Here’s a scenario: Bill, the CEO, walked through the parking lot of the of his plumbing supply business, picking up cups, paper and trash. He walked to the front door and threw out the trash while two of his employees watched him from behind the customer service counter in the building. No customers had arrived yet.
“It gets pretty messy out there,” one of the employees said as Bill came through the front door.
Bill, unable to control his anger at the employees seeing the trash and not making any effort to pick it up, raises his voice and says, “If you see it out there, why don’t you pick it up? How can you let the parking lot look like this? And moreover, why do I have to do this?”
One of the employees look right back at Bill and said nonchalantly, “Our job is to wait on customers, not to pick up trash. Trash pickup is not in our job description.”
If you are like most managers you may be ready to use your “you’re fired” speech. These kinds of situations happen to managers everyday. But before you miss the optimal learning and behavior-changing opportunity, stop and consider these potential responses instead:
1. This is a teachable moment. How will you use this moment to do more than vent your frustration and anger? How can you change employee behavior?
Each moment we have with our employees can be used to positively influence, engage and inspire. Though most of us may have lost our cool in this situation, don’t let a heated response interrupt the potential for learning and growth.Consider sharing the importance and value of customers and their loyalty is what pays these employees’ salaries. Or, share the need to take pride in the appearance of the business. Or emphasize that it is everyone’s job, whether written or not, to personally commit to making each customer’s experience exceptional, including how the facility looks. After the feedback, hold these employees accountable for an immediate change in behavior.
2. What does this tell you about job descriptions? How can they be meaningful in a constantly changing workplace?
Job descriptions are guides – they share the tasks required to achieve the performance expectations. In changing times, these need to be flexible to accommodate what employees encounter in the workplace. I find what works better is to clearly define the performance standard or expectation – to hold the employee accountable for the end results. Then allow the employee some freedom in how to approach the task to achieve the required outcome. Though the issue in this example may be lazy employees (who then need on the spot performance feedback), it could also be an outdated understanding of what a job description is and what they mean in the company. Add the clarity and make it a teachable moment.
Never miss an opportunity to educate employees that it is everyone’s job to provide consistently exceptional service to both internal and external customers. And in the same moment, be the wise manager that can use every situation to influence, persuade and inspire employees to do stand out work.
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