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HR Handled Right

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It’s not often I get to experience the real-world parallel to a study I’d just read, but this weekend was the exception. Here’s what happened: My four kids and I were waiting to get a taxi from the MGM Grand to the Venetian where we were going to see a show. Apparently, there is a limit of five passengers per taxi and so we were at the max. A car pulled up, the doorman opened the door, and we started piling in.

When Customer Service Gets Ugly

However, the taxi driver began shaking his head and telling the doorman that he could not take us because there were kids under age 18 and he did not have enough seatbelts. The doorman reiterated the five passenger limit and indicated that the two largest of us (myself and my 15 year old) would sit up front, allowing the three youngest to sit with seatbelts in the back.

Again, the driver, obviously distressed, told the doorman that he did not want to get a ticket and he was not supposed to transport any child without a seatbelt. (For those of you wondering where my motherly instincts were, they were apparently dulled by fatigue and rationalized away with the logic that traffic was traveling at a snail’s pace and the trip was a short one).

Here’s where it got interesting. The doorman, infuriated that we had already been waiting in line (as were lots of people behind us), not only expressed his disgust at the taxi driver, he told the taxi driver that no passenger would be riding with him from the MGM. When the driver continued to protest, he sneeringly called security over and told the taxi driver that his business was no longer welcome at the MGM. All this while, the doorman would periodically roll his eyes at us and apologize for the apparent idiocy of the reluctant taxi driver.

When we were riding in the next taxi, the first thing my 15 year old son said was, “What a Jerk!” He wasn’t referring to the recently dismissed cabbie, but to the doorman who had so zealously serviced us – and mistreated the taxi driver.

Customers Don’t Appreciate Misbehavior

While I’m sure the taxi driver would have been astounded at the negative impression his actions created, authors of a recent article in the Journal of Consumer Research wouldn’t be. After conducting several studies of employee-employee incivility, USC authors Christine Porath, Debbie MacInnis and Valerie Folkes concluded a) consumers often witnesses employees being rude to one another and b) when they do, it creates a negative impression of the entire company even when the incivil employee is trying to help the customer resolve a service problem.

In a work environment, discussions about inappropriate behavior most often center on harassment/discrimination and sorting out (and avoiding) what words and actions can lead to lawsuits. These studies (and my own experience) suggest that how employees treat each other – and are treated by their managers – can be as much a customer service issue as employment liability concern – and that savvy employers find ways to reinforce respectful treatment in a variety of training opportunities and formats.

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