Improving Customer Service

Issue # 34 of 70 

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

A Riddle: How One Bad Employee Can Affect Many

One of the great riddles of Western Civilization is the impact that one bad employee can have on good employees. This one bad employee can lower the standards of good employees to the extent that an entire department can suffer.

What makes this doubly puzzling is that the reverse does not seem to be true. Good employees rarely can elevate a bad employee. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "How is it that so few can do so much to so many?"

What to do, what to do.

A great man once said (no, not Dilbert, Harvey Mackay), that it is not the people that you fire who are a problem, it is the employees who should be fired, but aren't, that are the problem. Think about these points:

  • Do you find yourself grumbling every day about a particular employee that just exudes an attitude of not caring?
  • Are there some employees that never get motivated no matter what threat or incentive is offered?
  • Do you have a certain employee that "gets by" somehow by doing the minimum amount of effort each day and your employees know it?
  • Do you find yourself apologizing for a particular employee that you know is not putting out anywhere close to the same effort that the other employees are trying to do?

Why are they still employed with you? No answer?

The answer is that in today's environment it is extremely difficult to terminate someone. It takes an incredible amount of paperwork, time and effort.

However, I can tell you it is a certainty that it's worth the time and effort to do the paperwork. Your work in elevating the standards of customer service will be greatly diminished by having this person(s) stay in your employment.

Keeping the weak links makes it appear like you are only talking the talk and not walking the walk. Your employees know. It is only human nature that if the boss doesn't care, then it is very tempting to not care. Even good employees with very high personal standards will start to relax those standards if bad employees and good employees are treated the same.

The termination step is drastic and should certainly be the last resort. Everyone deserves a chance to do well. After all, people in your employment started off wanting to do a great job for you and for themselves. Was their downward trend partly your fault by ignoring them or having low standards?

Take the first step: talk to your human resources department, your boss or yourself and make sure that you know how to document the path for terminating a recalcitrant employee. Your customers and your employees will thank you.

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.

Improving Customer Service #34 of 70: View all in the Table of Contents

For more customer service articles, visit the Customer Service series on the new Sideroad: Practical Advice Straight from The Experts.

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