Let's admit it. At some point in your career you've played this scene over and over in your head: The song "Take This Job and Shove It" is streaming in your mind, as you enter your boss's office. You then eloquently deliver the news. "I'm out of here!" as you dump your office belongings on top of your boss's cluttered desk. Fade to black, as you strut out the door to a standing ovation by your co-workers.
Last week this scene might have seemed like only a dream. But JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater has now turned the obscure into reality. Slater took the ride of his life when he slid down the emergency shoot of a JetBlue plane in an effort to escape an unruly passenger and the demands of what had become a stressful job. He has become an overnight hero to overworked employees across the globe. I wouldn't be surprised if others quickly followed suit.
In my consulting practice, I work with clients to create retention strategies to prevent costly turnover. We always begin with the employee. We meet with employees and ask some tough questions to find out what's really going on in the organization. We don't stop asking until we find the root cause of their frustration. Only then can we begin the process of putting corrections into place to prevent people from going over the edge. This process is usually tougher on senior management than on the employees themselves, because the executives usually hear things that may wish they never heard. But in the end, they know that together we will build a stronger organization based on these findings.
I'm wondering if this entire PR nightmare could have been avoided, if someone would have taken the time to listen to the concerns Slater had regarding his work as a flight attendant. And when I say someone, I don't mean a computerized survey that gets distributed on an annual basis. Employees need to talk to a real live person who can respond with empathy and who can influence management to take a serious look at some serious matters.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the forthcoming book, Suddenly in Charge! Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, January 2011). Visit Roberta's Blog on the Generations at Work or her Linked-in Group Suddenly in Charge! Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.