Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: A Lesson from Krispy Kreme

by Cathy Vandewater | November 27, 2012

If you haven't seen this video yet, your day is about to be made.

Jia Jiang, who writes a blog called "100 Days of Rejection Therapy," had a simple mission: make an outlandish request at Krispy Kreme, and get better at hearing the word "no."

Only trouble was, the woman behind the counter didn't say no.

Jackie, the shift leader at her Austin, Texas branch was at first perplexed by a request for five doughnuts connected and glazed to look like Olympic rings. But she asked more questions about what he wanted, drew a few sample diagrams, and had the order ready, free of charge, within the 15 minutes Jiang asked for it.

While this is a tremendous story about customer service in and of itself, there are subtler lessons to be learned here about taking on challenging situations, projects, and problems at work--and the rewards that can follow.

First:

1. You never know what you can get unless you ask for it

Jiang actually wanted to hear "no." It was the whole point of the trip. He had designed his request to be so over the top that it couldn't possibly be accommodated, and probably never asked for such a thing in all seriousness.

And yet, he got it. Imagine that. Now think about a few, more reasonable things you could just as easily ask for if you weren't afraid of rejection. A coffee with your boss? Career advice from a friend-of-a-friend? More responsibility? A promotion?

Compared to Olympic-style doughnuts, your request probably doesn't seem so silly. Even if you get a no, you'll at least be heard and considered, and maybe more seriously that you thought.

2. It feels good to be challenged

That's really the only explanation we can think of for Jackie's hard work: a desire to be challenged. She took on more work than she needed to, and she was so glad to do it that she worked for free. I mean, when was the last time you felt like working for free? What's going on here?

There are a few forces of motivation at work in this case: creativity, for one. Jackie had to be inventive in figuring out how to satisfy her customer's request. There was no protocol in place for what Jiang wanted, so she had to work out the details on her own: how the rings could be put in the fryer, for instance, without losing their shape.

She had to do some web sleuthing to determine the frosting colors. In doing these things, her imagination was engaged, the analysis wheels were turning. She was absorbed in the task and invigorated. Ah, the thrill of a challenge.

So if a Krispy Kreme worker can get that kind of career satisfaction… what's your excuse? Be brave. Put yourself out there. Take on a scary new project and trust that you can figure it out.

3. Bigger risks, bigger rewards

So here's another piece of the "extraordinary motivation" puzzle: satisfaction.

The special thing about this story is that it's less about doughnuts than one person trying to make another person's day. He asked for something, she didn't want to disappoint him. Desire to please a huge motivator, at least in this case.

And the reward is built in because of the level of responsibility Jackie: she was in charge of the project, so she got to hand-deliver the product, on time, and see the appreciation on Jiang's face for herself.

Our bosses probably ponder lack of motivation in their employees all the time, but how many ever consider how buried in the back office many people feel? Without seeing a client, without the visibility to see a project take off, some never really get that reward. Or motivation. Food for thought.

4. Get more information before saying "I can't"

Imagine if Jackie had just said no. This would be a way more boring story and there wouldn't currently be a Facebook page with the express purpose of getting her a raise. No guts, no glory, right?

Still, you can see the fear and uncertainty on her face when she first gets Jiang's request. Can it be done? she wonders. But she doesn't get overwhelmed and shut down: she asks for specfics. When does he need it by? What's the formation? Does he want them linked?

Instead of getting stumped, she clarifies his expectations and tells him how their existing process works, then offers a compromise. The result: a solution that works for both parties, bear hugs all around, and a spot for Jackie from Krispy Kreme as our new personal workplace hero.

The moral here is don't just lay down and die--try to find a solution. Ask more questions. Look at the situation from another angle. Sleep on it. Just don't give up before you truly try. 

Have you ever gone above and beyond at work to this extent? Did you feel like it was worth the effort?

Tell us about it in the comments!

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Read More:
Normal Gets You Nowhere: Kelly Cutrone's Interview Tips
How to Try Out a New Career
Home for the Holidays? 4 Ways NOT Working Can Boost Your Career

Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Networking | Workplace Issues


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