I worked at a fast food restaurant in high school. My co-workers and I started most shifts with a quick meeting to get our manager’s instructions for the day. I vividly remember one such pre-shift huddle, not because of what he said to us at the beginning of the shift, but because of what transpired shortly thereafter.
That day the manager told us that we had a change in policy and that we were no longer selling a particular product combination because of a change in pricing. “If they ask for it,” he instructed, “simply tell them that we’ve had a change in policy and have decided to stop selling that meal combination at that price.”
He confirmed our understanding of the new policy and released us to start our shift.
I was working at the register that day. My job was to greet customers, take their orders, handle the payment process, and quickly and accurately deliver their food. Having performed this job for a while, I was concerned about the new policy. I knew that customers had grown to expect this particular deal.
As expected, within the first few minutes of my shift, a customer approached the counter. We exchanged pleasantries and then she asked for the deal. I politely told her that we no longer offered that package at that price.
She pushed back, “What do you mean you don’t offer that anymore? I’ve ordered that meal combination for years!”
I responded, “I’m very sorry, but there has been a change in our pricing policy.”
The customer retorted, “Let me talk to your manager!”
“Give me a moment and I will get him,” I replied.
I quickly walked to the back of the restaurant and informed my supervisor of the situation. I then followed him back to the counter where the frustrated customer was waiting for his arrival.
The exchange was quick.
She told him what she wanted. He agreed with her request. He then turned to me and said to give it to her.
That was it.
He didn’t mention the change in policy to her. He didn’t defend my words. He just gave it to her. I was left looking foolish and feeling completely abandoned. Clearly, he didn’t have my back.
At that very moment, my relationship with him changed.
Questions for you to consider:
- Do your employees know that you have their backs? What would you point at or tell others about to support your answer?
- How do you handle it when a new policy or procedure is put in place that requires your people to deliver ‘bad news’ to your customers?
- Who might benefit from a conversation with you about your willingness to support their efforts? How could you make that conversation happen?
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.