Bring #CommonCourtesy back: The monster in the elevator

I often get asked how to find the right people for customer-facing roles as candidates will always say the right things during interviews. In my head, I wanted to say, observe their behavior inside the elevator and you will see how sensitive they are about other people. How you are inside an elevator with a bunch of strangers shows the humanity in you.

Maybe you have seen some of these profiles in the past, or perhaps you’ll notice them more next time you’re inside the lift:

  1. “It’s not my job.” This person rushes to get in first, presses the floor number but does not bother holding the ‘open’ button for the other people coming in. S/he stands nearest to the control panel but does nothing. You may have experienced being inside the elevator and you see someone running to catch it as the door closes, but the those nearest to the door ignored it. Did you feel sorry for the other person? Or maybe you tell yourself, he can always catch the next lift anyway, it’s no big deal.

I remember how my friend screamed at the woman who did not press the open button while she was entering the lift with her baby in a stroller. The elevator door closed in on the stroller hard. I was walking behind her and saw how the woman had no emotion on her face at all. As an employer, I will not hire a person who would be indifferent to my customers, including babies!

I have been visiting one of the top hospitals in Manila recently for work and I’ve been noticing their elevator attendants for quite some time. They are young women who are pleasant, energetic and very patient. In my last visit, I was going up to the roof deck and as the last passenger before me left, I asked the attendant if she ever gets dizzy. She smiled at me and said “sanay na po” (I’m used to it). I asked how long she’s been doing this kind of work, and she answered “6 years”. In the Philippines, you can get a job as an elevator attendant because it’s still relevant. It’s interesting that we try to be updated with the latest gadgets, but we still couldn’t work the elevator by ourselves.



  1. “I am not moving.” The lift opens at your floor and it’s “full” of people, but if you look closely, there’s a lot of space at the back. I have observed this in office buildings even in the central business districts. I often find myself saying out loud that there’s a lot of space at the back, and politely asking people to move back. I can feel the apprehension and can almost smell their fear to move back to make way for more people.

I feel there’s fear that they might “miss” their stop because the people in front won’t give them enough space to get out. I know it sounds farfetched but we see this on a daily basis. Unless you suffer from claustrophobia, I could not understand why anyone would really do this. As an employer, I will not hire someone who would deprive others of convenience due to their own selfishness.

  1. “Let’s have an elevator joyride!” In office buildings that have poor elevator to tenant ratio, you will often see people pressing UP when in fact, they need to go DOWN. They will crowd the lift and join you up to the top floor, so they can be assured of their space as the lift goes down. They are probably driven by simple economics – law of supply and demand. However, they slow down the process for others just to get ahead. As an employer, I will avoid hiring people who show little patience and would have no regard for other people and the processes in place.

If only hiring for customer-facing jobs could be this simple for employers, but in real life, it’s not. Just as kids fear the monster under the bed, adults fear the monster inside the elevator. It’s time we learn our elevator etiquette again.

Let’s bring common courtesy back. I would love to hear your own experiences (inside the elevator or not) and ideas on how we can change old habits for the better.


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