The Value of Thinking Outside the Box: A Tale of Two Employees

An old employee, who has been working for the company for ten years, knocks on the boss’s door with a complaint. The employee mentions that he has been arriving half an hour early and leaving half an hour late daily, working hard, and never complaining. However, a new employee, who started six months ago, has already been promoted and earns more without putting in extra hours. The old employee feels this is unfair and wants to address the issue.

The boss thinks for a minute and says:

– OK, before we continue this conversation, do me a favour: Today is Friday, it’s a hot day, and we’ve had a good week. I’m considering treating the staff to a fruit salad at the end of the day. On the next block, there is a greengrocer. Buy bananas, strawberries and oranges, please.

The employee, good and hardworking, agrees and leaves. About 40 minutes later, he returned sweaty and breathless and said: Boss, unfortunately, the grocery store is out of oranges, but they will get a new delivery at the end of the week, so we will have to postpone until Monday. I already put it on my calendar to go there early.

The boss thanks him and says:

– OK, sit here and watch.

Next, the boss calls the new employee into his office and tells him the same story about the fruit salad. The new employee agrees and leaves without saying anything more than “OK.” This leaves the old employee puzzled.

Less than 10 minutes later, the new employee came back and said:

OK, boss. I called the grocery store, and they’re out of oranges, but then I explained what we’re trying to do here, and they suggested using tangerine, which will give a very similar effect and some people even like it better. I told them how many people we have, and they gave me a quote. I thought we would need disposable cups and spoons too, so I called the corner store and got a quote for that too.
It must take about 40 minutes to go to the grocery store and another 10 to the corner store. Plus, we need to consider the time it will take for an employee to prepare everything. So it could be a little expensive for the company. I called the pastry shop in the neighbouring community because I knew they sell ready-made fruit salad. I got a quote, including delivery, and buying directly from them is cheaper. We can even add ice cream for the exact cost as it would be for us to buy and prepare it ourselves.

As the new employee confidently presented his detailed plan, the old employee watched in disbelief. The new employee’s innovative and proactive approach starkly contrasted with the old employee’s unyielding dedication to output and hours of grunt work.

The boss smiles at the old employee and dismisses the new one just by saying:

– Order it with ice cream.

As the old employee left the boss’s office, he realized it wasn’t enough to put in the hours and work hard. He needed to adapt to the changing demands of the workplace and embrace innovation and proactivity.

Who are you in this tale?