She didn't say, "It's not my job."
Within minutes of going off-duty and in the area only because her vehicle was in the shop, police officer Kim Munley heard the distress call from Fort Hood Army post. She didn't respond: "Let someone else handle this."
When the gunman fired at Munley, hitting her four times, she didn't say, "This seems more than I handle." Instead she kept moving forward. The result: She took down a gunman before he killed more people.
Contrast this with a woman I met recently who shook with indignity over a prior employer's action, stating, "My boss crossed a boundary."
She said her boss had been stranded overnight in Juneau due to weather, been unable to reach another employee at home to see if he could take over an early morning project and had called this woman to ask if she had the second employee's cell number. "I should never, ever have been called by my boss after work hours."
The "never, ever" employee has a point; employers need to respect employees' home lives. But what about emergencies? We expect cops, doctors, nurses, utility workers and others to step up to the plate when patients, citizens and customers need them. Why do we let some employees draw "it's not my job" lines in the sand?
And what about you -- do you step back from tough situations -- or do you have what it takes to become a hero in your workplace?
ARE YOU WILLING?
If you want to become a hero in your workplace, you need to give more than you're getting and willingly travel beyond your job description. This means swimming against the tide of entitlement present in many of your co-workers. According to attorney turned HR consultant Andy Brown, "employees in the 1980s and '90s have accustomed themselves to getting more and giving less. If we want to fix our damaged economy, we need to reverse this."
In the workplace, every employee faces a choice -- to focus on what they deliver to and for their customers, company and co-workers or to begrudge any extra effort not paid for with immediate salary increases. As former President John F. Kennedy said, perhaps it's time to ask what we can do for others.
A great philosopher once said "there is power in commitment." Being a hero starts with you and your job and deciding to go full out. When Cortes landed in the New World, he burned his ships so he didn't have a way to get back and thus irrevocably needed to make it work in the New World.
Consider what happens when you decide "no matter what, I'll make this work." Do your odds of success increase? What might have happened if Officer Munley had hesitated. Would the gunman have killed her and others?
Look in the mirror and realize you work on a two-way street.
We've all met the blamers and excuse-shifters who explain in detail how others create the problems they face. Those who want to be heroes in the workplace step forward with honesty, admitting: "Here's where I let the team down. I'm sorry and here's how I plan to fix it."
Says work-life coach Ramon Wallace, "While employees don't expect work to intrude on their personal time, they expect our employers to allow emergencies -- 'Hey boss, my car went into the ditch, I have to wait for the tow truck' or 'My child may have swine flu, I have to go now and won't be back for at least a week' without the emergency being held against them.
"Why then," asks Wallace "does the 'Don't you dare call me at home' employee feel entitled to say the employer crossed a line if the employer asks for concessions in an emergency?"
The bottom line is that we all need to step to the plate and become workplace heroes. It's time.
Lynne Curry is a local management trainer, consultant and syndicated columnist. Her advice and opinion column appears every other Monday. Questions for her column may be faxed to her at 258-2157 or mailed to her c/o Anchorage Daily News, P.O. Box 149001, Anchorage 99514-9001. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.