Service Announcement

May 5, 2022

The other day, I went into a store and was immediately helped by three considerate employees. These folks knew exactly what I wanted and where to find it. They talked me through my options and I left promptly, glad I had made the trip.

There’s no way to tell this story without making it sound like a complaint: about “kids these days” and their “work ethic”, or the very real nationwide staffing shortage. The fact that I remember this day at all could be seen as a testament to deteriorating standards. But I don’t see it that way. My experience was noteworthy, COVID or no COVID.

It has always been the case that someone who’s new to a job needs time to learn how to do it well. And being part of a skeleton crew can be counterproductive. This is especially true in times of stress for both the employee and the business (read: a global pandemic).

It is also true, and always has been, that employees who get poor training or poor support are prevented from doing their job well. Their managers may be stretched thin or new to the work themselves. From my experience in foodservice and retail, I can say that poor training is the root cause of most problems that get passed on to customers. If an employee can’t magically overcome this obstacle, it is a reflection on the obstacle and not on the trainee.

Imagine you’ve just started a job and no one is explaining what to do – or you get conflicting instructions. If you try to make it through by using common sense, you might fail. Common sense isn’t always a factor when these environments are set up. Then add the pressure of customers who (rightly) want to be helped and managers who want to look like they’re in control, and you will always be stuck in the crossfire. 

Okay, maybe this is a complaint. But my intention was to praise some people for exceeding my expectations, which were not low. I thought these human beings would be a little uncertain about what I needed because I, a human being, was also uncertain. I expected that we would work through it together. Had I chosen to go online, I would have flailed around miserably for an hour before giving up. Instead, I took a chance on the human route. Not only did I not regret it, but I was rewarded for it.

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