Never Discipline At Start Of A Shift

Jim Luff
Posted on June 5, 2013

The Unfriendly Skies of United Airlines recently made me realize that bad news can put employees in bad moods.
As I finished my recent vacation in Colorado, I flew on United Airlines to get home. It was anything but the friendly skies. They have heard my complaint and they know about this blog.

Many years ago, as a young manager, I learned a valuable lesson about the timing of discipline. The thing about our business is we frequently do not hear about a complaint until the next day. Naturally, when a client calls to complain about something, you just want to confront the chauffeur about the complaint and hear their side of it immediately.

The next time you see him is usually when he is reporting for work again.  Unfortunately, this is the absolute worst time to discuss the matter. Your employee is getting ready to go out and be the face of your company to another client. Do you want that client to call and complain as well? If you choose to have a confrontation with an employee right before they leave on a run, you increase the chances of them being involved in an accident, abusing your vehicle, being rude to the client and a host of other problems.

I can only assume that some manager in Denver really let our cabin crew have it. They were the most unfriendly flight attendants I have ever seen. All of them seemed so upset and angry that the entire plane was very quiet and reserved. A passenger in a seat next to me was verbally scolded after the emergency procedures speech. The attendant asked the passenger, “Did you hear anything at all that was just said”? He put his book down and replied, “No.” She told him that he had been instructed to pay attention. When I asked if I could have the whole can of ginger ale instead of just the little cup, another attendant replied, “No!” Wow! Another flight attendant was a “person of size” and continually knocked books out of people’s hands and jostled their laptops as he moved through the cabin and never once apologized.

So, if you must discipline, your best bet is to wait until the chauffeur comes in from a trip. Or, call him in to the office at a time mutually agreed upon or talk to him on his day off. You never want to upset the help when you are counting on the help to represent your company in the face of the client.  The two do not go hand-in-hand and attitude is everything in this business.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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