There are unbelievably simple hiccups which can be corrected in workplaces so easily, yet they are not addressed. When I see employees caught up in these transgressions it hurts my heart.
Ho‘ohanohano is the work value in Managing with Aloha which beseeches managers to respect and honor the dignity of others. Significant within this, is putting your staff in situations where they are rarely embarrassed or made to look foolish, ill-equipped, and unprepared.
On my way home from the airport today I stopped at Wal*Mart with my two children for some sundries, and this was the scene that played out.
Our cashier and checker was a younger gentleman (we’ll call him Sam) who seemed to be a good picture of efficiency until the woman in front of us paid him with a 100-dollar bill, catching him without change to give her. Just as he said to her, “I’m really sorry, someone right before you paid me with a large bill too, and I’ll have to call for change” another employee swooped in and picked up the phone Sam started to reach for. We all waited as this second employee (we’ll call him Buddy) completed his call on something unrelated, while Sam timidly stood behind him and waited, not able to give the woman the $62.14 he owed her.
As Buddy hung up the phone, he asked Sam, “Hey, why are you keeping everyone waiting?” Sam responded that he needed to call for change, and now deciding to be helpful, Buddy picked up the phone again and dialed, saying to the person who answered, “Yeah, this is Buddy. I’m at station — hey kid, what station is this? — station 14, and the kid here needs change. Okay wait. Hey kid, how much change do you need, and what’s your name?”
Sam answered him, and Buddy relayed, “His name is Sam, and he needs five twenties for a hundred dollar bill.”
Now by this time there are about four more people in line waiting, the woman in front of us is growing visibly more impatient, and Sam is flushed and embarrassed, studying the floor so intently that he has not noticed something. My daughter Ashley is standing less than three feet away from him waiting to pay for about $40 worth of stuff with another 100-dollar bill held in her hand.
Listening to Buddy, Ash turns to me and quietly says, “I think we better pay with something else mom; can we use your charge card?” A second later, Buddy turns to Sam and says, “You’ll just have to wait kid, she says she has 2 other stations waiting for change before you” as he hangs up the phone, turns and walks away.
Knowing we’ve heard Buddy too, Sam withdraws into himself and just prepares to wait, straightening the insufficiently few dollars in his cash drawer, and doing his best to avoid eye contact with anyone else.
My son, my daughter and I all reach for our wallets and see what we can come up with, and I volunteer, “Sam, can you do another transaction before you give her the change? I can’t give you five twenties for the hundred dollar bill, but if you ring us up, we can probably pay you with enough cash to take care of her.” With immense gratitude breaking over his face, Sam rings us up, we pay him with our cash, and the first woman is able to get her change and walk away.
As we collect our own bags and leave Sam and Station 14, my son waits until we are safely out of earshot, and says, “I guess you don’t have to know the other people you work with or learn how to read nametags, or talk quietly and have some class when you work at Wal*Mart.” My daughter says, “Poor Sam, I’m glad we were next in line mom.”
My children weren’t alone in continuing to think about the whole episode. Sam could not have been older than 19 or 20, and I hated the thought that this was his introduction to the wonderful adult world of work.
All the missing elements are so obvious I know I don’t have to list them here for you. Yet managers in countless workplaces will continue to put employees in situations similar to Sam’s.
Please, please, do not be one of those managers. Manage your own work operations with aloha: Ensuring that your staff can work for you while keeping their own dignity intact is not difficult.