Monday, April 17, 2006

CEO's vouch for Waiter Rule: Watch how people treat staff

Rudeness to service workers reveals a lot about character.

USA Today's cover story (section B) on Friday April 14th is a great read. Have you ever worked in a restaurant and waited on a POI (Person of Importance)? How did they treat you?

According to the article, how others treat CEO's says nothing. But how others treat the waiter is like a magical window into the soul.

Office Depot CEO Steve Odland recalls working in an upscale French restaurant in Denver. The purple sorbet in cut glass he was serving tumbled onto the expensive white gown of an obviously rich and important woman. "I watched in slow motion ruining her dress for the evening," Odland says. "I thought I would be shot on sight."

Thirty years have passed, but Odland can't get the stain out of his mind, nor the woman's kind reaction. She was startled, regained composure and, in a reassuring voice, told the teenage Odland, "It's OK. It wasn't your fault." When she left the restaurant, she also left the future Fortune 500 CEO with a life lesson:

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way
he or she treats the waiter."

USA Today also cites a reference from Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. Swanson wrote a booklet of 33 short leadership observations called "Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management." Raytheon has given away 250,000 of the books. Among those 33 rules is only one that Swanson says never fails: "A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person."

Swanson says to "watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with."

I worked for this kind of manager at a large information systems company in 1989. He had obvious disdain for subordinates and never failed to communicate his lack of respect. I recall once seeking his permission to apply for a job outside of his department. He allowed. I interviewed and got an offer. He immediately called me to his office and said I couldn't take the job; that I was worthless and the only reason he let me apply is because he knew I'd never get the offer (this with veins bulging and spit flying). Tony Soprano couldn't have done a better job of verbally smashing me to the ground as he attempted to strip me of my dignity.

I'm sure this Bimbo Manager crushed his share of waiters in his day. These days, however, he's being served food by the prison staff of a Federal penitentiary in Colorado. I'm not thinking he's too thrilled with the service.
Yes, I guess you could say that his actions had much to say about his character.

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