Earlier, I wrote about a hotel where the staff routinely lied to
their customers. They misled them by booking their reservations for a
building that was not available. They let their customers believe they
were getting a certain “product” even though they knew that product was
not available. I consider that a lie.
In cases like these it would be easy to blame the employees for the
bad behavior. But I don’t. At least not entirely. They were just acting
on orders from management. And, who knows, their jobs might be at risk
if they chose to not follow those orders.
On the other hand, no matter who and where we are, no matter what
our jobs are, we always have a choice in what we do and how we do it.
Misleading your customers is a lousy thing to do. It’s dishonest. If as
an employee, I’m asked to do something I think is wrong, I always have
a choice to not do it. I also have to face the consequences of my
If I’m an employee and I value honesty and openness in how I deal
with others, I’m going to prefer a job where I can live those values
without conflict or repercussions. If I am constantly asked to act in
ways that conflict with those values, I’ll eventually experience stress
or other issues that could make me less effective in my job.
This is critical in creating a workplace that works well.
When I ask employees what keeps them from giving their customers the
best customer service, the number one answer is: management (or some
variation such as “my boss”, “not enough time”, etc.). They say they
get mixed messages about what is most important. That makes it hard for
them to know what their priorities should be.
This is a double-edged sword.
As I mentioned above, every employee has the option to provide great
customer service every time. It’s up to them. But they also have to
accept the consequences of doing so. That might mean not getting other
work done. It might mean contradicting what their boss told them to do.
It could mean (in the employees mind) they put their job at risk.
As a manager, leader or owner, you need to understand this. If you
tell employees to deliver amazing service but limit their ability to do
so, you’re making it hard for them to be effective and successful. You
might say your company has certain values. But if your actions do not
support them, employees and customers will know. They’ll see it.
Remember, actions still speak louder than words.
In the hotel example above, I doubt the management team tells
employees “we value dishonesty” and “we want you to lie to our
customers”. But their actions (through policies or procedures)
compelled their employees to mislead their customers. The result is a
conflict of values and actions. And a values-behavior conflict will
eventually lead to other conflicts and problems.
If you want your employees to stay motivated to serve customers
well, you need to tell them and show them that you value great customer
service. Your actions, policies, procedures and words all need to
demonstrate this in an ongoing way. They need to be consistent. When
you affirm your values (with your employees and customers) you create
an environment where everyone cane be focused on the same goal: helping
the customer get what they want in a way that is sustainable for your
How about your company? Are there unintentional conflicts? Are there
ways is which your company values clash with what actually happens in