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Will we ever get a real working class hero?

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Image: Bob RosnerIs there anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater’s profanity filled tirade and exit down the emergency chute carrying beer?

From the Asian animation of his battle with the passenger, 140,000 Facebook fans and T-Shirts, we finally have an authentic working class hero who symbolizes all the frustrations of trying to survive the surly attitudes so common in today’s recession. Or do we?

Turns out that no passengers actually saw the altercation with the passenger that resulted in a gash on Slater’s forehead. In fact, one of the first passengers on the flight claims that Slater had the gash before any passengers boarded the plane.

He was mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore.

But was his anger based on something that really happened, or did it just happen in his own mind? Maybe this doesn’t matter to you, but if we’re all going to nominate this guy to hero status, I’d like his story to align with other people who were on the flight.

Okay, I saw the movie Red Eye. When Jodie Foster’s kid disappeared on a plane in flight. So the woman who slugged him could have gone all Hollywood and disappeared. But the fact that no one corroborated his story and how he got that nasty gash on his forehead does trouble me.

Earlier in the year we had Conan. Remember when Coco was bounced from his Tonight Show perch. Sure NBC didn’t handle this very gracefully. But he did get many millions of dollars. And ratings have improved dramatically for his replacement, Jay Leno. Oops another working class hero who is hard to relate to.

Can’t a guy get an authentic working class hero anymore? Is that too much to ask?

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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Extreme Customer Service

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Image: Bob RosnerHave you ever felt like you were an imposition on the staff of a retail chain? That somehow you were getting in the way of what they were meant to do—namely talk on the phone to their friends or discuss the social goings on of their fellow employees? You’re not alone (and yes, I’m a bit jaded on the current state of customer service).

Customer service seems on track to becoming the biggest oxymoronic statement this side of jumbo shrimp and military intelligence. But there is suddenly hope on the horizon and the lessons come from “Safecatch,” a Washington State program to thwart bank robberies.

No that was not a typo, bear with me and you’ll see what McGruff the crime dog can do to improve your business. First some background. Washington was at the top of the bank robbery charts in the United States. Who knew that the rain drove a percentage of the population indoors for this kind of activity?

Note the use of the past tense in describing the bank robbery status. Because suddenly robberies are down by almost half in Seattle, thanks to the Safecatch program. And it’s now being rolled out in cities across the state and country.

So what is the Safecatch secret? Armed security guards in every branch? Better alarms to signal the local police? Better exploding dye packs? Better profiling to spot potential bank robbers as soon as they enter the bank?

No. Safecatch has been called “customer service on steroids.” It’s a program where bank employees greet every person who enters the bank. Looks ‘em right in the eye and gives a big “Hello” and “How are you doing?” to every customer.

In this high tech age, it seems almost laughable that such a low-tech strategy would impact someone carrying a gun with an intent to relieve the bank of a pile of its cash. “Hello” and “How are you doing?” evoke quaint memories of a bygone era, not a cutting edge crime fighting strategy.

But it turns out that bank robbers often crave anonymity. They want to slink-in and slink-out all the while hardly making an impression on anyone. So many are unnerved when they are acknowledged and clearly recognized by someone.

“Hello” and “How are you doing?” How often do your customers get this basic acknowledgment in your business? Chances are, not as often as you think they do.

Even more important, how often are your employees acknowledged and recognized for their efforts? I know what you are thinking to yourself, acknowledge and recognize—isn’t that the purpose of a paycheck? Well yes, and no. Paychecks are great, but they quickly become wallpaper to the average employee. Something easily overlooked. Acknowledgement and recognition keep it real.

If a extreme customer services has had such a big impact on bank robberies, imagine what it will do for your employees and customers. Extreme indeed.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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Your Workplace: Puzzle or Mystery?

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Is the challenge you’re currently facing at work a puzzle or mystery? Think about it.

When asked myself this question, I decided this was the most provocative insight I’d heard in a very long time. A distinction that can have a profound impact on how you approach your job and the results that you can expect from it. Unfortunately, most of us fail make this distinction.

First, let me give props to the person who introduced this unique way of addressing challenges, Malcolm Gladwell. In turn, he credits national security expert, Gregory Treverton.

In short, a puzzle can be figured out if you just assemble enough pieces. A mystery lacks “pieces” and it involves a totally different thought process to address.

First, let me give a non-workplace example of each. A puzzle would be trying to find Osama bin Laden. His location could be determined if we only had enough clues. On the other hand, what would happen once the U.S. invaded Iraq is more of a mystery. That outcome was more about guessing than piecing together a puzzle.

The key to me, is that a puzzle is mostly about the left side of your brain. It’s a logical process of collecting data. Get enough data points and you’ll be home free. On the other hand, solutions to a mystery live on the right side of your brain. The artistic, creative and non-logical side. Solving a mystery usually takes leaps of faith and judgment.

Hopefully by now you see the distinction between these two ideas. But what the heck does this have to do with work? Plenty.

Take a poor performing employee. Often we view this as a mystery. They’re getting paid, so it’s a mystery as to why they aren’t performing. To me this is a classic case of a puzzle. Often, when you dig deeper you can see why an employee is not performing. Maybe it’s because they are having problems at home. Maybe they are in the wrong job. Or maybe it’s their manager who is setting them up to fail.

Now let’s take a problem that most of us would see as a puzzle, our customers. If we only have enough focus groups and data we could predict how our customers will react in almost any situation. In fact, economics has a huge number of formulas and ratios that “explain” exactly why we all behave the way we do. There is only one problem, most consumers that I’ve met are anything but rational. We make decisions on whims, poor data and impulse. Calling customers rational might be the biggest oxymoronic statement in business.

Each of us was born with two sides of our brains. Yet, many us tend to use only one side at work. The best part of the puzzle vs. mystery framework is that it forces us to think about the challenge we’re facing and to apply all of our firepower to solving it. So take a hard look at your next challenge and decide whether it is a puzzle or a mystery. And then, and this is the important part, assign it to the correct part of your brain to tackle.


“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.” —Denis Waitley

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and contributor to On The Money. He has been called “Dilbert with a solution.” Check out the free resources available at workplace911.com. You can contact Bob via bob@workplace911.com.

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