Suppose one of your employees decided to stop performing his job tasks, choosing instead to profanely berate your customers over a loudspeaker and then walk off the job in a way that endangered the physical safety of people around him. If that wasn’t bad enough, what if he came back the next day and asked for his job back?
In a nutshell, that is the story of Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant whose antics seem to have elevated him to the role of folk hero in the media and the blogosphere. He appears to have tapped a large reserve of anti-employer sentiment while playing out a “take this job and shove it” fantasy that seems to resonate with large numbers of people.
Why do so many people view Slater as some sort of spokesman for the common man (see the ABC News story entitled Criminal or Folk Hero)? Why has his rude and public temper tantrum become an anthem for disaffected employees? The answer may be nothing more than the fact that many people just don’t like their jobs and would rather be doing something else.
Employers need to remember that an employee’s job dissatisfaction may not be rational or justified. In today’s economy, when so many people should appreciate the efforts that their employers are making to preserve their jobs, workers are still going to feel frustrated, bored, unhappy or various other negative feelings when it comes to their jobs.
In fact, CNN reported a Conference Board survey showing that 45% of employees were dissatisfied with their job--the lowest level since recordkeeping began 22 years ago. You might even call this a case of the “JetBlues.”
Right or wrong, employers have to deal with this and the potential fallout that might result It won’t be good for business if one of your employees (or ex-employees) is vested with folk hero or martyr status over their experiences at your company. Therefore, even if you know you have a great working environment, expect some dissatisfaction and think of what you can do to minimize it and address it.
- Do employees in monotonous jobs ever get to rotate to different assignments?
- Can the “culture” of the workplace be reshaped or enhanced in some way?
- Is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available to help employees find more satisfaction on the job and more success outside of it?
A little prevention may go a long way in smoothing out a bumpy ride for employees.