Managers: Don’t Make Your Employees into Lifeless Robots!

17 Nov

This weekend I went to Subway to pick up my favorite sandwich: a Big Philly Cheesesteak with peppers, onions, and chipotle sauce. Right before I paid for my sub a very irate Subway manager came out of the back and began yelling at the employees (in front of the 10 or so customers that were there). He yelled that any employee who engaged in “non-Subway related conversations” would be fired.

Needless to say, all of us customers were taken aback to the point where the girls in front of me could only say “wow.” The Subway immediately turned from a jovial sandwich shop to a gulag. The manager then began to tell to the employee’s that non-Subway related conversations were distracting and made customers feel “unattended.”

I am a fairly regular customer of the Mallinckrodt Subway.  At this point, I am accustomed to the employees having personal conversations while making my sandwich. These conversations never make me feel uncomfortable (certainly not as uncomfortable as I felt after that manager went on his rant) and are understandable. The only thing more boring than making sandwiches is “Subway related” conversations.

Why allowing conversation works

The fact of the matter is Subway employees conversing amongst themselves while working is harmless. As long as the conversations don’t impede taking orders and aren’t about anything extremely inappropriate, let them talk! This rule applies to most of the customer service industry. Employees being allowed to talk will keep them energized and boost morale, both of which are crucial to operations. Management might fear that employee conversation makes customers feel “blocked out.” Any reasonable customer knows that if he wants to bring something up, an employee will stop conversing with his co-worker and tend to the customer. Most co-workers will stop conversing when customers are around anyway.

Management in the customer service field; let your employees talk to one another. Let them bring a little life into the workplace so it doesn’t become a sterile setting that customers will end up seeing as lifeless. Customers are always attracted to a happy workplace; allowing employee conversation allows for that happiness. This will bring in customers and increase revenue. Creating a hostile environment will do the complete opposite. Conversing is good for employees and, in turn, good for the company.

by Matt Calvi

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One Response to “Managers: Don’t Make Your Employees into Lifeless Robots!”

  1. Silke Sen November 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Matt,
    I agree that allowing personal conversation is likely to help morale. I also agree that the manager could have found a more appropriate, not to mention professional way to address this issue. However, there is a time and place for everything. Not only do Subway’s “artists” work in a public space, each sub is customized as it’s produced, necessitating customer interaction during the entire process in an intensely busy environment. In Subway’s particular setting, personal conversations, especially during the busiest times, detract from providing good customer service, making the policy reasonable and necessary. Out of view and during slow times, all should be allowed to chat away.

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