Ever hear the expression: Same issue, different place? When you hear this expression, are you able to apply it to a current situation in your life right now? Whether it is work, home, or otherwise? You are probably able to do so because there is a negative pattern that has developed that needs to be interrupted and changed and you haven’t bothered to do for fear of “rocking the boat.”
I remember saying “same issue, different place” very vividly while working as Director of Front Office for a prestigious boutique hotel in Chicago. The hotel was a fairly new property and all the rage. I was so happy to be part of the team. I was impressed with the property but absolutely astounded at how low team morale was. Here we are a new hotel that is the talk of the city, has the top nightclub in the city, and a well-appointed spa, it was literally the place to be and yet there were so many unhappy employees. After observing a few weeks I figured out one of the reasons why. I witnessed a team member who was chronically late. They were late all the time and they were unapologetic about it. In fact, no one ever expected them to show up on time. It had become a running joke. I found myself paying unnecessary overtime. I asked a couple other managers why this was the case before I addressed it and I was told: “That’s just how they are.” They get away with it because the guests love them.” I was completely taken aback by this statement. First because of how cavalier the person was stating it and then I soon discovered it was not isolated, it was not conjectured or hyperbole. It was the truth and for me unacceptable.
We have all seen this in one form or another: Whether shows up in attendance or grooming, taking extended breaks, etc. It is a shame that this was allowed. No manager or leader should allow this behavior to exist by turning a blind eye or practicing willful ignorance, to do so is implicitly giving approval. It undermines everything put into place for reasons of order, it sends the wrong message to the team and it DESTROYS employee morale. You also lose the respect of the team. Not to mention what is the incentive for the people following the rules working hard to come to work on time. Setting this kind of precedent is dangerous and leads to all sort of challenges. Just because we have associates who are rock stars does not mean they are above the law or not governed by the same rules as everyone else.
After observing and investigating, I immediately addressed the issue and of course the associate was unhappy and appalled I had the audacity to address this with them and follow it with written documentation. The associate told me, “I have never been written up before.” Followed by, “I get great guest comments and I always have issues coming on time. I have no control over public transportation.” I asked the right questions, I offered a different shift (they had seniority), and I showed empathy and compassion. I was smart enough to understand that this did not just start happening. I did not assume (even though I had evidence) that they were being careless and deliberate. So that told me that they knew on some level that they were wrong. I won’t go into the entire counseling session suffice to say I no longer had challenges from this team member and they continued to flourish as a rock star. Believe it or not, sometimes they want the guidance and correction; it’s part of grooming them into leaders. Once the team saw that no one was exempt from rules and consequences morale took a swing in the right direction.
No manager or leader ever wants to be the one to wear the proverbial black hat. Sometimes we end up inside scenes of a script that we did not write. It is up to us to correct the service fractures and heal them with fairness, consistency, and empathy. We are not helping anyone when we turn a blind eye to mistakes and misbehavior; in fact, we cripple them, no matter who they are or what they bring to the table. We should all be excited and proud of our work and our work ethic, passionate about what we do, as well as our place in the company. Live and lead by example. If you have to manage an entitled, enabled, rock -star have a conversation. The person who managed them into the person they have become failed. You need to be the leader to right the ship! They will eventually be thankful for the structure you create and the relationships you foster.