Friday, September 30, 2011

"Good, Morning!"

The comma in the title is deliberate. It's an indication of how messages can be understood.

Imagine a young child or a dog who walks with an adult nearly every day. As they pass others, there are brief verbal exchanges of "Morning" or "Good morning".  Young uninitiated beings could easily mistake the greeting for a name. The young might think that their walk-mate's name is being used like you might say "John" or "Sally" to someone you know. Even the "good" doesn't change it, especially since they've heard "Good boy!" or "Good girl!" or "Good dog!" Either the adult's name is "Morning" or they might think that adults (longer tenured people) are called "morning" rather than boy, girl or dog.

Similarly, in business, we repeat verbal and nonverbal messages that to the uninitiated could be misinterpreted. For example, the way customers are treated by the experienced staff will become the standard. If the senior customer service reps talk badly about or to the customers, the newbies will think that's the expectation. Likewise, the acceptance of marginal product will become the new habit if experienced inspectors show new inspectors what's good.

The message that management doesn't care is just as easily learned. If management doesn't have some response to concerns, issues, hassles, headaches that the employees are experiencing, the people will learn that the top tier's name is not "management". Their name must be something else because the employees keep calling on them as "management" and yet there's no response. A response of "no" or "here's the real priority" or "we can't do that now" is at least a response by some group called "management". A response of "maybe" or "we'll see" or "let me study this" or "thanks for telling me" (followed by no action) means the message hasn't gotten to the right person. The employee is thinking, "Someone else must be Management but these bozos aren't reacting to the name."

When someone calls your "name," respond in a sincere manner. Do honor to the name. Wear it proudly. Someday you might just hear "Good, Management!" or "You're a good Customer Service!"

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