What's The Cost of an Unhappy Employee?

Posted by Duane Cummings on 11/12/2019


It's really very simple, you or your employees set the stage for each and every customer experience, regardless of your industry. You are probably saying, "duh," tell me something I don't know. Well, this story is more of a reminder. If you provide a good experience, you're likely to receive repeat and referral business…which is what we all want. In fact, most businesses can’t sustain a healthy bottom line on one-time deals and yesterday, as I drove by a local restaurant, I was reminded of that lesson. 

This story actually began a few months ago when my wife and I decided to try a locally owned Italian restaurant for dinner. Upon entering, we were greeted by two hostesses. The first wore a horrible frown and the other struggled to give us a small grin while asking, “so, two for dinner?” Before I could respond, the “frowner’ blurted, “it’s going to be awhile, we’re short-handed.” She then grabbed her cell phone, turned, and marched off in a huff. The hostess with the “grin” stood uncomfortably silent as though she didn’t know what to do. After what seemed like an eternity, she mustered a shrug and continued sorting menus. 

Now, over the years I’ve mellowed and understand that everybody could be facing difficulties we know nothing about.  So, I leaned in and whispered, “I hope everything’s alright, perhaps she just needs some of my happy pills.”

                                         The “grinner” shook her head and said “they wouldn’t help,
                                         she hates this job and has been here all day.”  

I stepped back almost wondering if this was a prank, because the behavior was so unsavory. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Just then I saw the “frowner” give a hateful look towards a waiter as she passed him on her way through the restaurant. He was delivering drinks to a family, which included three children, and the look was so blatant everyone noticed. I could see the young waiter apologizing for her behavior. I quickly began scanning in hopes of locating a leader or manager, but there wasn’t one present. I glanced back to find the family had risen, gathered their things, and were heading to the door. As they passed, I overheard the father saying, “don't worry, it's going to be great.”

The “grinner” just stood quietly while the family left the restaurant and the waiter slumped with a dejected look on his face. Being a life-long learner with an interest in customer service and people, I followed the father outside and after speaking for a minute as they loaded the car, found out that they were celebrating the official adoption of the three children. Their mother (no father) had passed away from cancer. It was heart-wrenching and inspiring all at the same time.

As I stepped back into the restaurant I was again greeted by the “frowner” who rudely said, “follow me.” My wife and I made eye contact and with a knowing nod she turned and headed towards the front door. I followed and politely said, “thank you, but we’ve changed our minds.” The truth is, I was hoping someone would have come out and asked what was happening, but it wasn't to be. 

That night we ended up having an amazing dinner at a small place just down the road, where the staff treated us like royalty and we return regularly. We’ve never seen that family again, but I think about them often. In fact, I thought about them again yesterday when I drove by the original Italian restaurant only to find an Out of Business” sign...which had me wondering, What’s the Cost of an Unhappy Employee?

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Duane Cummings