BOSTON—You may not know him by name, but Eric Greeley is one of a new breed of Americans making a difference. While most employees at John Hancock Security and Financial Services just use the photocopier and walk away, Greeley considers it his duty to do the right thing: to make sure the machine is stocked and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Greeley doesn’t ask for recognition, and he doesn’t get it.
Though he’d never say it himself, that’s just what a hero does.
"I like to think that anyone in my position would do the same thing," said Greeley. "In the end, it’s such a small sacrifice for a far greater good. All you have to do is go get the paper, pop out the input tray, fill it to exactly the right level, and slide the tray carefully back in. I’m doing my part to make the world a little better, one ream at a time."
Greeley’s philosophy is that a good deed is its own reward, and it seems to be paying off for the whole office: His refilling actions have single-handedly increased his department’s productivity by an estimated 2.6 minutes a week.
"Is it glamorous?" Greeley asked. "No. But doing the right thing never is."
Greeley began his career inauspiciously enough in customer service in 2002, and eventually worked his way up to sales assistant in the Term Life Insurance department last year. His attention to detail was cited in his promotion, but conspicuously absent was any mention of his work with the copy machine. This omission did not seem to bother him in the least. Greeley’s not in it for the glory.
"Sometimes I’ll stock it up even if it’s not empty," Greeley said. "Let’s say it’s half full. Well, nine or 10 decent-sized jobs can knock that right out, so I really have to stay on my toes, be prepared for anything. You can’t wait for trouble to come to you."
Greeley doesn’t ask to be thanked, saying that "the sight of a coworker receiving his or her copies smoothly and efficiently is thanks enough."
While most would stop at merely filling the copy machine, he goes above and beyond. On the frequent occasion that a coworker leaves an original document on the copier, Greeley will track down the owner. While some people might take the opportunity to deliver a lecture about being more responsible with potentially sensitive company documents, Greeley simply leaves it on the owner’s desk with a Post-It note saying, "You forgot this."
"I don’t have to be told what needs to be done," Greeley noted. "It’s like a fireman—or a Medal Of Honor winner. They just do it. They don’t ask for recognition, and neither do I."
Thankfully, Greeley is not alone. Across the country, unsung office heroes march through each workday without recognition or fanfare. Alice Gamin, an accounts executive in Utica, N.Y., has been silently changing the toner cartridge in the laser printer for three years without once receiving a thank-you. George Carlyle, a New Orleans advertising rep, consistently hangs notes on toilets that are out of order, never signing his own name.
"I have some vacation time coming up soon, but I’m thinking I might not take it," Greeley said. "I wouldn’t want anyone else in the office to have to do what I do. I can’t expect that from them."
Despite the tremendous sacrifice, Greeley’s efforts are not discussed widely among his coworkers.
"So Eric is the one that refills the copier?" asked receptionist Frieda Bailey. "Is Eric the cleaning guy?"
It’s attitudes like this that make Greeley’s efforts an uphill battle. But don’t call them quixotic. Greeley eventually hopes that through his tireless efforts putting single-bond paper in the copy machine, a ripple effect might occur, so that he, like the guy who always makes the fresh pot of coffee, will someday find themselves in good company.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and yes, you can count Eric Greeley among them.