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Mom with a View


No matter the job, we all have the opportunity to infuse it with value and dignity.


The most frequently emailed piece the other day in the New York Times was the first of a two-part series entitled “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do” by Bruce Buschel. Many points were focused on overly familiar behavior on the part of the waiters: “Do not call a guy a 'dude'” or “Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.”

And many were on treating the customers with respect and dignity: “Do not make a singleton feel bad." "Do not say, 'Are you waiting for someone?'” or “Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.”

It was the latter point (although I don’t really like it when the waiter calls my husband and me “guys”) that got me thinking. While some jobs may be more inherently meaningful than others -- certain types of doctors, researchers, spiritual leaders, for example -- we all have the opportunity to infuse whatever task we undertake with value and dignity.

I don’t mean the false formality of the stereotypical English butler. I mean we can behave with self-respect and decency. We can carry ourselves like sons and daughters of the King, whether we are running a corporation or waiting tables, whether we are arguing a case in court or changing a diaper.

Early in the Torah we read the brief story of Chanoch who went to Heaven without ever having sinned. His was a simple task; he was a shoemaker. But he infused his work with holiness and with commitment to the words of the Almighty.

Not only does the dignity with which we behave lend the job itself dignity, but every type of employment has its unique ethical challenges.

The status awarded by society to the job is irrelevant. How we act is what counts.

Waiters and waitresses have opportunities to steal and cheat and behave in mean and vengeful fashions (we’ve all been terrified by those stories of spitting on the food), as do CEOs of large corporations and your average sanitation worker. Everyone faces temptation.

Doing our jobs with dignity and poise is perhaps the most important career move of all.

With the recognition that we are created in the image of the Almighty, coupled with a strong moral compass, we can emerge unscathed. But it’s not easy. The challenges are constant, the rules in flux.

Within every job there is opportunity for improvement, for greater accomplishment, greater creativity, greater quality of result. The exact nature of the work doesn’t matter. Our exact nature and attitude do.

There are no excuses. The fact that customers don’t always act so nicely themselves is not an excuse. We are all responsible for our own behavior.

Because so many of us eat out with some regularity -- whether in fancy dining establishments or the local pizza shop -- we have numerous opportunities to test ourselves, to observe how we treat those serving us, and to improve where necessary.

Some of us have even been on the other side and understand the need for guidelines for wait staff, and even appreciate having them. Everyone really does want to behave properly and everyone wants to be appreciated. Maybe that’s why this was the most emailed piece.

Doing our jobs with dignity and poise, while at the same time not violating our ethical standards, is perhaps the most important career move of all.

November 14, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Craig, February 9, 2011 11:17 AM

working on the other side

what you have to keep in mind is that bad wait staff become the bad staff mrs braverman talks about because of the rude drunk or socially inept customers, who treat them badly over and over again they are pushed so far I am actually proud none of them have shot any customers because they have not snapped. Waiters generally are the strongest kind of people but everyone a breaking point and waiters thresholds are generally much higher. I would like to see anyone in any other field besides the service industry put up with as much they do without resorting to flying over the tables and beating them within an inch of there lives. so to all the waiters barmen and managers out there a big thank you. If it were not for you we would be making our own sandwiches and probably still complain about it.

(8) L.S., January 24, 2011 1:03 AM

Entitled and Elitist

Wow, you have the audacity to put in print: "While some jobs may be more inherently meaningful than others -- certain types of doctors, researchers, spiritual leaders, for example"...ALL jobs just like ALL people, have value. If the job did not have value, then that person would not be employed. Every person from CEO to Janitor is vital to the success of an organization. Doctor offices and hospitals would be in total chaos without the secretaries, administrative assistants, medical billers, coders, and cleaning crew. Something "lowly" like a janitor prevents thousands of people from getting infections in a hospital. Any person who holds down an honest, legal profession and gives it their 100% is making a contribution to society. It comes across as entilted and elitist to say that some jobs hold more value than others. Jaqueline Kennedy once famously said "Those who work respect the work of others".

(7) Anonymous, November 20, 2009 3:48 PM

Re: Comment 6

So Allie, YOu believe that there isn't an inherent difference between the guy serving you pizza and the Dr working on someone's brain? Seriously? Of course some jobs are more meaningful than others. As well , instead of criticizing maybe look at the piece in a different light. Maybe she is saying that the people working in these jobs shouldn't think any less of themselves. That what they do could and is just as important as anyone elses. How about looking into the mirror first for the humility before pointing fingers.

(6) Allie, November 19, 2009 3:47 AM


This comment: "While some jobs may be more inherently meaningful than others -- certain types of doctors, researchers, spiritual leaders, for example" is ridiculous. No job is inherently more meaningful than any other. It irks me to see Ms. Braverman effectively demeaning those with less prestigious employment by implying they need to be told HOW to conduct themselves with dignity. A little instruction in humility for the author might be what is really needed here.

(5) Anonymous, November 18, 2009 12:58 AM

"Waitresses" in the sky

Interesting article, however I doubt Mr. Bruce Buschel is hardly the definitive expert on the subject. As a Professional International Flight Attendant, whose primary function is to ensure the safety of her passengers, I can tell you first hand that the behavior of people in public places has deteroriated to such an extent that when I come home from work I not only need a shower to cleanse from physical dirt but hours of Torah study to re-group and detox on a soul level. I've seen and heard examples of disgusting and low behavior I am too much of a lady to here express. The result is the same as the offending principle of a single drop of water falling constantly on a hard rock; eventually a hole or depression on the hard surface will occur. I can not agree with Ms. Braverman that all people have an inborn desre to behave correctly. As a society on the whole we have become desensitized and our moral threshold has been lowered. Any copy of People, Ok or the Enquirer (By the way, the most frequently left-behind reading material left on an airplane) can attest to my opinion. As a Jewish woman with one foot in Torah and unshakeable belief in G-d, and one foot in the workplace, I abide by Jewish values and use the idea "Life is a Test" and "it's all for the best" to make it through my trips.

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