Obedience versus Responsibility

From company Guidelines, Principles, and Values.

Be responsible, not obedient.  Being obedient is not the same as being responsible.  Obedience breeds immaturity, ennui, fear, and a tendency to follow pointless and infantalizing rules and traditions.  Only those who take responsibility for everything that happens in the world live meaningful, dignified lives.

We train obedience out of our employees.  They’re expected to be responsible, not obedient. Obedient people — often trained to be so at schools, work, and home — are incapable of being responsible.

The obedient employee obeys the customer and will give her whatever she orders.  But sometimes giving the customer what they order isn’t the same as giving the customer what they want, a good experience.  The obedient employee will not assume responsibility if the customer doesn’t like what she ordered — “it’s not my fault, she ordered it, I just did what she told me to do.” The responsible employee assumes full responsibility for customer experience and is much more likely to ask additional questions to ensure the customer has a positive experience.  Responsible employees treat customers as individuals.  Obedient employees don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.

Obedient versus Responsible

New Customer: I’ve heard kale smoothies are good for me. I’d like a kale smoothie (one of our more bitter drinks).
Obedient Employee: Sure thing.  Here it is.  Hope you like it.
New Customer: (sips) Interesting. (Doesn’t like it).


New Customer: I’ve heard kale smoothies are good for me.  I’d like a kale smoothie.
Responsible Employee: Do you have a sweet tooth?
New Customer: (slightly embarrassed)Mmm, yes, a bit.
Responsible: That’s ok.  Do you like pineapple?
New Customer: I love pineapple.
Responsible: Great, then I recommend the Green Margarita.  It’s a sweeter version of the kale smoothie because it has pineapple, which is good for you.
New Customer: I’ll take that then.
Responsible: I’ll get that started for you. Just want to make sure you have a good first experience here.   Here’s your Green Margarita.  How do you like it?
New Customer: It’s sooo good.  Thank you so much.

The responsible employee asks the customer questions, three in example above. Responsible employees have higher ask-to-talk ratio than do obedient employees, who mostly repeat (often without understanding) whatever authority figure tells them.

Obedient employees will do whatever they’re told to do because they’re afraid of responsibility.  Responsible employees are constantly concerned about how they impact other people because they’re prepared to assume fault for anything that happens.  Responsible employees ask questions such as “are you sure we should make kale chips even though there are only 2 heads of kale left?”  Obedient employees will make kale chips as told, even if it means the next shift won’t have any kale for drinks.

This is why we ask so many questions, esp. to new customers.  We satisfy the customer by getting to know them better, not by obeying them (customer is sometimes wrong policy).  This is also why many regular customers let us customize their drinks and meals.  They trust that we know them well enough to provide for them.

Someday, we’ll deliberately hire someone who is neither obedient nor responsible.  Want to see how our training method develops such a person.

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