Less is more

The other day, Linda and I had a hankering for breakfast. Of course, it was 2:30 in the afternoon, but still, omelets and bacon were on our minds. So off to a local all-day breakfast joint we went.

Our server could not have been better, I think her name was Carol. She was friendly, efficient, and was amazing at anticipating what we wanted and needed. The food was hot, fresh and tasty.

Where’s the controversy? The drama? The ranting and raving about less is more?

It happened during a “table visit” by one of the managers. I really shouldn’t call it a visit, it was more like a drive-by, meaning it was brief (at best) and the manager’s stride was never broken. I knew it was some sort of interaction, because he said “hello”, and may have even (quickly) said, “how are you?”

Even though the restaurant was far from busy, this attempt at a visit didn’t bother me. I am sure there are restaurant aficionados who would say this is unacceptable, but it was a pleasant enough interaction and everything else with that visit had been great.

So far.

As he passed us, I responded to his question by saying, “how are you?” And this is when it happened.

“I’m tired,” the manager stated. “I’m ready to go home. I opened today and now it looks like they are going make me close.”

If his words and sentiment weren’t bad enough, he said it as he continued to walk away from us, I guess expecting us to turn around to respond in some way. We didn’t.

So now you probably know what I mean by “less is more”. I would have been totally fine with his drive-by visit if he had left out the part about not wanting to be there. I think that’s something I learned early on in my customer service career – if you, as an employee, don’t want to be there, why should your guests want to be there?

As strange as it sounds, though, I can almost guess where these comments came from. I would imagine it was his way of relating to us in a “work sucks” kind of way. Everyone hates their job, right? No one would want to stay longer than needed, would they? Yep, buddy, work sucks.

And in fact his work may suck, but I CHOSE to come to his workplace for a pleasant experience, and the LAST thing I want to hear about is that he doesn’t like his job.

What also struck me was the way he said, “THEY are going to make me close.” They… as in management above him. As in someone he doesn’t identify with. As in the boss, the enemy, the Man.

And maybe this is the root of the problem, and ultimately where the “work sucks” attempt at camaraderie-building came from. There was a palpable “us vs. them” attitude coming from this guy, and it was directed at this establishments’ management team, of which he is a part!

We talk a lot about front line employees and their impact on the customer experience, but what about you and your leadership teams? If you have leaders working for you who feel like this guy does, they could be really weighing down your service efforts.

How do you know if your leaders are are “on board”?

  • Listen to them. When they talk about management do they say “we” or “they”. We means “I belong”. They means “I don’t”.
  • Watch them. Their behavior is a reflection of their feelings. Are they setting the desired example for your employees?
  • Ask them. When talking to other managers, don’t just talk about tasks and budgets and deadlines, get to know them as a person. Develop some common ground that they can buy into.

One area where less is not more is in the area of personal and professional development for your leaders. The more they feel a part of the leadership team, the fewer blog posts like this will be needed… Oh, and the better your business will run.

Thanks for reading.


About the author: While this post is about ‘less is more’, Matt quickly acknowledges that less can occasionally be less, and sometimes less just isn’t as much.

One thought on “Less is more

  1. I had a similar but not as bad experience at Publix. I was ordering a sandwich at the deli and I heard the girl waiting on me say that she had been at work since 6 am. It was almost 3 and she was getting off soon. As she was making my veggie sub she talked about the fact that she could not wait to get off work and she had made plans with her friends to go to the beach. She was so tired and now that did not sound like such a great plan. She was sweet and friendly but I did not need to know about all her plans.

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