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The Other Side of Fear


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Company owners sometimes struggle with terminating long-term employees, especially those who serve in a management capacity. The fear of not knowing what might happen afterwards is real. The case study below sheds light on the importance of doing the right thing, no matter what.  

Two clients shared a customer service management issue. Both managers were long-term employees with lots of technical knowledge which made them appear indispensable to the company owners.  

As the consultant, I had assessed that both customer service managers were a corporate liability. In varying degrees, they lacked the people skills, flexibility, and operational management understanding to run a service operation. Perhaps the asset which was most deficient was the desire to learn and apply new skills.  

Both managers resisted change. 

The company owners seemed either in denial or naïve to what was really happening. After consultation and training I concluded that both managers should be replaced.  

Neither company owner was happy with my conclusion. They both urged me to find a way to make things work out. I reaffirmed to both company owners that management changes are necessary sometimes, and this was one of those times.  

Company A terminated their customer service manager and Company B did not.  

Months later, the owner at Company A enthusiastically shared with me that their customer service department was much more productive, teamwork and cooperation was the best it had been in years, and customer retention was up. The service department was infused with vigor, vitality, and a renewed sense of service excellence. 

He confessed that he had no idea one person could be stifling so many latent assets. In addition, he also learned that the front-line service reps didn’t like the customer service manager but were too afraid to say anything. The owner learned about this afterwards when employees thanked him for making the change. 

The owner of Company A also confessed that his fear of the old manager’s indispensability was groundless.  

The news about Company B was less positive. The company owner shared that business was stagnant and he blamed it on the economy. I listened empathetically, but I knew what was really going on.  

The owner of Company B was still in denial about his customer service manager’s indispensability. There was an attrition factor at work in Company B. 

The attrition factor validates the belief that things can go either forward or backward, but they never stay the same. Therefore, Company B’s false belief that doing nothing would result in unchanged service was incorrect.  

Terminating employees, especially managers, requires lots of grit along with the help of HR personnel to avert legal issues, but when it’s necessary — it’s necessary. 

An errant employee with a bad attitude, who negatively affects other employees, becomes a cancer which spreads throughout the organization. An errant manager makes things worse and must be removed. 

The fear that company owners face when making personnel changes is expected. What is required is a core belief that improvement lies on the other side of fear. 

Steve Coscia
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Customer Service

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