December 16, 2020

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What Attitude?

Improving Customer Service

Issue # 53 of 70

By: Dr. John T. Self

Employee attitudes can be very complicated and difficult to fully comprehend. In order to get an understanding of a particular type of attitude, a short story about another 'employee' will help us put things into perspective. Bear with me.

There was a man who decided to become a monk. He joined a very strict group whose members were permitted to say only two words every ten years. After ten years he was called in to say his two words. The monk said: "Food bad." The monks looked at each other, thanked him for his insight and sent him off.

Ten years passed and once again the monk was called in to say his two words. This time he responded: "Bed hard." The monks looked at each other, thanked him and sent him off.

After ten more years, the monk was once again called in to say his two words. This time he said simply: "I quit." The monks said they really weren´t surprised; after all, he´d had a bad attitude for 30 years.

Not only is this an enjoyable tale, but there really is a message here. To get to the heart of that message, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many of your employees have bad attitudes right now? Are you sure?
  • Do you just accept that some of your employees have bad attitudes? Do you even care?
  • Are you afraid to find out why they have bad attitudes?
If you answered that you would rather not know about bad attitudes, you probably feel that they are no big deal. As long as your employees do their job adequately, where is the real harm?

The problem, my friend, is that your employees may well respond just like those customers that are not treated well but don´t complain. While they may not complain to you directly, they most definitely complain to anyone who will listen--colleagues, even customers. While management sticks their head in the sand, the customer stews, broods, gets frustrated and feels alienated. The same is true with your employees. They are affecting themselves, their peers and, in the end, you and your business.

It is equally as bad when you are aware of attitude problems but don´t do anything about them. There are many managers that would much prefer to be busy anywhere other than where there is a possible confrontation with a customer or employee. They think that if they ignore the problem it will just go away. They are both right and wrong.

They are wrong in the sense that the problem will NOT just go away. They are right in that the problem WILL just go away, but it will carry the customer and the employee with it--as in quit, terminate, leave and never come back.

I promise that it will always be in your best interest to be the first to sniff out a bad attitude problem. Chances are it is something you can clear up immediately once you´ve identified the problem. Usually the underlying bad attitude stems from a management oversight that, if left alone, could fester and grow out of proportion till eventually the employee quits. A typical example would be when an employee gets a pay raise but it doesn´t appear on the following check. This is easy to clear up ONLY if you know about it--only if you ask. Don´t lose employees because you´re sticking your head in the sand. Take a deep breath and get to the bottom of it. You´ll feel better and both you and your employees will benefit. That's a promise.

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.