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Edition 76 – The Bus

One of my great clients emailed me one Thursday morning in complete and utter frustration.

An employee had asked her, at short notice, whether she could have a day off to go on an “adventure day” with one of her friends. My client responded that if the employee could find someone else in their small team that could swap shifts with her, she would happily oblige.

The employee undertook the task, however, due to the short notice, no other employees could change their commitments and swap shifts with her. Which you think might be the end of it? But it wasn’t.

The employee came back and advised that whilst she hadn’t found a suitable replacement, she still wanted the day off. My client refused. There was a business to run, customers to look after and she was needed to fulfil her duties on that day if no one else could cover for her.

The employee started to become belligerent. The employee objected to my client’s “lack of flexibility”. The employee objected to the fact that my client was “preventing them from doing something she really wanted to do”. The employee then proceeded to give feedback as to my client’s management style. Hence, the frustrating email I received.

Here is the response, verbatim, that I sent back to my client:

The bus pulled up to the bus stop.
The bus’ destination was on the display board on the front of the bus.
The passenger hops on the bus, pays her fare then takes a seat.
The bus continues on the journey to its destination.
Part way through the trip, the passenger started telling the bus driver that she wants him to change direction and head for a new destination.
He says he can’t as he is heading for the destination that is on the display board on the front of the bus.
She says that’s not right as she now needs to go to a different destination.
The bus driver says that is the way it is – he is on a designated route.
The Passenger continues to complain.
“You’re not listening to me,” the Passenger tells the Bus Driver. “I want to go to a new destination”.
The Bus Driver pulls off the roadway and comes to a complete stop.
He turns around and tells her, very politely and calmly, that she has two choices:
1. Stay on the bus until they arrive at the destination; or,
2. Hop off the bus right now and find another way to make the journey to her new destination.

So, here’s the rub. If you are a manager or an owner of a family business, you do not have to accept this sort of behaviour from your staff. You are the one that opens the door each day, bears the risk, borrows the money from the bank and employs people that can feed their families, pay their mortgages and create economic activity.

Provided you treat your employees with respect, pay them well, give them interesting work to do and do not mistreat them, you have an agreement in place for them to provide labour and for you to pay them. And, if they have an issue with that, maybe it is time to pull the bus over to the side of the road.

This Week’s Tip

If you experience belligerence with an employee, the best thing you can do is remain calm, be firm and state clearly your reasonable position. If it is you that loses your cool, you’ll have lost the high ground.