Employee Prima Dona

Have you ever met a fellow employee that feels they are so vital to the business that without them the whole place would fall apart?  Sure you have, it seems that every company has at least one of these gems on staff who thinks the sun rises and sets at their command.

I had the unfortunate privilege to watch one of these people exercise a bit too much energy this past week in order to achieve her will over the manager.  The manager held firm, and yet the prima dona felt the need to go clear to the top and over this guy’s head in a last-ditch effort to get her way.

In the process of demanding that this policy she was fighting remain as it had been, she found herself losing not only the battles but the war.  Her credibility among management has suffered, and the peer group was just plain appalled.

What is interesting to me is what caused this employee to push the limits this time way past the line.  It started with management allowing her to be the center of attention in the past way more than was earned.  I believe that in this case and often in most prima dona cases that the employee was allowed to behave this way in the past, and her behavior was rewarded.  In other words, they got their way.

So should we be surprised that she went over the top this time?  Given this is a professional work environment I do expect better, but I can also understand that these behaviors have been rewarded in the past and so this is a result of management creating their own problems.

The learning point is to be fair to everyone, and give everyone their time in the spotlight.  Reward and recognize everyone’s achievements, and when a prima dona appears, check to see how much of the problem was something you helped to create.

Thank You For The Rude Service!

“I just want to thank you for the rude service I received from one of your employees that manage one of your support departments.  I was so close to choosing your company to work with, and I had no idea that I was about to become a customer of a company that treats people with such rude and insensitive behavior.  Thanks to the interaction I had today with this manager, I saved myself countless hours of grief in the future by becoming a customer since this is how you treat people.  I now can choose a different relationship, one with a company that requires all of their employees to provide a great customer service experience.”

Imagine you are the CEO of a company, and you receive the above letter from a potential customer.  I could have sent this letter to three different companies this past month alone!  I realize that stress is high right now in corporate America, but why on earth would you take it out on people who could potentially become a client?  New clients translate into new business and corporate success!  In today’s economy how could any company allow their employees to be rude and insensitive to anyone?

Well that’s the sticking point isn’t it?  No company in America has gone out with a memo that says we have no problem with you being rude to non-customers!  In fact, I’m sure there is not a single company out there that would openly state anything but the fact they want all of their employees to be kind and considerate in all of their interactions.  Why?  Because everyone is a potential client or a mouth piece to spread the positive or negative experience they just had.

Yet, when it comes to training customer service skills beyond the front line people, or involving all employees in understanding their impact, too many companies are avoiding the service discussion completely.  They are taking a non-verbal pass on this topic, and would prefer to address only customer complaints instead of preventing the initial rude experience.  If I was to send this letter to the CEOs of the companies that were rude to me this month, I would get a professional apology letter in the hopes all is forgiven.  Unfortunately, a day late and a dollar short, because nothing will actually change at that company.

So if you want to make a major leadership impact on your company, take up the service flag and do more that just train some of your employees.  Make service a mandated business objective and create a great experience for anyone that ever comes in contact with your people!  Even if they are not a potential client or employee, spend the effort to make them a quality advertisement!

The “Boss’s Pet”

I’m sure we all remember from our school days about the Teacher’s Pet.  I’d like to think since I never had that name applied to me that I was somehow lucky because no one was making fun of me.  However, looking back with a clearer perspective, I was not ever getting the same attention from the teacher as their pet did.

Just like in our classrooms, for better or worse, our offices are now populated with the Boss’s Pets for lack of better words.  Those few individuals who get all the attention and credit from the manager or owner leaving the rest of us wondering what to do next.  Blame it on the 80/20 rule, but most managers devote a majority of their time to only 20 percent of their employees – the high performers.

For those of you that support the 80/20 rule of efficiency this might sound like a very productive use of the manager’s time and attention.  However, a manager should be looking at ways to develop the full potential of all employees, and not ignoring the majority for expediency or favoritism.

We all know that everyone can contribute to the operation in some way if we tap the right shoulder for the right job.  The only way we can make this happen is to engage with everyone that we have decided to include in our team.  As managers we must devote more time to the neglected 80 percent of our workforce and make them aware of their value.

One of my favorite rebuttal phrases to managers that like to spout off that we are an “at will employer” is that “At Will Employers Hire At Will Employees.”  I guess if the 20 percent of your workforce could do all the work, who really cares if the other 80 percent leave, right?  I mean you would be in good shape for the next round of layoffs if this is correct.

Now although I was never marked as a Teacher’s Pet I have had the title of Boss’s Pet, and it comes with a lot of jealousy and in all fairness very justifiable.  I got all the benefits from the role, but I paid dearly in relationships with my peers.  When I have been in the manager’s role I have had to fight the urge to show favoritism to some, and yet being a trainer first and foremost has helped me to realize the value in building everyone’s competencies.

So here is your action item this very second.  Write down all the names of the people on your team, and circle your most valuable players, then cross out the names of everyone else.  Now, can you make it work with the circled names left on the list, or is it time to devote yourself to everyone on the team?  And before I forget, shred that list before someone sees it and gets the wrong idea!

A Mandated Business Directive!

I found myself reading an article in Talent Management magazine about outsourcing learning, assuming incorrectly it was going to be the same dribble about the cost effectiveness and ability to use the best talent without having to hire them full-time.  Although this was some of the benefits later detailed, it was the introduction about the importance of the function of learning that had me high-fiving the air.  Here is the part that got me:

“When profits are squeezed, attracting and retaining customers and increasing their spending become paramount to an organization’s survival.  Factor in the employees’ role, and their professional development ought not to be regarded as a perk, but as a mandated business directive.”

Imagine for a second this reality.  A company in America that is struggling in a bad economy, where sales are down and profits are being squeezed.  They must not only retain their existing customers, but attract new customers, all of which need to spend more money.  Have you ever heard of such a company near you?  Of course you have, they are everywhere!

But where I find this amazing, is how many companies in this particular fix, realize that it is their employee workforce that will need to make this happen?  And for those few that do, what are they doing to the professional development right now?  Yes, you got it right again; they are cutting the training function down to the bare bones!

So what happens when you find a company that views professional development as more than a perk, but a mandated business directive?  What is happening now at that company that is not happening where you work?  I can testify that there are some amazing things going on with companies that view the learning function as a mandated business directive, and are using both internal and external (me) resources to move the company in a different direction.

Maybe if you and your company started referring to the training department and their function in this new way, your future and the company’s future would glow a lot brighter!