Punishing Jaywalkers or Stopping Traffic: What is your practice?

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I attended an educational course over the first part of this summer.  Due to the location of the building, it was nearly impossible to park nearby, so parking across the street was the only real option.  The street was not a traffic intersection, but still fairly busy and it usually took a while before the green man lit up so we could cross.  Most of the time, people would cross at the breaks in traffic, rather than wait for the signal. 

After a couple of weeks of crossing this street to attend the course, a few of my friends began sharing that the police are in that area giving tickets for jaywalking.  At first, I thought they may have heard a rumor and decided to share it.  I didn’t think much of it, until I saw it for myself.  Two different times, I saw uniformed police officers at that location (see red circle below).  One time there was an officer standing behind the bush and difficult to see from across the street, and the other time there was an officer in a police cruiser around the same area.  A couple of days after I saw the officers, another one of my friends shared their story of someone getting a $90 ticket for jaywalking.  Ouch!



After seeing the officers, and hearing the story, I am very careful not to jaywalk in that area.

The officers in this case were watching, and waiting for someone to do something they weren’t supposed to do.  Then they would punish that person with a ticket.  I found myself wondering how long they would stand there each day to catch someone doing something wrong.  Why not offer to help the people to safely cross the street?  Now this story isn’t just about this officers, but more about how many people act in this same way.  The truth is that one doesn’t even need to be in a position of authority to act this way.  Have you ever worked with anyone who would report every mistake others made?  Have you ever worked with a boss that operated with a focus of watching and waiting for people to make mistakes?  Sometimes employees who notice that someone is watching and waiting can mess up from simply being nervous.  If you are waiting and expecting people to mess up, eventually they will.

How about you?  Are you waiting for your “I told you so” moment after someone does something wrong?  

The most important thing that we need to think about is the experience that we are creating in the workplace, not just for our subordinates or co-workers, but for our supervisors too.  The way you interact with others will have an impact on the success of your relationships in the workplace.  

What we can do when we notice something is identify what the obstacles or challenges are, and ask to help.  Offer that person the extra hand they need to complete the task, or share information that will help them in that situation.  Ask questions to get a better understanding of their perspective, which will give you an opportunity to see things from their eyes.

So when you notice something you’ve got a decision to make about whether you are going to create an obstacle, or help remove one.

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