Steps toward Improving Morale

Slowly, slowly the self attitude changes.  It takes more effort than expected.  You’re getting used to not bawling yourself out and calling yourself names or defining your character by the things you do wrong instead of the things you do right.  Now the awakening takes place.  You start hearing people around you making the same comments about themselves or others.  It’s a cultural thing.  We make fun of people that have a really high opinion of themselves.  Mac Davis wrote a song about a guy like that … “Oh Lord It’s Hard to be Humble.”  So if someone has a good self image, they’re supposed to be humble about it.  There’s a difference between humble and self deprecating.  Take for instance the woman in the new dress.  Her friend comes up and says, “That dress looks amazing on you!”  If she were humble, she’d reply, “I loved the color and the way it fit!  I’m glad you like it too!”  If she was self deprecating, “Oh, this old thing?  I just got it at a Goodwill store, on sale, in the estate sale department, 3 years ago, almost threw it out but thought I’d wear it instead.”  Another example:  a guy sees his neighbor out cutting his hedge.  He walks up and says, “I really like the way you keep your yard so perfect!”  If he replied, “Oh?  Well, it just looks good next to yours.  If you’d take a little time and effort maybe you could clean yours up.  And though  I am glad you noticed, I get lots of awards for how great my flowers and lawn look, and I don’t need your opinion to make me feel better.”  This guy might have to be restrained from throwing garbage over the hedge and backing over his neighbor’s perfect flower garden.  If the neighbor replied instead, “Oh?  Well, I just putter around, it’s not all that impressive,”  that would be self deprecating.  The best answer would be, “Oh?  Thanks!  I love working on my yard.  I like getting out in the sunshine and it’s great to look out my window and see the stuff I’ve worked on.  I’m glad you enjoy it too!”  So when you’re paid a compliment, do not diminish your accomplishment.  Say, “Thank you!”  But now that you’ve learned this, how do you teach it to others?  Start with the people you’re with the most.

It’s all about recognizing what’s good and right.  Most of the recognition we get is about what is wrong and awful.  How does it work?  We don’t do the overpraising approach.  “Hey!  you’re wearing matching socks!  High Five!”  That’s just stupid.  But how about recognizing that the secretary is always so organized and on time?  Well she’s supposed to be.  But!!!  If you were to say to her one day, “Susan, you know it’s really great that I know that the 1st person I’m going to see in the morning is you with that big smile!  I don’t know how you keep your desk so clean with all the stuff you have to do.  You make my coming to work much more pleasant!  Thank you!”  Then, walk off.  You just made her day.

When I worked in (shudders) fast food, there was the day crew vs. night crew war.  The morning crew was mostly made up of the long timers–people that had worked the same position in the same store for 10 years or more:  the biscuit lady, the salad lady, the opening cook, and 2 floaters in the kitchen, and the counter opener and a runner on the front line.  The night crew was mostly high school and college kids, part timers, and short timers (those that only work a few months).  Health inspections and District manager inspections usually occurred in the morning.  When the morning crew learned of a pending inspection, they would show up 1 hour before their shifts and detail the store off the clock.  The manager did not know about this practice and was amazed when he found out.  The Reason they showed up at 4 AM and worked an hour without pay was because the night crew 1) never stocked the product,  2) didn’t know how to clean anything, 3) didn’t set up the stations often leaving unwashed dishes in the sink and leaving the utensils and cookware in the dish washing machine overnight, and 4) didn’t care there was an inspection.  Nearly every morning, there was a nastygram posted on the bulletin board about the things the night crew did or neglected.  Nearly every day, the manager got an earful of how bad the night crew was.  Nearly every night, the night crew was scrambling before rush hour to get things stocked and set up.  They complained that the day crew looked at their watches and just left whether there were things to be done or not.  Tensions were high.  The night crew called the day crew the battleaxe brigade.  The day crew called the night crew brats.  I worked both shifts.

One day, I had a show down with one of the night crew, Nathan, on how to clean the grill.  I said I’d clean one part of the grill, and cover it up, and he’d clean the other part of the grill.  Whoever won didn’t have to change the grease in the fryers for a month.  When we compared, his was pretty clean.  Then I uncovered my side and it gleamed.  There was a very obvious difference.  I explained that every thing he did, he put his name on, and asked him if he wanted to learn how I’d done it.  He did, so I taught him.  Three days later, I came in to open the back line and my eggs nearly slid off the grill.  I checked the schedule and sure enough, Nathan had closed.  I left him a note.  “Dear Nathan, I was astounded by the grill this morning.  It was clean to the edges and my eggs didn’t stick and the grease traps were empty and clean.  Thanks a bunch!  BTW, I double stocked your meat cooler for you and you have 12 cases of fries ready to go.  Thanks again!”  Knowing that the presence of a note, especially a note with a name on it, meant someone had really messed up, when Nathan came in, he cursed and swore and threw the note into the trash without reading it.  I was there.  I grabbed the note out of the trash and confronted him.  I said, “If I leave you a note, YOU READ IT!  YOU CLEAR?!!!!”  I handed him the note and he read it.  He got this really confused look on his face, and turned it over.  I asked him why he was checking the back of the note and he replied that he was looking for the “But.”  I told him there wasn’t any.  What transpired was that more and more of the night crew were learning to properly clean the grill, and I found myself stocked as well.  Then, to my amazement, one of the night crew, David, asked the salad lady if there was anything he could do to get her set up for the morning.  She stood there with her mouth open, and then showed him.  We then told the night crew what the inspections from the District Manager and the Health Department looked for.  The night crew left a note for us.  “We cleaned behind the fryers, washed out the grease traps, swept out the walk-in cooler and the freezer.”  We stocked them up really well that night.  Day crew and night crew came up with THE LIST” of things that needed to be checked off before anyone went home.  The war was over!

When we switched from blistering critique to notes of appreciation, our short timers actually stayed longer and trained all the new folks on the procedures and the stress level on day crew went down exponentially.  Health inspections went from scores of 85 to 98.  The District manager used our restaurant to train managers for many of the new locations.  The turnover rate for that restaurant went from about 500% (which is a completely new crew 5 times in the year) to a little over 200%, which, if you remember that some crew only works during the summers, and others leave to other jobs, is very very low for fast food.  The morale in the store went way up, and the pride they took in their work also went way up.  Complaints from customers were few and far between.  The morale made the difference.

Recommended books:  What you say when you talk to yourself, Shad Helmstetter, How to Influence People, Maxwell, How to make friends and Influence people, Carnegie, Becoming a person of influence, Maxwell.

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