Anne M. Obarski

Article Summary:

A bad attitude employee can be a service virus. AAA insurance policy to avoid it.

Don’t Let a Bad Attitude Employee Contaminate your Workplace

I was at my local Post Office on the Monday morning following Mother’s Day. For once, there was no one in line and I walked right up to the first position in the cue line. There is a new gal in my Post Office that I try to avoid. I really wonder if she was “awake” during training as even the simplest things scare her. She says she hates the computer and wishes she didn’t have to use it. Welcome to the real world, sister! She is also extremely slow and the lines recently have been horrible.

Mind you, I have no problem with new employees. Sometimes a fresh new face can make the experience tolerable. Not hers.

As I walked up to the counter I glanced over to see one of the “regular” employees who has known me for years. He got a big smile on his face and said, “Did you have a nice Mother’s Day?” I immediately answered, “I did, thank you for asking!”

With that I looked at the gal who was waiting on me and I said to her, “Have a nice day!” To which she replied with a scowl, “If I can get out of here early, it will be a better day”.

Two employees, same business, two totally different attitudes, and which employee will I more than likely want to go back to at that Post Office? It shouldn’t be hard to guess.

Attitude is everything when it comes to customer service. You can be taught all of the skills and procedures to correctly do any job, but I believe you can’t be taught to be nice. I think it is a never-ending battle to try to teach people to be nice, that in the long run, will leave you exhausted and in the meantime, will drive away customers.

Worst of all you have lost your customers’ respect.

Over the years I have used the following example as a sales and service “teaching tool”. I have found that in over 20 years it hasn’t changed much. Oddly, enough I think it works even better for the manager than the frontline associate.

I call it my AAA business insurance!
You have insurance for your company. You may never need it but it is a comfort knowing that you have invested wisely in an insurance company that will stand behind you no matter what happens. The same type of “insurance policy” should be in place in regards to your managers and staff. As a manager or owner, you should have the comfort knowing that you have spent the time to hire wisely, train completely and consistently work to develop a relationship of respect between staff and management.

Let’s look closer at what makes up the “AAA”.

A = Attitude
Bad attitudes are spread like a virus. I can’t have a conversation with anyone recently without someone sharing a story about bad service that usually stemmed from the bad attitude of an employee. The “gal” at my Post Office is a prime example. If you are like most people, as you are reading this article, you can think of countless times that you overheard associates saying, “I didn’t get my break”, or “I can’t wait to leave in 2 hours”, or “I just came in and it already is a bad day”.

Imagine you have a glass of clear, sparkling, cold water in front of your. Now imagine I gave you a paper cup filled with white vinegar and asked you to pour as much as you wanted into that drinking glass. Go ahead… pour. Now mix it around and have a taste. What? You don’t want to? Why not?

Your answer probably is that it is sour, it smells, and it will taste nasty. Here is another question. Did it really matter HOW much vinegar you put in the glass? You can’t see it but you know it is there and you know it is contaminated.

Who do you allow to contaminate your day or your staff’s day? Remember, you allow it. Sometimes it is the morning news or the radio program you listen as you come to work but it can spread to others at work.

“You’re Fired”, has been a big buzzword around businesses recently. I am not a big proponent of firing, but I do believe that if a person is not happy and they are a negative “virus” in the business, something needs to be done.

Donald Trump made those words famous but I also wrote down a quote from one of his shows that really made me stop and think. He said, “Your people have to be inspired by you before you can earn their respect.” That leads me to:

A = Aware
Are you really aware of what goes on when the manager isn’t there or what the customers hear or what parts of your “insurance policy” have been deleted? Go back to your training materials. What specific skills were your employees expected to adhere to on a daily basis? Not just for the week after they were hired but ongoing, 5 years later, everyday with every customer whether on the phone or in front of them.

Who allowed the policy to lapse?
An article titled, “Kmart improved – except with customers” from the Associated Press, May 6, 2004, says it all. Kmart has come out of bankruptcy in better shape than most companies. However, my Kmart is a poor example at best, of merchandising and the sales associates are robots that couldn’t make eye contact or carry on a conversation if they had to. The smell of pizza and old popcorn in a poorly lit, dingy store and unhappy looking employees says that the “attitude virus” is rampant and I am choosing to shop elsewhere. HEYMART, you better re-adjust your focus. It’s not just financial anymore!

Who is the “role model” in your company? It better be from the CEO right down to the employee that scans that credit card at the cash register. You see, the employees are watching as much as the customers.


A = Audience
As a professional speaker, I can tell you a lot about an audience. They can literally make or break a good speech. If the audience is “with you” you have their undivided attention. They hang on your every word. They give you feedback facially. They nod their heads and smile or laugh at funny stories. They can cry when you touch a tender spot in their hearts. They will start of “wave” of a standing ovation beginning with one person and then engulfing the whole crowd.

Or, they can do just the opposite. They can turn you off, avoid eye contact, start conversations of their own, and some actually get up and leave!

You have two audiences within your business. The audience made up of your employees who communicate with each other everyday. They can and will mimic good and bad behavior, depending upon what they see others doing. They will work hard for managers they respect and will put in only “necessary time” for those they dislike. This is called internal customer service.

Then, your employees also “play” to their audience of customers. Many times the same “performance” that is done internally with their peers, is “delivered” to the customer. It can be one of excitement and genuine friendliness or it can be done grudgingly and with very little personal contact.

Audiences can make the difference to whether a play or movie succeeds or fails. They are the ultimate customer and their ability to verbally “market” what they like or don’t like is amazing.

What do your customers really see? Do they see management devoted to creating and delivering a “business performance insurance policy” that guarantees that they will receive the quality of products and service that the company has promised, every time?

If they decide that there is a “service virus” that has infected a business, their reaction is to avoid it or kill it.

Is your internal or external customer service contaminated? Take a closer look. You might not always be able to “see” it but my guess is that you might be able to “smell” it! Pass the bug spray!

Anne M. Obarski is “The Eye on Performance!” As a professional speaker and trainer, Anne helps companies focus on the profit building service strategies that will keep their customers coming back. Anne presents nationwide keynotes, break-out sessions and customized training in the area of customer service. She has written “Surprising Secrets of Mystery Shoppers” and “Real World Customer Service Strategies That Work“. For more information visit her website at www.merchandise

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