I recently went into a store to pick up an order for someone else. When I arrived, I asked for the supervisor of that department by name. She was gone for the day, so a teenager tried to assist me and I proceeded to ask for the order by name and then by description.
The teen was was unaware of the order and asked her two coworkers for help. (Both of them were in their late 50’s.)
Her coworkers just shrugged, said they didn’t know anything and walked away.
So the teenager looked everywhere she could think of, and then asked one of her coworkers for help again.
The elder woman snapped at her and walked away again.
The teenager’s voice quivered a bit but she stayed in the game and said, “I don’t know where to look or how to help the customer, you have been here longer than any of us, so you should know the most. I need your help.”
I was in awe. It was clear that the teen was frustrated. Heck, I was frustrated with her. But she didn’t give up. She didn’t get nasty. She gritted up, got the help she needed, and I left a few minutes later with the order.
Popular perceptions often indicate that younger generations are the cause of teamwork issues in the workplace.
What if they are symptoms of a greater opportunity?
Taking the time to understand root causes and doing something about them will help the team experience less frustration, serve customers more effectively and generate higher profits.
Below are 6 places to start:
- Employee retention: Is this a daily experience for the teen and if so, how long will she stay in this role?
- Historical behavior of the teens: How often have the other teens in the store taken this kind of ownership or do many of them live up to the perception that teens are irresponsible, disrespectful and immature?
- Historical behavior of the oldest generation: How often have the more mature and experienced members of the staff acted like roadblocks instead of being mentors?
- Vision: Has management ever brought the team together and emphasized the value of their diversity as a team? (*See below.)
- Training and development: What kind of customer service and teamwork training has titled leadership provided to the staff?
- Communication and accountability: Have processes ever been put in place that keep both the team and management informed? Are those processes used? How are those processes evaluated?
If you were leading this team what would you do?
* In a recent article about diversity LaRae Quy stated that, “Research has shown that it is a good idea to highlight differences because this tends to make those differences be taken seriously by all members of the team. These were the teams that came up with better ideas than homogenous teams. But, only when they were told to listen to, and respect, the perspectives of their teammates.”