The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Open to Suggestions

It isn't too often that a company will be receptive to unsolicited suggestions for improvement. But one of the FedEx Kinko's (now known as FedEx Office) facilities was ripe for change and accepted the assistance.

The site came to my attention as a customer. Morale was extremely low. Employees carped and complained about nearly everything. Gossip was running at a regular clip and all downhill. It was around October or November when things simply tanked.

The employees spoke openly among themselves and in front of customers about the poor management styles and the even worse training that were imposed on them. They recounted horror stories. The tales were reminiscent of others told in other places; I always thought they were manufactured for the sake of the publication in which I read them. These were real.

There came a day when the gossip reached a high point. The complaints were coming from three or four who were clustered in an area. Although their voices were modulated, the content of what was being said was more than understandable. People were being publicly belittled and chastised. Training and explanation were luxuries that seldom occurred.

I finally reached a point when I could no longer be silent. There was one complaint in particular that was being repeated by nearly all of the workers in the store. I took one of the employees aside and confirmed what I'd heard as a complaint. She was the one who recounted the story most recently. She had been belittled in front of customers and fellow employees. I recommended to her that if it occurred again that she ask the supervisor to please not say such things to her in public. Follow up that statement with a request that they set aside a time to talk privately in order to discuss the issues at hand. The employee acknowledged the advice and we parted. The subject was not raised between us again.

Usually issues regarding morale will linger until the subordinate can't stand the situation any longer and just leaves. This case was different. Withing a month, the gossip clusters dissipated. Open remarks about the lack of ability on the part of management also abated. A new air of professionalism took over all shifts.

At the beginning of this month, the supervisor brought two of his team members into an area where I was working. He wanted to have a brief coaching with them. What he did was compliment them on the work they had done and give them kudos for the way things were handled. He finished his words by adding a summation, "Good job, guys." And then he hi-fived them both.

The branch is still operating at a much higher level of morale and professionalism. The communication seems to be better. The verbal skills of the workers seems to have gotten better; there are fewer grammatical errors. In fact, the workers seem to be happy and enjoy what they're doing more.

This appears to have been a case where the supervisor did not have a need to push his point down everyone's throat. He had no mission to prove he was always right and a driving need to bully anyone and everyone in sight. He was open to that initial volley of talking this over privately rather than berate the worker on the spot in public.

The growth in turning this into a more professional office setting continues. I can only say this proved to be one of those times when the right message sank in and got implemented in the right way.