““Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.”
―Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer
The above quote is taken from a popular song that was nominated for “Best Song” in 1945. It is sung in the style of a sermon, and explains that accentuating the positive is the key to happiness. I remember my mother walking around the house singing this song her five children. I think that now more than ever, the words to this song should be heeded.
After working in the Public Sector for over 17 years now, first as a councilman and then as a municipal manager, I have witnessed far more negative responses than positive ones. It’s a common notion that no resident is going to take time out of their busy lives to come to a Council meeting to compliment the way things are going in their community; rather, they will only come if they have something to complain about or a personal problem that affects them. Solving these problems is why I and many others dedicate our lives to public service. One of the best parts of my job is when I am able to help a resident with an issue. No matter how minor of a problem it may seem, to them, it is a major crisis. So when they walk away with a smile and a thank you, it helps make up for those days when people call our offices using language that would make a sailor blush!
You may have heard about the Golden Rule: “treat others as you would have them treat yourself.” I like to stress to the Borough Staff that let’s take this up a notch to the “Platinum Rule” and “treat others as we would have them treat our mothers.” (It even rhymes). We understand that we are not going to make everyone happy and those that are not happy will let us know about it. In this era of social media, it’s easy for a misleading or inaccurate story to “go viral.” This will often start a string of “complaint after complaint,” which creates an overall environment of negativity.
Rarely do the hard working Borough employees complain. They will forward me some of their more “colorful” voicemail messages or emails. These are filed away just in case. They understand our line of work. To quote Hyman Roth from The Godfather, “this is the business that we choose.” They just go about doing the best job they can. However, it shouldn’t be like that. Nobody should have to be put through some of the things they are put through.
We talk often about the issue of bullying, but bullying does not only pertain to children. Remember, EVERYONE is someone’s mother, sister, grandmother, father, grandfather, brother, husband or wife. Anyone who has ever been in customer service of any kind can certainly relate. I can often tell who they are by the way they talk to the staff and how kind they are. This brings me to the point of this post. Over the last few months, I have been trying to mention the positive contributions of our employees: whether it’s the hard work of our staff to write a proposal that results in a new grant award, or a kind voicemail that praises DPW for doing such a wonderful job keeping the streets clear of ice and snow, or a genuine email thanking an employee for simply helping them with completing a form. This is nothing new. The Borough has and will continue to receive compliments. These tend to be seldom noticed and chalked up to “just doing our jobs.”
During the Brentwood Centennial Banquet, my wife and I had the pleasure of being seated with two wonderful couples. We didn’t know them but they were quick to say how they thought I was doing such a great job since coming to Brentwood. They talked about some specifics and were very sincere. I try to keep a low profile and was clearly feeling embarrassed, so I asked them which of my relatives “paid them” to say such things. I do love my job, and I have been blessed with some really great council members, but when something so unexpected and random like this occurs, it just has such a powerful impact. Nobody realizes what someone else may be going through at any particular time. A few kind and positive words may be just the thing to give someone a little extra something. Regardless of whether someone is in public service, customer service, military service, or stay-at-home mom service, we should all try and help lift one other up when we can. If “talk is cheap,” then a few kind words to someone is even cheaper. But it be worth more to them than you may know. I’m going to continue to highly positive communications during council meetings. In closing remember…..
“You gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative an' latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In Between
You gotta spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
An' have faith, amen, or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene, amen”
George Zboyovsky, PE