February 2, 2009

You can’t control your staffs every word, glance and decision

I was charged twice for an item at the fruit and vege shop so I took my receipt back with me next time. When I showed the checkout lady she rolled her eyes and pulled a face…. I wondered if that look was directed at me for 'being such a pain' or if it was a 'sympathy look' apologising for the error. I was going to ask, as it seemed quite rude, but then I decided it didn’t matter. I chose to believe (in good faith!) it was a ‘sorry about that’ type eye roll, but if it was meant for me instead – sheesh!! It got me thinking about how things can be misinterpreted.

A boss was giving a power point presentation to a boardroom chocka with people and a slide was a bit jumbled. The boss said “Amy it’s broken AGAIN”. The people thought the boss was berating the assistant in front of everyone and were embarrassed for Amy, they thought they were seeing a new, mean side to this boss. What they didn’t know was that the boss and Amy had worked together all morning on this crazy slide that refused to behave – she actually meant the comment as “I can’t believe it – how funny”. The boss had no idea she had been misinterpreted as a dragon boss.

You can train your staff till the cows come home, but it doesn’t mean they won’t sometimes give the wrong impression to a customer, say something dumb or make a silly decision. I read somewhere that the only thing worse that spending a fortune training your staff then having them leave is not training them and having them stay! So true.

Impressions last. Facial expressions, comments and body language – even the most discrete things can be picked up on. Empathy and fast thinking are not always something you can ‘train’ into staff. Maybe mystery shopping is a great idea to ensure the staff are making the right decisions. As for you the boss, so many things you say and do can be misinterpreted. Most of the time you may have NO idea, but it may cause your staff to fret for days and days – telling the rest of the team “can you believe what he said…” instant workplace fire! If you are the kind of boss staff are totally comfortable with and not afraid to say “what the heck does that mean!!??” it will help you avoid many misinterpretations. If you don’t like being painted as the big meanie (especially by mistake) it pays to be very approachable!

Check out another very simple, very very silly mistake a staff member made, purely because the boss probably hadn’t told them any better:

What can you do in your business – with yourself, the culture and the team to ensure these type of incidents don’t happen in your business? Talk these stories over with your team so they can understand how little things have a huge impact. They would be mighty peeved if such things happened to them as customers.

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