I personally had a situation at an entrepreneurial seminar a couple years ago.
It was a smaller event (35 people) held in a hotel meeting space in Los Angeles.
It was my client’s event, and I was there at the client’s request to supervise the people managing the event logistics and the back-of-the-room order process so the client could stay 100% focused on the intersection of his brilliance and passion.
I had a headache, and knew from experience that my regular headache medicine coupled with a nice, cool, glass of iced tea was the magic to cure those headache blahs.
No big deal, under ordinary circumstances.
I slipped out of the room, went up to the front desk (which was both nearby and not busy as it was early afternoon) and requested the glass of tea. The attendant smiled and told me they’d gladly bring it right over.
I had my Stevia packets ready. No bland tea for me!
Well, 45 minutes went by.
But in that same amount of time, other hotel staff came by to remove empty water pitchers and adjust the room temperature.
Still no tea.
My client called a 15-minute break and I bee-lined to the front desk to ask about the glass of iced tea.
Here’s Where The Fun Begins… (And Boy, Did It Hurt!)
If I didn’t already have a headache, I would have gotten one from what came next.
The same front-desk person I spoke with before suddenly had no memory of my request for iced tea.
After some creative memory-jogging on my part (my head was by now splitting in two from inside), the desk attendant, acknowledged, with a sigh, that he had called the kitchen about 45 minutes earlier to ask for my glass of tea to be delivered.
So he made the same call, and was told the kitchen staff was on break.
At this time, I politely asked for a supervisor. Within seconds, the front desk supervisor appeared. That was quick.
I explained the situation.
The front desk supervisor said “Ok, I’ll call the kitchen supervisor and find out what’s going on.”
He then made the call, got no answer, and said after hanging up, “Looks like no one’s there. I’ll call them in about 20 minutes to ask about your tea.”
With all these people making calls and following up, while still no glass of iced tea materialized, I’d like to point out
The Kitchen Was Literally Twelve Steps Away From The Front Desk
In fact, when the front desk supervisor made the call… I could hear the extension in the kitchen ringing.
This fact was not lost on me.
I was in pretty severe First World Problem pain by now, so I steeled myself and went down the list:
- Nearly an hour had now passed since I first requested the iced tea
- When I requested the tea, I had been told it would be brought to the event room “right away”
- Two other hotel employees had visited the seminar room since the initial request had been made, with no iced tea in hand
- So far, three phone calls had been made to the kitchen concerning a glass of iced tea, but no iced tea had materialized
Now in righteous frustration, I said aloud – using the same “radio voice” people love when they tune in every week to the Business Creators’ Radio Show –
“What I see here is a lot of talk, talk, talk, more talk, and a load of buck-passing. Do you mean I have to personally PROJECT MANAGE the pouring of a glass of iced tea and its subsequent delivery across the eighteen steps between the kitchen and the event room?”
When I’ve told this story in discussion forums, the most common reaction from those reading it has been something like “If that was me, I would have stormed into the kitchen, poured the iced tea myself, and DARED THEM to stop me!”
Candidly, that thought crossed my mind while this situation was happening, because my head hurt something fierce.
Anyway, my exasperated response triggered more apologies and promises that further phone calls and follow-ups will be made.
Meanwhile, the people at the desk were doing nothing.
No hotel guests were in line to check in, check out, etc.
You don’t need four people at the front desk to accomplish literally nothing, and only one to answer the phone if it rings.
Now let’s ask the question:
NONE Of The Four People At The Front Desk Knew How To Pour A Glass Of Tea?
You may be asking what my problem was. Was I being a big baby about it?
It’s pretty simple – and no, I wasn’t.
Why didn’t I get some iced tea from the vending machine? Because they didn’t have one.
Does this make me a big whiner? Whether in your view it does or it doesn’t, the fact is, I asked for iced tea and they said they’d bring it to me. Why wouldn’t I take YES for an answer?
Could I wash down the pills with water? Sure. But I wanted iced tea. I asked for iced tea. I was told I would get iced tea. I had every reason to expect iced tea.
If they weren’t going to get me iced tea, they should have just told me so.
What’s going on here?
What was the big deal?
Were The People At The Front Desk AFRAID To Walk To The Kitchen And Pour Some Tea?
Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me.
My educated guess is, some of them had gone above-and-beyond for a guest before, only to be reprimanded about being away from their station and told there would be consequences if they “messed up” like that again.
To management, it didn’t matter that doing so would constitute exemplary customer service that could lead to a raving Yelp review and persuade more companies to pay money and hold events there.
Damnit, you’re front desk!
Someone else is supposed to pour iced tea!
Don’t ever step on your colleague’s toes again, even if they’re all out on break and you’re just helping out!
What if four people showed up to check in, and there were only three people at the desk while you’re off screwing around doing other people’s jobs? (As if literally nobody has ever had to wait 5 minutes to check in or something.)
No good deed goes unpunished!
Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
Look at your own organizational team dynamic.
What Happens When A Business Creator Takes The Day Off?
Do things keep humming along?
If a reasonable decision (not a life-and-death thing, just a judgment-call item to keep things on schedule) needs to be taken in the owner’s absence, does someone say “I take full responsibility. If the owner has a problem, I’ll handle it” or similar?
If not, why not?
Does the phrase “Well, I did my part” come up more than it should? (Hint: the first time it gets said is one time too many. There are issues burrowed deep here.)
In short: are the so-called “job responsibilities” so tightly defined that if the official iced-tea getter is on break, 4 other people will literally stand around and do nothing rather than walk 12 steps to the kitchen and pour a glass for the hotel guest?
Would someone get written up or fired for doing so?
Give it a good look, with a fresh set of eyes and no preconceptions.
Hold your breath for 10 seconds and watch how your mind chatter clears, before you do so. (This is a common technique taught by behavioral therapists. Try it now! Watch!)
Failing to take this clear look could leave your entire organization… thirsty.
While we’re at it, here’s another question.