Monday, September 6, 2010

Staff Behavior

The workplace valve du jour seems to be public address systems. On a recent train trip (a rather luxurious excursion for me), we were all informed by the Amtrak staff member that she’d be closing her cafe promptly at midnight,

Appropriate valve placement.

"…because I have to be here again at 6AM.  So make sure that if you have to have that one last candy bar, you get it by 11:45, and not wait until my door closes.  The mantra you should now be repeating to yourself is 11:45. You got it? 11:45."

Since the train was moving, she didn’t have the option to jump out the door and put on a litle show like Steven Slater, so her only apparent option to vent was to get on the intercom (as Slater inspired) and let us have it. To own us.

Suddenly, I was no longer on my fun little vacation. I was now just an interruption in someone’s day – and worst of all, I’d paid money for that role. The staff member had installed her own pressure relief valve in the speaker right above my head.

Yet, my irritation was not really with her. It was with her management team which provided her about five hours of sleep in-between shifts and, worse, obviously no way for her to effectively express her concerns to the right party. Was this bad staff behavior?  Or, an early warning indication of built-up pressure, unrecognized by management and blowing out through the wrong valve?

Is similar behavior evident on private estates? Which of the below do you think is the appropriate response?  

    1.  It's so hard to find good help these days. Fire them.
    2.  It's so hard to find good help these days. Keep them.
    3.  Send them to training—they must have gotten a procedure wrong.
    4.  Let’s take a look at our internal processes and figure out why she found it necessary to express her frustrations in a manner which caused harm, and let’s see what may need adjusting - to help her be more successful.

Taking a look at what we do... it may just be nutty enough to work.