Keeping Employees Happy at Work


Flight attendants

The Internet was abuzz after the Steven Slater incident on the Jet Blue Flight on August 9th 2010. If you don’t remember the incident, check out this YouTube video. He certainly found a dramatic way to give feedback to his employer and the rest of the world about how untenable his job had become.  To me this is a really sad example of how difficult the workplace is. He was definitely not happy at work!

No wonder to so many people Steven Slater has become the symbol of telling the boss what you really think.  Too bad he waited so long and became so frustrated but maybe there was no other way.  Companies do have a way of ignoring situations until they blow up.

There were many times that I became fed up with my employer, AT&T and it got increasingly frustrating while I worked there so I am sympathetic to Slater’s rage.  At AT&T there was a yearly employee satisfaction survey which gave the employee plenty of opportunity to say what was wrong.  I got blunter as years went by because no change ever came of my yearly feedback even though there was always some comment in an employee publication on how low job satisfaction had sunk and how concerned management was.

Management does need to watch, look, listen and act.  One year the manager of our sales group brought in a young woman in January.  There were four guys on the team at that point and me.  The woman was new to both our sales team and sales in general.  The boss liked her and he gave her at least a half a dozen hot sales leads during the year that resulted in sales for her.

At the time I had had several large sales at the end of the previous year and was busy implementing them.  We got paid on revenue and revenue didn’t show up until the systems were installed so I was totally focused on my work.

Late in the year when I was forecasting my sales for the following year I noticed what was happening and was really annoyed by it.  Fortunately for me neither my sales nor my income had been impacted by her sales.  The other sales associates in the group however were not so lucky.  They had had a relatively dry year.  I kept wondering what they felt but no one said anything.

In October there was a package offered to managers who volunteered to leave with a layoff pending if they didn’t get enough people taking the package.  The boss took the package and left in mid-December.

At the end of December each of the guys in the group handed in his resignation to the Branch Manager and then shared the frustration of the year with me for the first time.

The company lost 4 good sales guys who were so frustrated that even without the old boss they would not stay.  After all, they said, the branch manager should have noticed and questioned how a novice sales person could get so many sales while the veterans had very lean years.

Sure Steven Slater was wrong to do what he did but did Jet Blue give him an avenue for his frustration so they could address and resolve it?  Maybe these AT&T fellows told the Branch Manager at their exit interviews what had happened but it was too late and they left the company. In January the woman and I were absorbed into other sales groups. I have no idea what became of her.

Burning bridges may feel good in the moment but there is a price to pay later on.  Slater became a folk hero of sorts briefly and it looked like he might build on his fame.  In the end it has been 6 years since we’ve heard about him and if you watched the video you know he spent time in jail.  People who burn bridges by bad mouthing their previous company or manager are not likely to profit.

What lessons can we learn here?  First if you are looking for work, look for a company that values its employees by encouraging feedback and acting on it. Find current employees to talk to off the record and ask questions.

If you are a manager or practice owner, you have a responsibility to listen to your team, to notice when things are not right and to find a workable solution.  Don’t get so involved in your own daily work that you fail to notice what your team is doing and whether something is amiss.  Having happy employees will help you to maintain good customer/client relationships.

Many years ago I read a book by a travel business owner, Hal Rosenbluth, entitled The Customer Comes Second: Put People First and Watch Them Kick Butt.   The title says it all.  More and more businesses today are beginning to worry about keeping good employees engaged with their work.  Maybe putting employees first is the answer.


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What is going on in your workplace that frustrates you?  Do you just grin and bear it or do you want to take action but are not sure what to do?  A coach can help you to look at your situation from several vantage points so that you can see several alternative actions to take.  You can decide on the alternative that is best for you.  Call (781-598-0388) or email ( me to explore ways that we can work together. Mention my blog offer and get a 15% discount on the first month of coaching.


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