Friday, May 13, 2011

Crossing the Line

I was shocked at my recent experience with a bank employee. Many organizations are striving for an emotional connection with their customer. This interaction certainly solicited emotion however shock was the wrong kind.

I was at my bank to close a small business account and transfer the amount to the general business account. Since the account is rarely used, the statements are issued quarterly. When reviewing the last one, I noticed fees were eating away at the balance. My request was a simple transaction. The customer service representative at the branch is a guy I have been served by often. When expressing the reason for my request, he leaned across the desk and said, “ I am so sick of this place”. I guess my look of raised eyebrows conveyed consent for him to continue. He stated his displeasure with the fees being charged to customers. His comments included a few choice and colorful adjectives to describe the fees. I was shocked by his comments and inappropriate language.

My thoughts ranged from –
Is this an awful place to work?
Is this his version of empathy for the customer?,
Does he think just because I am a frequent customer that he can be “honest” with me?
Should I tell the manager?

I really did not respond to any of his comments. He seemed to enjoy hearing himself talk. The paperwork was offered and I signed. Then he asked me an interesting question, “So what does Ford Group do, what is your business?” Of course, I was happy to tell him. His tone changed and his professionalism seemed to return.

I hope this situation causes you to check your team members. Ask these questions –
- Do you have an employee who is acting “too familiar” with a customer?
- Is someone crossing the line with language?
- Is someone so unhappy about a process or issue that they are sabotaging and comprising the organization?

Your challenge is to be aggressive in dealing with problem team members. The others know when it is happening and expect the leader to deal with it. Step up when an employee is crossing the line.


Jim Watson said...


I felt the shock as I read your post -

Was this a single disgruntled employee?

Are there more employees that feel this same way?

Is there a cultural issue at the bank?

What's the employee's relationship with his immediate supervisor?

Was the supervisor aware of the employee's state of mind?

Clearly, something wasn't right that needed to be addressed.

In an organization with more internal transparency, is this behavior less likely to happen?

Jim Watson

Lisa Ford said...


You ask great questions that should be a part of a manager's guide to creating a better workplace. Thanks for the insights.