When Carl’s Jr started popping up in Texas, I couldn’t have been happier. I had always wanted to try a burger from the California chain and being able to get a fast food burger at some place other than Burger King, McDonald’s, or Wendy’s was a welcome change. After having to watch the restaurant remain closed for training every time I visited my old college town was torture. Finally, after a few weeks of this pain, I finally got to experience my first Carl’s Jr. burger and it was everything I had hoped it would be. My next experience was vastly different.
It all happened on a Sunday afternoon with my girlfriend as I was heading back home after visiting friends during the weekend. The first visit it had been packed and it was equally packed on this day as well. The line to order inside wasn’t long at all with an older gentleman, and a mother with her three boys in front of us. I started noticing a problem though once the mother was ordering. Everyone can expect to receive rude customers at this type of place, so the employee should have expected this. However that wasn’t the problem. The employee handling this woman’s order appeared to have no clue where any buttons were on her register and was taking way to long to put in a simple order. The woman appeared not to know the employee either which was amazing because she looked like she ate their every day. Coupled with this problem was another employee who was sighing and moaning every few seconds as he watched this encounter take place, not offering any help in the process.
Our order didn’t take too long and soon we were waiting for our food along with the two other groups who were in front of us in line. At this point I took a good look at the employees working at a feverish pace behind the counter trying to pump out orders. I always try and make it a point to look for the manager in these situations, because I always like to see how the manager is interacting with his employees, if they are working alongside them, or simply watching the action. In this case the manager was working alongside her employees by helping the drive-through line move quickly. The other and more important observation that I made was that each and every single employee appeared to hate being there. The manager looked on the verge of tears and her employees had looks ranging from “I don’t care anymore” to looks of heavy stress and defeat. Like any problem, there is a cause. However, the cause is not what you might think. Patrick Lencioni, acclaimed author of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, wrote that often times a manager can make or break the way an employee feels about his or her work situation. This was enormously true in this situation.
After twenty minutes of waiting, and a lot of complaining from the mother, we finally got our food. The manager had seen me watching everything and motioned to me if I wanted ketchup or anything in our bag. After loading up our bag with ketchup, ranch, and anything else imaginable, she handed us our bag and apologized for everything and said that six people hadn’t shown up for their shifts that morning. I left thinking that her explanation made sense and that the reasons the employees hated their jobs were due to low pay and stressful working conditions because of the missing employees. Lencioni , however, proposes different reasons as to why the employees appeared to hate their jobs.
Lencioni uses three signs that can show how miserable a job can be for someone:
In other words, if someone is ignored, forgotten, and cannot measure their success they will inevitably begin to hate their jobs. It explains why movie stars turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with their lives. The signs make perfect sense and are very easy to understand, but what is mind boggling is how many managers fail to implement strategies that prevent these three things from becoming problems. Instead we are faced with people everyday who would rather watch paint dry than go to
work. Think of it this way, who likes Chick-fil-a? Of course you do, I do too. Now, this may not be the case at every Chick-fil-a, but I’ve certainly experienced this at the ones I’ve been to, you’ve probably noticed that you are always treated wonderfully at Chick-fil-a. Every time I go I am told that it’s a great day there. What an awesome place it must be to work! It’s clear if you go inside one and just watch the way they work for just a few minutes that the manager knows who his employees are (Anonymity), the employees know that they matter to him (Irrelevance), and they are able to measure (Immeasurement) how successful they are on a given day by simple measurements of how pleased their customers were, if there were any complaints, etc. What’s clear is that if every manager took up Lencioni’s principles, then jobs would be much more fulfilling and enjoyable than they are today.
Every time I go I am told that it’s a great day there. What an awesome place it must be to work!