You Don’t Have to Hire Asshole Employees: Your Culture Will Create Them
There’s a disconnect among those sitting in top leadership positions in some organizations. They want to create a Disney-Like Culture or become the Chick-fil-A of their industry. They’ve read about the terrific returns a great customer experience creates, so they mandate a great customer experience… every damn time!
They put it in writing: value every guest! They require everyone to sign off on it: the customer is our highest priority! And… they’re f***ing serious this time!
You don’t want to be named in a negative customer review in these organizations. You know if you are, you’ll get an ass-chewing.
If the company gets enough bad reviews, they’ll hold a meeting where everyone’s ass gets chewed.
Of course, after a good ass-chewing, most frontline employees are positively psyched to provide a great experience for their customers, aren’t they?
No… no, they’re not. They’re thinking about how much they hate this place. They’re thinking about how much they hate their managers. They’re thinking about survival. The last thing they’re thinking about is making the next ten thousand customers feel like welcomed guests. “Screw those people; they’re the ones making my life difficult!”
The negatives effects of an asshole manager (and especially an asshole CEO) are transferred to the customers at once and forever.
Assholes Beget Assholes Beget Assholes
If you want your employees to treat your customers like assholes, simply treat your managers like assholes and they’ll in turn treat your employees like assholes. It’s a pretty simple formula – one that’s been in use by crappy organizations for centuries.
Of course, with today’s technology (social media; online reviews) coupled with a decades-low unemployment rate, your desire to profitably grow your business will be a pipe dream. Unhappy customers won’t return; really angry customers will tell others; and your good employees can find work anywhere.
“But we have these core values, and we recite them at every meeting!”
I’ve seen this movie so many times, I like to mouth the dialog as it unfolds.
You spent days at an expensive seminar writing out these core values. You put them on a giant poster or plaque or even had them painted on a large wall in your breakroom. You made sure every employee agreed in-writing to the core values as a condition of employment.
For a while, you forgot about your core values; then, you got a nasty online review. You sprung into action; chewed some ass; and now you make the team recite your core values before every meeting – you may even quiz employees on the fly to name one of your core values. Bravo; this is a truly tremendous performance.
But, you’re still an asshole. You may smile a lot; yet, everyone knows you can snap at any moment. You change directions so often – with no real rules or processes – everyone just keeps their head down and hopes they’re doing it right. You chase the top and/or bottom-line numbers only, without regard to how you got there. Of course, this teaches your people that gaming the system, cheating, and cutting corners is the best way to survive. It’s a house of cards waiting for your next explosion to knock it down.
As customers (or, more likely, former customers) we feel this in how we’re treated when we deal with your company. You see, crap rolls downhill… all the way to the customer. We see the body language and hear the attitudes of your frontline team. You may have your core values tattooed on their asses for all we know; but it doesn’t matter.
The reality is you can rent your employees’ backs, legs, and arms; but you must win their hearts and minds. You need to win their hearts and their minds for them to ever give a crap about your customers.
So, How Do You Change an Asshole Culture?
Interestingly, it’s not hard to stop being an asshole – there’s a blueprint for it.
Good employees need accountability and great employees want direction. Though neither wants the kind of accountability and direction you’re providing. You’re all over the map. What was forbidden today is celebrated tomorrow and punished in two days. You need consistency.
Write some good business rules, develop some solid processes, decide on a few important measurements. And then… and this is the hard part… constantly and consistently train, enforce, and reinforce these.
The Good News and The Great News
I like to say it this way: The good news is that if employees always did what was best for the company, we never would’ve invented managers. The great news is you only need to train and reinforce this every single day for the rest of your working life.
Once you’ve got some good business rules and solid processes that you’re constantly and consistently measuring and reinforcing, all you need to do is treat your employees like volunteers – because they are volunteers. They’re volunteering their hearts and minds.
That paycheck you provide buys their time, it doesn’t buy their hearts and minds.
As volunteers, you expect them to treat your customers like guests. You have rules for your volunteers. You have a few solid processes your volunteers must follow. This may mean you’ll need to part with some of your volunteers because their behavior violates one or more rules, or they’re circumventing your processes.
But – and this is the point – being an asshole to your volunteers won’t compel them to serve your customers better, it will just compel them to be assholes.