When was the last time you met someone, and they commented: Wow, you took a shower this morning. Lookin’ good!
Never. Taking a shower doesn’t earn you any extra credit with anyone you meet. It’s what people expect, which means not smelling does not earn you any credit, but reeking when you meet someone will definitely have a negative impact.
Now, what if you proudly proclaim: I took a shower this morning! Most likely, this comment also ends up creating a negative impression. If you’re so proud of that, then maybe you don’t usually take a shower, and maybe I should keep my distance.
This would never happen in the normative course of conversations, but you see this all the time in the marketplace. Just yesterday, I was visiting my dad in the hospital (for knee replacement) and saw this sign (about 4 feet by 2 feet above the main entrance):
This is apparently some kind of milestone that the employees are probably proud of, but when I go to the hospital, I have an expectation of NOT getting pnemonia from their equipment. I didn’t even think that would happen when I come in, but now in bold letters as I enter the main entrance, I’m forced to think about the various dangerous things that could befall me in this hospital that I wasn’t even aware of.
This disconnect here is really one of expectations. Apparently ventilator related pneumonia is a big problem (my mom, an RN, clarified that it was a real issue) and so the employees are quite proud of keeping their hospital clean. Unfortunately, the audience for this sign is not internal but externally facing. Perhaps the employees that enter the hospital, feel a sense of pride at their accomplishment, but the hospitals customers are likely filled with a sense of fear that they didn’t have before seeing the sign.
In many cases, we work hard to make sure that there is not a circumstance that creates disappointment for our customers, but when we go to brag about our accomplishments, we need to fundementally ask whether the avoidance of these problems is really something that is going to delight our customer or if instead they’ll just think we’re bragging about taking a shower.