I am sure everyone has heard the story by now of Steven Slater, the Jet Blue attendant, who decided that his day was not going too well. So lousy was his day that he grabbed the microphone, yelled obscenities, flung open the door of the plane, and escaped down the evacuation slide. Now this employee is a cultural hero. Facebook and MySpace pages have been erected singing his praises. T-shirts extolling his name are for sale. Steven Slater made the big time and will probably end up where all great train wrecks end up… on a FOX reality show. The scariest part of all this is, at the time of this writing, he still has his job.
Now, I get the reason we all are cheering for this guy. He did what we all want to do. We are now at a time where survivor’s guilt, that depressed feeling you have when you have a job and all those around you are unemployed, has been replaced by survivor’s rage. We, as a workforce, are tired and burned out. After waves of firings and lay-offs, we all feel trapped in a job where the work has doubled or tripled without any sign of relief (or even thanks). We all want to tell our employers where to stick their job. That’s why I said in my last article that when the economy turns around, it’s going to get really ugly. Unfortunately, the economy and job market are not turning around and there is little reason to believe we have turned the corner, so everyone is happy to see one of the working class grab a few beers and literally bail out of the workplace after a few choice words reminiscent of a bad 1960’s protest song.
We have become a nation where most of our jobs require us to take care of people. We are not a manufacturing nation anymore with our steel mills, factories, and great stuff the world wants. (Anyone remember when “Made in Japan” meant “Made of Crap”?) We have become a service nation, and most of our jobs require us to provide a service to other people. But we, as recipients of service for tire repair to dental appointments to breakfast at IHOP, have become permissive of employees who are paid by us, yet still give us attitude and poor performance. We have provided permission under our acceptance of the tired and worn excuse of "Well they have to deal with cranky people all day, its no wonder they are unhappy people"...well let me give you a bit of notice...you are paid to take GOOD care of me. If you can't do that, go find another job and if your company can't motivate you...you should be fired. Steven Slater should have received only one notice… a notice of termination. How is it that the people who paid Jet Blue to fly them from point A to point B deserve to be yelled at by a self righteous, over spoiled buffoon?
I myself learned just how crappy employees are permitted to be just last week at the Delta Service Counter in Atlanta. When a supervisor thinks they have the authority to say “It’s not my problem” and turn their back on you, is it any wonder why the company has a lousy reputation for taking care of their passengers? We as a nation are applauding these rebels while deep inside we wish we had the guts to be like them. Now, companies permit this behavior in the guise of understanding their pain. The world is upside down.
I saw on the cover of the Drudge Report a photograph of a teenager who was having trouble finding work. Over her head was a sign that said something to the effect of “A Job is A Right.” My first response was…. Hell No! There is no right to a job any more than there is a right to have a quiet slow dance with Megan Fox. Companies give us money in exchange for work and we willingly (supposedly) sell our time on this planet for cash. The more work we do and the more time we allot to that labor (time we will never have again on this planet) is in exchange for greater reward. It is irrational to believe that anyone, be it government, society, or big evil corporation owe us a job.
It is this thought process that has allowed bad workers to thrive when they should be unemployed and I don’t understand it. When there are 500 people clamoring for a job (any job), companies should be thrilled to know that the unruly, rude, and chronically un-showered no longer have to be tolerated.
Furthermore (I can’t believe I am using the word “Furthermore”…but it fits), we, as customers, permit this kind of treatment out of an understanding of how lousy it is to take care of unruly people. We understand that the poor Delta customer service representative has to deal with unhappy people all day, so we allow a bit of rudeness even though we pay them to take care of us. That my consumer friends is poop! Customer service is a paid job. Paid by the money I gave to the company for whatever product I received. I get bad service, I start yanking my money back. I start writing letters. Not angry obscenity filled letters, but letters outlining how I was treated and why it is unacceptable.
On the other hand, as in the case of the great people at the Marriott Gateway in Atlanta, when I catch someone giving great service, my letters to the CEO are twice as long and my loyalty to them heartfelt. There are great heroes in the workplace we never seem to thank. Steven Slater is not one of them.
Copyright © 2010 Mike Baumgartner | HR | Consulting | Coach | Human Resources | Search - CEO, Worklife Survival Center LLC