I observed the typical boss-jerk behavior the other day at the grocery store. My wife gave me a lengthy list of groceries to buy, and I had quite the full cart. One of the items was a frozen turkey destined for my smoker in a few days.
The clerk, a young woman in her early twenties, greeted me warmly. We made casual chit-chat while she was speedily scanning the prices. Until she grabbed the turkey. Evidently, this brand had the pricing bar code on a plastic tag attached to the handle. I grabbed one that didn’t have the tag.
She pushed the turkey out of the way until the other items were rung up. Then, she called on the store intercom for a supervisor to come over and help.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
I work with many companies to help develop their leadership teams and coach them on how to speak to employees. From an observational standpoint, watching events like this play out before my eyes is fun. You could call it “research.”
Mrs. Know-It-All Marches Over
Here she comes. Probably a head cashier or floor supervisor. I don’t know. Late fifties-early sixties in age. Already frowning, She had those thin librarian-style eyeglasses on a chain around her neck.
“Uggghhh. What’s the problem?” she said in an edgy and demanding tone.
The cashier sheepishly said, “The turkey doesn’t have a bar code for me to ring it up. I need some help.”
“Really? THAT’S the problem? Just ring up the meat department. Don’t YOU know how to do that?” She actually jabbed a finger in the air at the cashier to emphasize her question.
“I would, except the key codes with the department numbers are missing by the phone. That’s why I called.”
“It’s star-18.” To which the manager pivoted on her heels and peacock-strutted away.
The Cashier’s Reaction to Jerk Behavior
After the manager was out of earshot, the cashier said, “I’m sorry.” She then totaled up my purchases and gestured for me to pay.
I asked, “Hold on, aren’t you going to call the meat department? You need to ring up the turkey.”
At that moment, she looked up and connected with my eyes. I could see defiance and a strong sense of self.
“Uh, no. Your turkey is on us today. Merry Christmas.”
I paid for the rest of the items and then strolled out of the store to my car. A huge smile on my face, not for the free turkey, but for the unwillingness of the cashier to be a victim of her jerkhole boss.
A Few Things to Point Out in this Jerk Story
For starters, don’t treat people this way.
I don’t care what the problem may be or your career title. Nobody wants to work for jerks, and I’m sure the cashier in this story will find a better job soon. At least, I hope so. When employers complain that they can’t find reliable workers, this may be the star problem. You have a frontline wave of jerks manning leadership roles.
Secondly, the jerk-store manager never acknowledged my presence. Not a glance. A head nod. Not even a smirky smile. Nothing. This drama unfolded in front of me and the few hundred dollars worth of food I was about to purchase. The one minute this encounter took made me feel sorry for everyone working with this woman.
I wonder how many customers she’s driven away?
Do You Have Jerks Working For You?
How is employee retention with your business? Having a hard time keeping staff?
Among the possible reasons you may lose your team could be jerk-aholic managers. They can’t help themselves. This is why you need to call them out on it. Are employees not doing the right thing, following procedures, or making mistakes? Maybe they have questions, such as the cashier in today’s story.
These problems can be conquered with a different approach and tact. Remember, the leading reason people leave their jobs is their direct supervisor.
How many free turkeys are your team giving away without you knowing about it?
Here’s How It Could Have Played Out
The cashier calls out for help. The floor supervisor comes over to help.
“Hey Betty (not her name), what’s going on?”
“I need help; this turkey doesn’t have the tag to ring it up.”
“Yeah, you’ll need that. Those tags can come off sometimes. Just ring up the meat department, and they can help.”
“I can’t. The key code for the phones is missing.”
“Hmmm. Not sure why that was removed, but use star-18. They will be able to point you in the right direction.”
“Let me know if you need anything else.”
All the floor supervisor had to do was be open to helping solve the challenge and be nice. How hard is that to do? Even on the worst days, employees see and hear things more sensitively. The role of the supervisor is to help staff perform better. Not power flex in front of customers.
The moral of this story? Don’t be a jerk.
“If a guy is over 25 percent jerk, he’s in trouble. And Henry was 95 percent jerk.” Lee Iacocca
“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.” – Jim Carrey
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Teddy Roosevelt
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