Improving Customer Service

Issue # 24 of 70 

John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self

Mixed Messages

It's morning. Your boss walks into the main office in a chipper mood, saying hi to everyone he meets. Then he walks into his office. Another joins him. The door closes. Must be secret stuff. Or very personal stuff. That is what one would say. But no. It is just another day at the office.

Take a look around. Are you saying open culture, but doing closed culture?

What kinds of messages are you sending to your staff when you close the door as a matter of course?

I'll tell you. It sends out several messages. All bad. When the door closes routinely, it sends out the clear message that the boss is either paranoid, insecure, or just plain ridiculous: Sure signs of closed culture, which is a negative culture.

The door should be closed only when there is a necessity. True privacy is necessary when it concerns personal matters or business discussions that are indeed private.

How often is privacy truly required? ... Not very often. Certainly, not each time more than one person goes into the boss's office or when the boss goes into ANY office, destroys one culture and builds another.

There we go using the C word again. Culture, or more correctly, negative culture.

When the boss routinely closes the door upon entering an office, and then discusses normal business, it takes away respect for the boss. Anytime the respect for the boss is detracted, it cannot help but reduce the employees' pride in the organization.

This column has discussed the value of office culture several times in the past. I can't overemphasize the importance of culture on the morale of the entire office. When morale declines, productivity declines equally.

Think about it.

When you are irritated with your boss, do you really work as hard? Do you tend to not tell the boss some helpful bits of information that you normally would be enthusiastic to bring to his/her attention? Do you tend to leave exactly at quitting time? I'll bet you do. No enthusiasm. No creativity. The negative culture breeds defensive working which means to avoid mistakes at all costs.

The costs of a defensive work style are the employees' aggressiveness and their willingness to take chances and to make the inevitable mistakes. How can any of us get ahead without being permitted to make mistakes?

The bottom line is that the office climate is important. Just ask your competitors. They're the ones getting your employees.

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.