Broken is the new normal

Twice within 24 hours my wife and I encountered broken equipment at local businesses that visibly frustrated the employees.

People’s exhibit A: Last night at the movies, Linda noticed that one of the automatic hand dryers in the ladies room wasn’t working. When she told an employee, the response was, “yeah, that has been broken for a few years.”

People’s exhibit B: This morning at our favorite bagel place, I noticed that at the register, the little screen that faces the customers wasn’t working. When I mentioned it to the employee, she said, “I know, I’ve got to pick my battles. That one over there has a screen that works, but the order screen doesn’t. This one is the opposite. We can’t seem to get it all right at the same time.” I could hear the frustration and resignation in her voice.

To a casual observer, these probably aren’t cause for too much concern.  There is another hand dryer in the bathroom, and you can still process bagel orders, so what’s all the hub bub, Bub?

The hub bub is that while these may not have a huge impact on your guests (even though that should be a concern), they ARE impacting your employees.  Maybe even in ways you don’t realize.

A guest may see this situation once or twice, but the employees deal with it ALL THE TIME. Not only are they constantly reminded about it when THEY see it, they also get to have well-intentioned guests like us pointing out the mechanical issues of their business.  The longer that situation goes unresolved, the the more frustrating it is to hear. That frustration can really wear a person down.

When that happens, it’s really hard for an employee to take pride in their facility, or sometimes even themselves when they are working in that environment.  “Why should I worry about my appearance when the company doesn’t seem to care about what the building or equipment look like? They want me to smile and be nice? How can I smile when I’m constantly making excuses for why things aren’t working?”

And unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If an employee gets it in their head that these issues are not being addressed, why would they bring future issues to your attention? The longer a situation persists, the more “normal” it becomes. When “broken” becomes the normal mode of doing business, we’re in trouble.

The easy answer is to fix the broken stuff in a timely manner. That may not always be easily accomplished, but at least the effort has to be there (and be known to those who are waiting for it). This means communicating the process to your employees so they don’t think you don’t care. When they think you don’t care about the facility and their experience, they could start to feel that you don’t care about them.

And you don’t want that to feel normal.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt offers keynotes and in-depth workshops based on the material in his book, The Myth of Employee Burnout. Don’t accept broken employee morale in your business – it doesn’t have to be the norm!

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