“Dangerous demolition of goodwill”- 8 July 2014.

The problem the new CEO faced was altogether different. His field staff was all right and did its work diligently. Its income curve, too, was rising all the time. But the trouble was in the head office where the staff did not treat visitors with courtesy. Most visitors went back unhappy because the staff did not help them solve their individual problems. On many occasions, they went back feeling insulted as the staff did not mind using harsh words while dealing with them.
What was being lost was just some business but also the company’s goodwill. The CEO’s predecessor often made promises but went back on his word. He also said something and did something else. This habit of his percolated to the staff whose members too, started taking undue liberties with the visitors.
As a result, the past some years saw a decline in the company’s good name in the marketplace, which reflected badly on the quantum of business overall.
The new CEO would not understand how to handle the situation. His appeals to the staff did not make much sense because the staff was not willing to see things from his perspective. He also hired a few trainers to help the staff change its negativism. Nothing worked, and the problem of rude behaviour of the staff continued.
When she saw her husband at his wit’s end, the CEOs wife wondered if she could help. Already exasperated by the bad experience in the first few months in the new job, the CEO said ‘yes’.
There were no quick-fixes available, of course. The first lady started slowly, asking at a time five or six staffers to join her for coffee at the canteen with no specific agenda. She would start a subject and allow the conversation to take its own course. The purpose was not to deliver any message or direct the staff or even preach good behaviour. The purpose was only to help the staff unwind its pent up feelings on many issues.
In a few months, the coffee meetings started attracting more and more willing staffers wanting to join. And as those meetings went on, the CEO started witnessing some positive change in the staff’s behaviour with visitors to the premises. The CEO felt surprised, and asked his wife the magic she was making possible.
She just smiled, and said, “Look, in all the previous years, the staffers have never got an opportunity to speak up their minds. Your predecessors did not believe that employees needed to unwind. I am not doing anything special, but only offering the staff an opportunity to speak up and unwind in sort of a semi-official condition. I am offering them the opportunity. They feel that when someone gives them a chance to unwind, they can always remain cheerful. That is now beginning to reflect in the behaviour of the staff of your company”.
The trick is, thus, to offer the staff an opportunity to unwind so that their pent up feelings do not get a cancerous proportion, which is the case with countless enterprises. The owners or promoters do not realise that if the staff is not allowed to speak its mind and unwind, then its’ will turn into sort of a time-bomb waiting to explode. In fact, a system should be in place that would allow the staff to open their minds and feel free without the burden of pent up feelings — of anger or disgust or anything.
Unfortunately, in most places, this approach is never taken by the managements or the company leaders. There often is a wide communication gap between the staffers and the owners. And that is the trouble-spot. For, it is through such gaps that discontent enters a workplace, which most CEOs do not realise. As a result, most CEOs work with an unhappy or discontented staff, which brings down the income curve of the company. Fundamentally, the managements must ensure that the staff is allowed to express itself properly. When that happens for some time, things begin to improve all by themselves.

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