A few days ago, my wife and I were out and about looking for a small TV to put in our home office. We went to two places, and had two very different interactions.
Store #1: We saw the model we wanted on display, but could not find a way to obtain it. An employee happened to walk by but didn’t acknowledge us. We asked if he worked there and he grunted in the affirmative. When asked about the TV, he mumbled that they have been out of that model for at least a month, and wouldn’t be getting any more in.
We asked about buying the floor model. “Can’t do it.” was essentially the response. When we asked about other models that might have similar features, there was more grunting, and then no. No other TVs they had matched our criteria.
We asked again about the floor model, and were told this time, “The manager will never take that down.”
We left without a TV, which is why we got to have the second experience.
Store #2: We walked in and were immediately greeted by an employee. He cheerfully asked (with a genuine smile on his face) “what can I help you find?” We told him what we were looking for, and he worked through the available options. They didn’t have exactly what we were looking for, but he offered to check in the back, check other stores, and he immediately went online when we said we had seen something on their website. In the end, we didn’t buy the TV there because they didn’t have exactly what we were looking for. As we left, he said, “I’m sorry we didn’t have what you were looking for. Have a great evening.”
Even though there was no sale made, we can probably all agree that the service was better at store #2 than store #1.
Based on all of this, I want to talk about one specific difference in the employees we interacted with.
One employee was in his late 50’s or early 60’s. The other was in his mid-late 20’s. The question is: Which store had which employee?
If you said that the young mumbler/grumbler was in store #1, you’d be wrong. But you are probably not alone. While I think there is enough evidence out there for these stereotypes to start changing, it’s still the perception of many that young workers are lazy and older workers have a strong work ethic. As a leader, we can’t bank on these stereotypes.
If nothing else, these examples show that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover any more than you can judge a generation by what you read in a book.
Thanks for reading!