We See And Hear You…Even When You Think We Aren’t Listening.
Last week, I needed to overnight a client some documents. So, I ventured to my local FedEx Kinkos. Little did I know that I was walking into a live management demonstration for “How to alienate staff, drive away customers and tank profits.”
First, the store was deserted, which was surprising as it’s usually packed. As I was filing out my paperwork, I overheard an employee quietly asking another staff member (who we’ll name Ms. Hyde) if he could to go on break.
Ms. Hyde, who had a very distinctive British accent, saw this as her cue to launch into a machine gun paced inquisition sounding like: “Did you clean the bathroom? Where is this order? What did you do with that document? I need it NOW! Never mind, just GET OUT.” After the degrading exchange, the cowering employee ran to the back of the store.
Wow. As Ms. Hyde approached me at the counter, I had no idea what to expect.
Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde
Ms. Hyde smiled widely and asked how she could help me in a manner fit for addressing the Queen. (Perhaps this was Dr. Jekyll?) Now, it’s not often that I am at a loss for words (as those who know me can attest), but I couldn’t fathom what to say – even more so when I saw the title “STORE MANAGER” on her name badge. So, I picked my jaw up off the counter and simply handed her my FedEx form.
In the meantime, the customer who had just purchased a ream of paper returned to the counter. She took the same genteel approach to him. He asked for a bag for his purchase.
Instead of simply handing the man a bag, Ms. Hyde turns her back to us and screams – “HEEELLLLLOOOOOOO, DOES ANYONE WORK HERE? WHERE ARE YOU PEOPLE?!? COME HERE NOOOOOWWWWW.”
The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves
There was one poor employee behind the counter, furiously working on copying a set of documents. This girl had not stopped hustling since I walked into the store.
Ms. Hyde target locked on that employee and screams again “DO YOU HEAR ME? GET A BAG NOW.” (I wanted to say – people two states over could hear you, but I refrained.)
The manager turned back to the other customer, smiled and asked if he needed anything else.
How to Bankrupt a Business 101
I can pretty much guarantee that store’s staff turnover is high, its customer base has significantly decreased and the store is unprofitable. The staff that is there is probably only there until they can find another job. It was by far one of the most appalling examples of management I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen LOTS of things over my career.
While this is an extreme example, it’s sadly not the only one I’ve encountered lately. I’ve been in medical practices, retail stores, restaurants and even client’s offices where ‘leaders’ were speaking disparagingly about others in public areas.
I may not look like I am paying attention, but I am. Your customers and other employees are too. They are listening and watching. And most won’t say anything. They’ll simply vote with their feet – as soon as they have the chance.
How leaders treat staff today will dictate tomorrow’s performance, profitability and efficiency.
Working with other people can be challenging. Frustrations happen. However, good leaders never lose a sense of professionalism and propriety. They also use conference rooms and offices to keep private conversations private. Most of all, they address Bad Apples (other leaders or staff) immediately – before he/she taints the entire barrel.
As for Ms. Hyde, time will tell. I’ll be curious to see what happens to her and the store the next time I am in there. If I ever go back….