In my student days, I worked in restaurants. I worked with a guy who was a Mexican immigrant, who washed dishes with me for several years in a busy restaurant. He worked hard. He was always upbeat. He never complained. And he radiated a sense of joy all about him. Why? Because he was content with what he was doing while obviously striving to improve himself at the same time. He would often sing while he worked. And that was inspiring. That man might never make a mark in the broader society but I could see he would be a fine leader wherever his life circumstances took him.
These same qualities can be found in the startup world, as nicely reflected in this piece. But they are by no means limited to those who seek success in business. They are life qualities. It profits us all to follow them.
Ah the leadership question...
Being a few years past high school, it's interesting to look at many people who seemed like leaders but never made it.
Some times it was life-circumstances. But I think think there is also a too-great a willingness to merely work hard at what presented itself.
There much that has been said on this but it's worth mentioning that to reach a certain level of leadership, while you can continue leading a bit by example, you have to be mainly willing to delegate a lot of the actual work. Essentially, you have to be able to use people. It's more than positive vibes.
In software, in particular, inspiration has never been part of the equation for any good manager manager I've had. Instead, saying what mattered and getting out of the way has always been key. Don't lead technical people by example. Don't clean our bathrooms or our code. "Mr. Energy" would not be welcome here. And I've had too many managers who were bad because they never learned the lesson that their job was no longer coding or even "inspiring" but organizing and bureaucracy-hacking.
There is so much to be said here. When I first had the idea for the project i'm on now I decided to find someone to help me with the business tasks, and I found another person who knew the domain better then me. It took a few months, but eventually I found them. Then something weird happened. We were all in the same room, I had brought them both there because I knew they were the best! however I somehow couldn't allow myself to let them do the things they needed to do. For some reason, I still knew more than my domain expert, I was going to make better business decisions than my business guy. The meeting was great for meeting everyone, but in terms of progress none was made.
Then they found my weak spot. We went out for lunch at a bar, and for some reason never left the bar. After many beers, I had this drunken vision that I was doing things wrong! So I went home, and said to myself hey i'm the tech guy, i'm just going to worry about the tech, and let these guys do the things they need to do. Thats when the progress ball rolled down the hill.
> Avoid bad habits of sloth,
Willingness to pitch in when hard work really is called for is a necessary and valuable trait, of course. However, working hard when you don't have to is wasteful, and too many people confuse the two.
Sometimes, a natural inclination to be "lazy" is a lot like trying to avoid unnecessary work by being smart. I would rather work for the boss who identified the problem and bought a dishwasher.
Sure, that's possible, but could the CEO have been doing something else during the same time that would have made an even better impression, or that would have positively influenced more than "at least one" employee?
So: general sloth=bad;lazy approach to some tasks=good when it frees your time to do more important stuff.
In my experience, sometimes when I'm being "bad lazy", the "good lazy" outcomes happen anyway, but it's certainly not a recommended path to success...
It's funny that you thought of a story about dishwashing in response to the dishwashing story :)
The headline intentionally gets causality wrong in order to attract attention. Misleading sensationalism is pollution.
We've all probably been "the nice guy" in some situation that did some mundane/tedious task, ended up being that guy forever, and ended up resentful and vowed never to do it again. I don't think this is the point here though.
In my opinion, the easiest way to command respect is to not think about commanding respect. If there's a problem, just solve it, and your peers and subordinates will respect you an order of magnitude more than if you just tried to motivate them with some "problem-solving" Power Point slides.
One of my favorite examples I've seen of "washing the dishes:"
- At a startup myself and four other engineers wanted attend a conference across town. Our cab was running late and we were in danger of missing the first sessions. The CEO chucked his keys at us (he drove a minivan) and his credit card and said, "take my car, it needs gas though so fill it up with my card on the way back."
Did we expect we now had unlimited use of this guy's car forever and abuse it? Of course not. Did we totally respect him for trusting five guys to drive his car and made sure we had enough gas? Yes. Did we notice that he didn't even use the corporate credit card because only about 10% of that full tank of gas would be used for work purposes? Yes.
It depends on the size of the organization you're in. Sad and irrational as it may seem, people are basically just monkeys, and we react most strongly to shiny, noisy things (which is part of the reason our society seems to tolerate 'social media experts' and celebrate certain bloggers...but I digress.) If there's too much background noise, it's hard to earn respect if you're quiet and industrious. Take a close look at any big company (including "engineering driven" companies), and you'll find that the upper echelons of the organization are dominated by people who ruthlessly self-promote. Don't misunderstand: at the good companies, those folks also "do the dishes" -- they're just very strategic about the timing and promotion of their dish-washing initiatives.
The problem with being the Guy Who Quietly Gets Things Done is that if you do your job too well, you don't get noticed. If you don't get noticed, you don't get rewarded, even if you're doing a kick-ass job. It's usually easier to get noticed for being quiet and reliable in a small group of people, but once you've got more than a few monkeys in the cage, it gets very noisy and it's hard to stand out, even amongst your small group of peers.
Knowing who your "Guys Who Quietly Gets Things Done" are would be invaluable for any enterprise. Would they pay for a tool to help them identify and retain these quiet superstars? I think so.
Perhaps, but I don't think it would help. The way things are isn't necessarily bad...it's just human nature. Give a cage full of monkeys a new incentive system, and the monkeys will learn to game the system in order to get more bananas. Give them a tool that lets the quiet monkeys make more noise, and the loud monkeys will use it to make themselves even louder.
Generally speaking, hyper-rational people (like most geeks) try to fight this trend at first, but they eventually come to the conclusion that it's easier and better to just play the game.
Just like startups have the myth of the sole person having the million dollar idea in the basement, leadership has the myth of all glamour and charisma.
In my first job, I had a boss named Lex. We were out doing a field test in Germany at an airfield. Of course, most of us were pretty busy doing this or that. Lex was overseeing things, but when he had nothing to do, he looked around for something to do, and was often seen with a broom cleaning up after us in the hanger.
The idea is that shit needed to get done, and if the rest of us were busy getting shit done, he would do support work to make sure the rest of us would be able to do our jobs, even if that support work wasn't glamourous.
In the end, I know he has the group's goals in mind as his intentions indicated through his actions of doing support work--anything to get things done--rather than for his own personal gain or ego. With that in mind, I'm more willing to follow with him at the helm.
If a CEO won't step up in that way to get the ball moving forward in a company, why should they expect their salaried employees to?
[... Huffington coaxed Hastings to talk about leadership -- and one early experience that informed his leadership style.
Hastings recalled how, as a 25-year-old software programmer, he would stay up all night, propelled by coffee. He'd leave an array of mugs on his desk. Once a week, he would discover the cups cleaned. One day, he arrived at work at 4 a.m. and walked into the bathroom to discover the company's CEO, sleeves rolled up, washing the collection of nasty cups.
"That whole time, I thought it was the janitor," said Hastings, who said this had been occurring for a year. He asked his boss why. "He said, 'You do so much for this company, this is the only thing I can do for you.' ]
Typical lie of a boss. He could have given him more options or a promotion for example.
It would make more sense to hire someone for minimum wage to clean the bathrooms, empty trash and wash dishes, and free up time for the CEO to do other things.
I guess he figured that the best way to have employees who would "wash the dishes when nobody else will" is to only hire those who would.
One day, someone defecated in the employee restroom and missed, leaving their waste on the floor behind them.
The first waitress to enter the room thereafter shrieked, then began laughing, and called the rest of us in to go look at it. I assume she used the customer restroom.
We all looked at the offending object in question, and laughed among ourselves. I grabbed a few paper towels, and went to go deal with the situation prejudicially.
After depositing the doodoo in the dumpster out back - you can't flush paper towels - I came back in, washed my hands, and resumed my proper duties as dishwasher.
Minutes later, the boss came into the kitchen, beaming contentedly. He made his way to the employee restroom, opened the door, and asked "Uh, where's the turd?"
As it turned out, the previously mentioned poop had been plastic, and I'd just discarded a five-dollar novelty gag. Laughs were had once again.
One of the waitresses and the boss both mentioned to me that I was "like, the best employee ever" because I was willing to take the initiative to deal with a nasty situation. I'd like to say that this has been borne out by my professional performance since then, particularly as it stands relative to that of my coworkers from that period.
The best part was that the boss had borrowed the plastic fecal matter from a friend of his and had to go fish it out of the dumpster to avoid buying a new one.
I've known quite a few people who worked in gas stations and other places where they had to clean the rest rooms. If there was shit, it was generally either sprayed everywhere or rubbed on the walls. I'm pretty sure they'd appreciate the politeness of a single fecal clump. As this was after the advent of cell phone cameras, I've seen the evidence. One single-person bathroom's floor was almost half-covered in feces.
I do not debate the nastiness of a shit-encrusted public bathroom stall.
Pitching in when it needs to be cleaned? Sure. Boss paying attention to who voluntarily cleans it? Sure. Making employees clean it on their first day? Not so much.
- millenial who cleans up after himself in the company kitchen
This had nothing to do with relevance, busywork, hazing, saving money, or evaluating talent.
It had a single purpose: to determine willingness to do an undesirable job. That's it. Which, interestingly, is just as important in a software start-up as it was in my father's business so many years ago.
The psychological traits needed to submit to arbitrary unnecessary labour (brownnosers good, independent thinkers bad) are entirely different from the psychological traits needed to spot problem areas and deviate from assigned tasks to fix them (independent thinkers good, bronnosers bad).
I hate litmus tests with a passion.
Quite frankly, a good manager would be able to determine whether someone's a brownnoser or an independent thinker through other means. Heck, just talking with people will be sufficient for managers who are experienced and talented. But a litmus test like this reveals a lot about the nature of a person that can't come out in a conversation. You see them talk the talk, now see them walk the walk; not in terms of their professional skills, but in terms of their human nature/personality/potential for leadership.
Because the thing is, this kind of litmus test has one other very positive goal. See how someone responds to stupid orders. It's a huge sign for how well they'd be able to handle conflict and politics, which exist in any organization, even startups. It's the unfortunate nature of the beast, but good conflict management also does much to foster amazing outcomes, productivity, and creativity.
You want that kind of independent thinker over a guy who's a prima donna, even if he is an undisputed talent. To think that litmus tests cause organizations to hire only brownnosers would say more about the quality of the managers than litmus tests themselves.
Don't hate the litmus test, hate the managers who don't have higher purposes. We shouldn't be petty about that kind of stuff, it says a lot about our ability (or lack thereof) to handle human interaction well.
If you make it clear during interviewing that it's a small company and the employee will be expected to help with cleaning, then there's no problem.
(For the sake of argument; I actually don't mind cleaning all that much but nevertheless it's not high on my list of things to do at work. I'd prefer fixing hairy old VBScript code.)
You keep trying to frame this as being an issue of relevancy when really it's that you're simply not eager enough to get dirty like edw's father wanted out of his people.
You tell me to clean the bathroom on my first day, I'll ask where the scrub and bottle of 409 are.
Now if we're talking months down the line, the dishes need done, and you want me to do them, I'll wonder how my value diminished enough that it wouldn't be more cost effective to hire a cleaner.
You want someone who will do whatever you pay them to do, hire a cocker spaniel. 
What I have done is contrive a plausible scenario where cleaning the bathroom is something that just has to get done in order for you to fulfill your stated role as a software developer. I agree with edw519's point and that of the article author's: leaders get done what has to get done regardless of what it is. Sometimes that means crawling around on your hands and knees stringing along ethernet cords. Sometimes that means implementing boring but necessary infrastructure code. Sometimes that means cleaning the bathroom.
Yes. (Though I better be getting paid overtime for that weekend work if the schedule slip isn't the dev team's fault.)
There is a large difference between cleaning a bathroom in an emergency on a Friday evening and cleaning a bathroom because the boss wants to test you on a Monday morning.
Are you assuming that just because someone cleaned it when their boss forced them to as condition of continued employment, they will step up and volunteer to do it in the future rather than try to pawn it off on someone else? Are you assuming the inverse is also true?
This has very little to do with leadership, by the way.
edit: If I come in for my first day on a Monday morning and the boss tells me that the team is scrambling to finish up a release, the toilet is backed up, and the cleaning staff won't be here until the evening, I'll look at him weird and maybe not think highly of his organizational skills, but I'd be much more likely to help than in the case of being asked to clean just to see if I am willing to put up with shit.
Honestly, I'm sure you'd be able to find an excuse why it would be better to leave it until Monday fore someone else to do.
Not worked long in software eh?
Maybe things are different where you are.
I call it a raise or a promotion.
Or keeping your job for doing it. You're salaried at a particular rate under the assumption that step up to the plate in case of emergency/deadline, otherwise they'd pay you less or pay you hourly.
Which kind goes back to edw's anecdote about his dad.
Rising to the occasion.
I doubt accepting unnecessary unrelated busywork is very strongly correlated with "rising to the occasion," unless the occasions are death marches.
If one weekend, the toilets back up and he has to clean up the mess and deliver a milestone, he deserves a raise or rises to sr. dev?
So he gets a raise, and now he has no reason to complain if the toilet backs up once a month while he is working that weekend?
Why, yes it is. If you're a janitor you're not expected to code.
In some places a job title and job description are even mandatory and they are used in case of a labour dispute. Whether this is a good for companies and employees is a separate question, but it's a big stretch to say that job titles aren't relevant.
PS: Turnover at the 3-6 month period is the most expensive for a SW company. You just lost all that hiring momentum, wasted all that time getting someone up to speed, damage moral, and they leave before you get any real work out of them all at the same time.
Not to mention he's not screwing a company, he's leaving a contract under established terms after discovering an incompatibility. When you screw up and get fired, you don't really get to say "I'm glad I screwed up before you had the chance to fire me."
Yes but consider that the undesirable job in your example is assigned arbitrarily by the boss. This might conceivably test a person's willingness to "do what's necessary" - to keep going when the going gets rough. But it just as well might test a willingness to mindlessly labor through whatever BS the boss throws at them. If someone aims to hire people with latter attitude, that someone shouldn't be surprised if those people display a lack of initiative.
I don't know if has anything to do with your "millenial" (seriously, you use this word to describe yourself?) entitlement, but it's not a bad strategy for both you or the company. You don't want to work for a company like that, and they don't want employees like you.
Extrapolate that into numerous other "First Day/First Week/First Month" tasks other companies use, and it serves it's purpose.
Do not for a moment confuse cleaning the bathroom as the strategy. It's not. The strategy is sound. Your comment, if anything, is proof of this. Which again, is a good thing. =)
No. That was tongue in cheek. Does anyone refer to their entitlement seriously?
The military does this as well. Basic training is more than just training. If you can't get through basic training, you aren't the type of person that will work out in the military.
As for cleaning the bathroom: It's not cleaning the bathroom. It's shared ownership in the upkeep, presentation, and workings of the company. It's a small company, so everyone knows everyone I imagine. Someone not willing to clean the bathroom would probably not fit into the company.
You seem stuck on the fact that it's cleaning a bathroom.
What about committing code the first day you're on the job? Being forced to take ownership. What about being handed a computer and being told to put it together?
Lots of companies have rituals their first day. Things the new guy does that essentially boils down to the final test to see if they'll belong. If they'll fit in.
Don't make the assumption that the strategy is only cleaning a bathroom. Don't assume you have to clean a bathroom.
Wow, talk about another test that would be super successful. I'm not sure I want to work at any place where any first-dayer is made to break the build in the name of shared ownership by checking in code to a codebase he couldn't have possibly had enough time to understand to a necessary level. I suppose he will be fixing it later that evening, in the name of shared upkeep.
Responsibility and desire to belong will naturally drive the new guy (it's not like it'd be a woman, is it?) to commit something small, simple, and in the big picture totally irrelevant. As with all of these tests, what you actually get is a token activity that will tell you nothing useful and that will fail to screen out anyone who doesn't want to be screened out, company fit or otherwise.
The military is the only setting in which these tests will be useful, because there being masculine and doing whatever the boss says the company needs doing with no questions asked is the entirety of the job description.
You make an awful lot of wrong assumptions here. Who said anything about breaking a build? And while they may not be major projects, bug fixes go a long way.
I can only say that if those things are the first things that came to your mind, I'd hate to work at the places you've worked out.
> As with all of these tests, what you actually get is a token activity that will tell you nothing useful and that will fail to screen out anyone who doesn't want to be screened out, company fit or otherwise.
We'll have to disagree then. Granted, with the vast number of successful companies employing these strategies, I feel I'm in good company.
It's not like being told to put together your computer or your desk, where the only environment you'd be changing is your own.
> We'll have to disagree then.
About which part? Do you deny that this test is trivial to game for those who want to game it? Or do you claim that just passing this test, at whatever motivation, is a useful signal? If so, what does it signal, other than not being philosophically opposed to meaningless tests?
† hyperbole; ‡ most real world brownfield projects don't
New employee creates test to cover bug.
Runs test suite. Test suite passes.
All under the watchful eye of another developer.
You keep pushing specific work environments into different situations. Not all tests work for all cases. Stop assuming this. Your entire argument against this strategy is that X doesn't work in Y. You ignore that X works with X.
> Do you deny that this test is trivial to game for those who want to game it?
Yes, if you want to work for a company that does something you don't like, it's easy to game.
> Or do you claim that just passing this test, at whatever motivation, is a useful signal?
If you choose to do the task rather than just game it, it helps in several specific ways. Taking the code committing part, it ensures you have everything set up correct, from development environment, testing suite, VM, connections to dev, intergrated, staging and live, etc. You have your editor setup, connections to source control, understand the ticketing system.
Their is a lot of value knowing that everything is setup. There is also a lot of value with the person knowing they just deployed code.
> other than not being philosophically opposed to meaningless tests?
Just because you assume something is meaningless doesn't mean it is.
> About which part?
About the strategy being useful or not. You think the strategy is useless. I believe it's not, and has proven it's value.
That being said, the only thing you've done is construct hypothetical worst case scenarios and question how it's good, which is next to worthless.
If you have honest questions about the strategy, go ahead and ask. If you just want to play more games with hypothetical situations, let's just end the discussion here.
> Just because you assume something is meaningless doesn't mean it is.
For the record, I meant philosophically opposed to tests the tested believes to be meaningless - which is the only useful definition.
Your explanations push the hypothetical case far, far away from the test presented initially. It sounds less like the equivalent of cleaning bathrooms and more like actual work. I will end the discussion now.
Then, for the record, in this case, it helps to highlight people who think they know it all when they really don't.
> Your explanations push the hypothetical case far, far away from the test presented initially. It sounds less like the equivalent of cleaning bathrooms and more like actual work.
Again, confusing execution and strategy.
But then again, you're philosophically opposed to tests the you believe are meaningless.
"Making employees clean it on their first day? Not so much."
What will you do your first day as a business owner (that is, if that's the end goal for you)? That's just one of the many things you'll do yourself for awhile, just FYI.
While I currently have no concrete plans for my own business, I imagine that on the first day, I will be working from my home, which I currently clean myself. When it gets big enough to need an office, it'll be big enough to pay for cleaning (likely through the facilities' central management).
No it's not. If I'm a DB admin, I sure as _hell_ wouldn't be caught dead reading through a sizing chart for some chatty gal in Texas. No way.
At least that's the so-called "millenial" mentality, right?
Cleaning bathrooms is a task. You're hired by your employer to do a job, which involves many tasks I'm sure. You're not just a title holder or a problem domain solver. And, as long as you "have no concrete plans" to be your own boss, you'll _always_ be looked upon as an employee. I think you conflate your titles with "I do no other thing than that with which I am programmed". That's what we layfolk call a machine, not an employee.
But, if you prefer abject reductionism of the employee definition, you're a unit of work. That includes whatever the employer wants. Request in, results out; regardless of what the request is. I don't need you to understand my business; that's _my_ business. I just need you to work for me.
I'm not sure where "I won't clean bathrooms on my first day as a software developer" turns into "I do no other thing than that with which I am programmed" (emphasis added). If you were a DB admin, would you think walking the owners' dog is beneficial for your career? Will you do everything an employer asks of you? If not, where do you draw the line, and why?
These actions have results. By making everyone hit the phones, you select against those not comfortable with talking to people they don't know on the phone. (Do I need to point out that you have no idea if they're socially incompetent, spoiled, or they don't like talking on the phone because of a hearing impediment?) By making people clean the bathrooms on their first day, you select against those who aren't interested in proving their willingness to get their hands dirty with busywork absolutely unrelated to their careers. That might be your intended goal. That is fine. Just realize what you're doing. I heard good employees are hard to find these days.
An employer is absolutely free to treat me as a machine to perform units of whatever work happens to be necessary. And I am absolutely free to not work for employers like that.
What I call a machine is someone who does whatever the management asks of them with no personal thoughts, concerns, or plans to speak of. Someone will have to understand your business, and unless you have no concrete plans to grow beyond a five-person shop, that will have to include someone other than the big boss.
Who would you prefer to hire? Someone that 'cleans the bathroom' when it needs to be cleaned or someone that just ignores this and earns money so you could hire a cleaner?
I also wonder whether this affected the demographics of the company. If someone were to spring this on me on my first day of work, I'd probably wonder whether this was a hazing ritual or a test (and whether the desired behavior was to clean the bathroom myself or get it clean some other way). If, in addition to that, I happened to be the first female employee or the first employee with an ethnicity different from the owner's, I'd also wonder whether this was really something they did to everyone or whether it was some kind of racist/sexist stunt -- especially since this would be happening on my first day of work, before I had a chance to get to know anyone reasonably well. Regardless of the actual motivation behind the request, I think it might have the effect of disproportionately driving away people who are in a different demographic than the majority of people at the company.
My respect for him went up that day, but I discovered the leadership aspect of that attitude only years later when I applied it as a manager. Thank you, Paul!
Leadership is facilitation, and being a leader ain't the same as being the boss. If dirty dishes are dragging on the team, taking care of them is just being part of the team. People respect supervisors when they believe the supervisor won't ask anyone to do something they wouldn't do themselves.
I have a lot of respect for a CEO that runs the entire company and doesn't consider himself too high to do the grunt work too.
go read 'Up the Organization' by Robert Towsend (written many years ago when he was the CEO of Avis Rent-a-car). Everyone at Avis (janitor, receptionist, CEO, all the way down the line) was required to work 1 or 2 days a year at the counter, renting cars. Helped everyone what business they were in, and why they had a job.
No offense, but the day I have to work as a bank teller is the day I stop working for a bank.
(Wait until they realize that there is no money in etrading either. Then there will be a lot of people on the market that know how to micro-optimize memory allocators. But I digress...)
"One day, I walked by the kitchen and noticed it was a huge mess. So I washed the dishes."
There are ways to manage your career to avoid this. My favorite is to be quite up-front about it: tell my manager that I'll take on the urgent/bugfix team role for a couple of months because it's in terrible shape, but that I really don't want to be there any longer, and I want to train my successor around the time it starts functioning well again.
Sounds like most of them really never had to work (just work, do a job to get money in) hard for food, and are bathed in the comfort of having learned a bit of computer science or something modern that doesn't get you too dirty, being equipped with a well functioning brain, and with all that, theydo really seem to think that it makes them a marvel and a gift to mankind.
Wonder how many of them will end up being good leaders.
Somehow they haven't motivated me to work for or with them.
Guess that is a first clue.
(and _I_ am the first to know that _I_ don't have leadership quality. But I have had the chance to observe and work for amazing leaders. Humility always was a key point of their personality)
Being a real leader is recognizing that there is no glamour in being responsible for the lives and fates of many; that's only a perception that others project onto you. It's a humbling job.
A leadership lesson for you :
The one who takes initiative and organizes those multiple people to wash the whole sink is looked at as a leader.
If he does it just once, I question his motives. This repeated behavior shows his true conviction.
His motive? to show that no one is too good to do the hard stuff. Its a stunt, but its a lesson too. Everybody will get that.
I know if I have a busy few days and the housework starts piling up my heart sinks a little when I get in and see the task ahead; I'm quite sure it'd be the same in an office if I had that problem. That can just as easily be the point of this sort of action.
The trust he built in the students carried on and we still have a great relationship. Washing the dishes indeed.
In seriousness though I feel like the best way to manage in situations of ambiguously shared responsibility is not to be afraid of getting stuck with it because the slackers start to feel embarrassed around you and either pitch in or leave.
There's little more cathartic in life than actual physical toil and while doing the dishes isn't all that rough, it presents an opportunity to occupy the hands and let the mind wander.
But it is foolish to be doing janitorial duties at work. A situation a few years ago will serve as an example. As an expert, my time was being billed out to clients at $150/hr and I was getting paid $50 of that. The company did not want to hire more engineers so I was working 60-100 billable hours every week, working massive overtime for which I was not paid since developers are "salary". I had not had a Saturday or Sunday off in over a year.
On top of all this, the company decided to save money by firing the janitorial service, which was being paid $15 an hour, and whose workers earned minimum wage. It was announced that engineers would take turns vacuuming, taking out the trash, and cleaning dishes and and even cleaning out the fridge.
I quit over that. Obviously because I wasn't a team player, right?
THAT is when it would be appropriate, and a team player would pitch in. Abusing employees is abuse whether it's excessive billable hours or excessive fridge-cleaning.
Early on at Reddit, Alexis Ohanis did all the "bitch" work so that Steve Huffman could focus on coding.
But if we must analyze the dishwashing aspect of the story, I think there's an element of "caring for your coworkers / employees" there. If no one washed the dishes, the company wasn't going to go bankrupt, but it would make other people's lives more miserable.
As I'm working on my own startup, I can relate to that sentiment, because I not only care about growing the company, I also care about my cofounders' well being.
But later on when I worked for a bigger organization it hit me, how I felt about the company, as if I was running it and was wondering if I would ever do the same in this 'BIG' organization.
Don't do what I say, do as I do ~ http://www.eduqna.com/Quotations/792-quotations-11.html
If you see someone who doesn't take responsibility and is always trying to run from it, or is always whining and never a part of the solution. Fire Them. Those who take responsibilities and are atleast willing to be part of the solution have the DNA to be in the startup culture.
Also, clean up the bathrooms when somebody's coming for an interview. Wipe the floor under the urinals and around the crappers. Why make a potential co-worker wonder whether working with you is worth living in filth?
But, it's also good leadership to put up a note saying "There's a rumor going around that this kitchen (or bathroom) is magic, and cleans itself. It's false! false! Please do your part!"
1. Protecting your subordinates from ugly work (like doing dishes, emptying the garbage, or doing laborious maintenance coding) so they can focus on fulfilling their responsibilities
2. Delegating ugly work so you can focus on fulfilling your responsibilities
He doesn't get my respect for it, especially if he does it more than once. It means he failed as a leader to get people to do their job, or even to have someone to do that job.
Sometimes, it's necessary to roll up your sleeves and get some work done, but if you are doing other peoples' jobs, it means you aren't doing your own.
His CEO is showing by example what he expects of his employees - if you see something needs doing, even if it's not "your job", then roll up your sleeves and get it done.
No, it means he's trying to get people to do their job and take pride. He's not failed, he just hasn't yet succeeded completely.
I agree that it's a public shaming if he does it right in front of everyone else, but sometimes you just have to buckle down and do what has to be done, even if the work is perceived to be below your station. Obviously work should be invested in hiring a permanent dishwasher, but it is conceivable that occasionally you may not be able to find one, especially if you're intent on abiding immigration laws.