Thursday, June 20, 2013

Treated With The Utmost Disrespect

When people ceased to be people or even personnel and were contradictorily dehumanised into becoming human resources, companies and the purveyors of management and organisational snake oil began to discover new miracle cures that they would inflict on these one-time simple people. Typically, it was the academic-turned-consultant-turned-business-blockbuster-writer who was to the fore in this medicine show, and one of the elixirs that this self-appointed guru would tout was something called 360-degree appraisal.

Because people (sorry, human resources) were now deemed to be strategic rather than mere functionary cogs in an organisational wheel, the thinking behind this all-round appraisal wasn't as crackpot a theory as many others that the gurus had invented. The theory went something like this. A company has various "stakeholders" (there's good management jargon for you) and so does the individual working in a company. Often, these two sets of stakeholders are one and the same. So, a manager or other employee might not just have superiors who could appraise performance but also subordinate employees, customers, suppliers and perhaps even God Almighty.

This 360 system wasn't solely about giving a potentially disgruntled subordinate the opportunity to try and get a boss sacked, it was also about developing the individual being appraised in order that, in line with organisationally correct thinking, relationships with all stakeholders would be similar, i.e. they would hopefully be good and positive. By creating a culture whereby everyone was treated with the same level of respect, this should lead, so the theory went, to better performance and to better relationships with the most important of all the stakeholders, namely the customer.

It wasn't a bad theory. Treat subordinates well and with respect, treat suppliers well and with respect, and an atmosphere is created which results in the customer being treated especially well and with the utmost respect. Unfortunately, and regardless of whether businesses adhere to a principle such as 360 or not, there are businesses out there which appear to have little idea that the way in which certain stakeholders are treated may or will ultimately lead to a poorer customer relationship.

The local tourism industry comprises businesses of varying levels of professionalism. A small bar does not have to have a sound working knowledge of management theory in order to operate a successful business and one that, because such a thing is often instinctive, treats all its stakeholders with respect and so achieves the goal of excellent customer relationships. However, a bit of a theory might not go amiss when it comes to bars or other establishments which simply have absolutely no idea.

Here's one example. A bar takes on someone for a provisional period. Towards the end of this period - a month - the owner decides he doesn't need this someone. Not because this someone is no good, but because the owner has no intention of entering into a contractual agreement. What happens next? He takes on someone else, and then the whole process repeats itself and keeps on repeating itself. Is this respectful, is this treating someone well? No, it is not. And in an atmosphere where staff are hired and not so much fired as tossed aside, how does this impact on the customer?

Here's another example. Let's say that a hotel engages someone for the season. Not even two months into the season, this someone is sent a text which informs him or her that services are no longer required. Again, this isn't because the employee isn't any good. Indeed, Trip Advisor reviews are overwhelmingly positive where this employee is concerned, thus improving the hotel's reputation and its overall relationship with the customer. Why would the hotel dismiss such an employee? Well, it's a very good question. Why would it? Perhaps it has come up with a different arrangement that can save it some money. And as for sending a text, well, if you can't give bad news face to face, then how good can you possibly be with dealing with customers face to face?

There are other examples. Too many. The local tourism industry cannot be tarred with one unsatisfactory management/business brush. On the contrary, there is a great deal which is very good, be it the bar, the hotel, wherever. And it is very good because the working atmosphere is right. Most businesses don't need the snake oil because it should be obvious. Treat everyone with respect, and the customers are happy. So happy, they plan on coming back. Until they learn on Trip Advisor that someone has been dismissed.

Any comments to please.

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