and details out of my mind. I began to wonder if this is the norm these days where day-to-day life is so challenging and on-the-edge for the average American. I found myself thinking—it doesn’t seem right! How could we make it better for the “little guy or gal” who seems to almost be invisible, like a fixture in a store, to their supervisor or manager? What can we do for them? Well, after some thought, here’s what I think that we need to do more of…

1. Pay attention to our employee’s contributions and reward them—even with small rewards—like an incremental increase or deserved promotion, and maybe a few great big “thank-yous”!

2. Stop, look, and listen—make time, especially during the holidays, to notice people, say “thank you” with sincerity and show some genuine caring by taking the time to listen and then respond with kindness.

3. Be thankful for what we have and then share some of those blessings with others—give of your time and money, and show compassion in a variety of ways including volunteering, donating, joining in on activities in the community and just being there for others in their time of need.

At this special time of year when our thoughts are of family and togetherness, we need to focus our attention on those less fortunate, and give not only from our wallets, but from our hearts. We should extend our generosity beyond the boundaries of our home and move it into the communities and families where it is needed. I have found that the most wonderful thing about human kindness is that it is driven by our compassion and desire to help others. 

Happy Holidays!

HR Question of the month: Please send your HR questions and concerns, or share your thoughts on your human resources challenges via email to the following address. Send input to vegaslinda89129@yahoo.com. Your comments, questions or concerns will help determine the direction for my next month’s column and earn you a copy of my book. Include your mailing address when sending your responses.