‘Bad behaviour’ 

I recently played golf with a guy who owns a hairdressing business and he relayed the following story…


Steady Custom: In his salon, copies of daily newspapers are bought for customers to read while they are waiting (sometimes they just don’t feel like talking when someone is working on their hair). Every week, like clockwork, one particular customer came into the salon to have her hair done.  She would read the paper while waiting and then throw it on the floor when her turn came. He mentioned this, using humour to overcome any awkwardness, but she continued to leave the paper in a mess.  The staff would pick up the paper and re-fold it for the next customer (but complain to the owner about having to do this). It was a nuisance – but difficult to know exactly how to respond.

Unhappy Punter: Most weeks this particular customer would find a reason to complain about the outcome.  The colour was dark, the water too hot, the salon overly stuffy and so on. Now, during the recession, the hairdressing business hasn’t exactly being going gangbusters. Like the Tesco slogan ‘every little helps’  this guy wanted to retain her custom. But not at any price.  So, after months of ‘paper throwing’ and complaining, he politely (and very discreetly), asked her not to come back. I asked: “How many people get ‘barred’ from a hairdressers”? He just laughed. This was a first and hopefully last time that he will have that particular conversation.

Unacceptable Behaviour: In organizations, by the time external consultant’s get called in to offer support, employee relations cases are usually well advanced. The ‘bad behaviour’ has normally been underway for some time. Usually managers, just like that hairdresser, have tolerated a lot of stuff. Missed days. Hangovers. Rudeness. Poor quality work. 187% raw cynicism and so on. The 5 Sorrowful Mysteries. The question is when should you confront this?

In General Electric, I came across the phrase ‘if you can’t change the people, change the people‘. You try to get the best from staff. You recognize that people can have an off-day or a particular project which underdelivers. Unless you are a psychopath (or a manager who has never made a mistake yourself), you don’t drag someone around the back of the factory and shoot them for a genuine effort. But, while you might have to tolerate bad behaviour from customers, you never have to apologize to staff for telling them to do their job.  And, if they consistently underdeliver, you have to act on that. Don’t let the ‘need to be liked’ (hardwired into most of us) stop you from doing the job you’ve been paid to do.

Now, who’s next for the snip?


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