Improving Customer Service

Issue # 65 of 70 

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


You have just started your new job as assistant manager. You're excited about the opportunities and can't wait to make a name for yourself. You're bubbling over with excitement to prove yourself. You don't care what it takes, you're ready.

With all this excitement and momentum, you find out that your boss has called some of your subordinates to see what they think of you. Why would he do that? You feel crushed, disillusioned and worse--you feel that your boss doesn't have any faith in your ability to get the job done. You've just gone from feeling absolutely wonderful to feeling completely useless.

That is just one instance of how a boss can screw up the attitude of a motivated manager. Micromanaging is another classic way to do the same--when your boss tries to control your smallest moves with absolutely no latitude for personal decisions. This practice reminds me of a "bossism" about empowerment: "Everyone around here is empowered, they just better be damn sure they make the same decisions as I would."

What can a person do? Do you confront your boss or do you ignore it? Maybe it is a simple misunderstanding or maybe you've now seen your boss as he really is and this is the shape of things to come.

The good news is that there is a better than even chance that it is probably a misunderstanding. But left unquestioned, that fact will never come out and you will be left with imagining scenarios that would only make you feel progressively worse by jumping to ridiculous conclusions.

Don't go in that direction. Relax, take a deep breath, and go talk to your boss. Tell him how you feel. Tell him your concerns. Be sincere, not confrontational. Make sure you say that you will communicate your progress on a weekly or monthly basis. You are willing to do whatever it takes so he can develop confidence in you, but you need some flexibility and freedom to get the job done. Promise you will ask for help if you need help.

Note to bosses: Let your people get to work; give them the power to accomplish their job. This is such a powerful tool that is often underused. The amazing thing about power is that no matter how much you give away, you still keep all of yours. You will not have diminished your power at all. Your assistants will appreciate it. I promise.

Most bosses, especially new bosses, don't realize how much influence they wield on their subordinate managers. A general manager's off-hand comments will be carried home by the assistant, where they are dissected and examined to reveal hidden meanings. The boss may well forget them soon after they're said but the subordinate won't.

The moral of the story is to keep communications open at all costs and in both directions.

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.