When values and behaviour don’t match

If you publish values you profess are important to your organisation, you’d better make damn sure that everyone who works for you understands what they mean.

I was standing in the queue at US Border Control and, therefore, I had plenty of time to read their ‘Traveller Charter’… spelt ‘Traveler Charter’.

It said (amongst other things) ‘We will treat you with dignity and respect’ and ‘We will welcome you to the US with a smile’. Those may not have been the exact words, but you get the point.

Great, I was looking forward to it and, this being the US border I had plenty of time for looking forward.

So, when I was waived forward there wasn’t even a whiff of trepidation about me. The Border Agent was a youngish lady, good looking enough and certainly not the stereotypical battle axe you might expect. Perhaps I should have sensed the warning signs when my bright and breezy ‘Hello there’ was met with silence and a stony, nay, steely gaze.

‘Why are you coming to the US?’

I was a little taken aback, but I had nothing to worry about, I was (and still am) entirely legit!

‘Errrr… I’m delivering a training course for [my client] over here.’

Silence for a few seconds.

‘Why do they need you to deliver the course?’

This flummoxed me a bit. Why indeed? And then it came back to me.

‘Well, we’ve deveoped a course to help with product knowledge…’

‘Product,’ she interrupted. ‘Where is the product manufactured?’

This was too much and I felt myself starting to babble. ‘Well, you know, there isn’t a product, it’s a service, so it’s not manufactured, and, errrr, we help their new hires…’

I really should have noticed that she’d already put the stamp in my passport allowing me to stay for 90 days, but I didn’t and so it was with great relief that I was finally waived through.

Of course, it was only then I thought of all the things I should have said… things like, ‘because we’re bloody brilliant’ and ‘only we can do this type of training.’

But I didn’t. Then I began to get a bit annoyed at my treatment. I’d been standing in a queue for 40 minutes, after travelling 18 hours to be abused by this mere slip of a girl. After all, I’m British!

I have to admit, though, that instead of marching up to the nearest supervisor, I kept it all to myself, int he interests of international relations, don’t you know.

It did strike me as ironic that just a few minutes after reading the Traveler Charter is was tested and found wanting. Now, I don’t know whether the agents received training about how to deal with incoming passengers and had ignored it or whether the Charter was published without any support…

Whatever; the two things (the Charter and the experience) didn’t match up.

Please leave a comment - we all like them