by Nigel Chin on

When was the last time you greeted the cleaner who cleans your office every day? Or thanked the security guard at your office building for keeping the place safe as you worked?

If you can’t remember, you might not be the only one – but it isn’t a good thing.

As TODAY reported last week, there is a huge divide between the elite and the “invisible” in what has become a class-conscious society in Singapore. The “invisible” – made up of low-wage workers such as cleaners and security guards – are held in scorn by others, often treated like outcasts and are generally ignored by everyone.

At a dialogue session in October, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam suggested that there should be more focus in helping those in their mid-50s and 60s to “work for as long as they wish, to work with dignity, to earn a decent pay”.

In response, Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh said that the “elite does not show respect for people who work as cleaners, gardeners, petrol station attendants, security personnel” in Singapore. He added: “One of the problems in Singapore is that these low-wage workers are treated as invisible people.”

In the report, Professor Koh stressed that “the poor people of Singapore need … respect from the elite”. Indeed, they deserve appreciation for doing the jobs that most would stay away from.

Here are five simple ways we can show appreciation for the “invisible” class:

Greet them with a smile

The easiest way to make someone feel less invisible is to simply greet them whenever we see them. This can be easily achieved with a simple greeting, like “good morning”. It’s just two words that don’t require much effort to say.

Also, how about a “thank you” for their effort? They’ve kept our desks free from dust, and cleared our trash bins when it’s full. Thanking them would go a long way towards making their day. As much as we like to hear our bosses telling us “well done” when we complete a task, I’m sure cleaners would appreciate a “thank you” for picking up after you.

Even better, we could ask them how their day is. It shows that we care about them.

Offer to help when you see them struggling

working class, employment, singapore, skm, pride, kindness
Image Source: Flickr / Brian Jeffery Beggerly

While we are struggling at work, we can always approach our colleagues for help. But who can these “invisible” people approach when they need assistance?

Given that most of these workers tend to be those who are older, it is understandable that they would struggle at times. So, how about offering them our help whenever we see them struggling? Such a simple gesture would make them feel that they are appreciated.

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Image Source: Shutterstock / joyfull

The TODAY report mentioned how some cleaners would be given looks of disgust or would be on the receiving end of a tirade when mistakes happen.

Put ourselves in their shoes – how would we feel when we are on the receiving end of such a tirade? How would we like it when someone calls us names?

It isn’t too hard to be more tolerant and show some empathy. Everyone makes mistakes. All we need to do is to smile and let them know it’s all right.

Who knows, we could even help brighten up their day. And ours, too – scientific research suggests that smiling can improve our mood.

Refrain from judging them

Security guard Surjeet Singh told TODAY that in his 20-year career, he had been called names such as “dog”, “idiot” and “bloody fool” for just trying to do his job. His boss added that some even told their children to “study hard, if not, you may become a security guard”.

The fact is, security guards or officers need to study, too. Without qualifications, it is almost impossible to find work as a security officer. They also need to meet licensing conditions set out by authorities as they play an important role as well.

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Image Source: Shutterstock / Nadya Chetah

It takes a certain type of courage and determination to work as a cleaner or security guard, especially with the stigma attached to such jobs. So we should refrain from passing judgment and making unnecessary comments about them.

They are, after all, just trying to make a living.

Show respect and gratitude

There is no better way to make people feel appreciated than by giving them respect, no matter what jobs they do. And one easy way to show our respect is to treat them as equals, as we would a co-worker.

We could always offer to buy the office cleaning aunty a drink, or even try to get to know their birthday and surprising them with a cake, like how you would for a colleague or a friend.

These five simple acts would go a long way towards boosting the morale of the “invisible” class. Best of all, it doesn’t require much effort to carry them out.