Las Vegas is a melting pot of talent. People come from all over the world to work in hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and offices. With so many cultures and people all in one place, it is almost certain you won’t get along with everyone. Getting along with every co-worker can be impossible. Sometimes through no fault of one’s own.
Workers attracted to service industry jobs face special challenges since their backgrounds run the gamut. It is not uncommon to have a retail worker with an advanced degree elbow to elbow with someone who has no practical work experience to bring to a job and is relying on ambition, guts, and a little OJT. Two very different backgrounds and approaches holding the same job title, same responsibilities, and even the same pay rates. They would probably never meet or socialize if it weren’t for where they work.
Let’s take Bob and Miriam as an example. They both work in a retail store on the strip. Usually, Bob’s perspective on things is completely different from Miriam’s. They come from completely different work and educational backgrounds. To give you some idea, Bob graduated college some 30 years before Miriam was born. Bob had a full career and travelled extensively in his life. Miriam is originally from central California and moved to Las Vegas with her husband a few years ago when things were booming here. Her only work experience before this job was in fast food. No matter how different they are, when they punch in, they must co-exist.
Working relationships can be great fun. It is great to look forward to going to work and seeing people you like. Friendships develop and sometimes even turn into rides or roommates! Every one of your co-workers has a life outside their job. Lots of people experience job related stress and don’t even realize it.
A person’s life isn’t always an exact fit with a work schedule or a demanding boss. There are worries about getting the kid’s homework done, gas prices, meal preparation, family care. Pressures add up. Some people are better at handling it and juggling it than others. When the ability to leave it at the front door varies from person to person, conflicts can surface. In an inclusive work environment, each person has their own reason to be at work. Alas, there is nothing more complicated than human communication. All of this is due to differing priorities, personal problems, pressures, and quirky personalities of course.
Here is a real life example. Paula lives paycheck to paycheck. Jennifer doesn’t have to work but does to fill in her day. Both ladies are paid the same and often work similar schedules performing the same job duties. However their personal chemistries clash.
Jennifer is married. She has two kids in middle school and a husband of almost 18 years. Together, Jennifer and her husband have carefully planned their finances and even built a nest egg, they have two cars and a mortgage. Things are going well for them. At work, Jennifer has the same schedule as Paula. Paula is divorced with two older children. Her financial and personal life is not the greatest. She lives payday to payday and quietly envies Jennifer for the stability and success of her family life. Paula has a tendency to compete with Jennifer on every little thing. Call it ego, insecurity, self-esteem, or competitiveness. Curiously enough, Paula’s actions don’t contribute anything positive to the business day. It doesn’t improve customer service or the bottom line. What it does do though is erode the work environment by putting stress into the mix. However subtle, Paula’s actions drag on morale.
Conflict can be subtle at first then gradually build to the point where it is noticeable to customers. Tension between co workers drags on productivity and communication. Once managers have to get involved, it is difficult to sort everything out and avoid resentment between the parties.
A huge number of resignations and job transfer requests can be traced back to poorly handled associate issues by management. Unresolved differences between co-workers is the silent killer of morale and productivity.
Managers need to be aware of associate issues like the one Jennifer and Paula are experiencing. An astute manager will step in and try to improve things. Maybe meet each person individually and listen. Let them explain the issue they was they see it. Next, the manager will need to coach the associates to “stay away from each other” so to speak. Make an effort to not prod the other. After all, they come to work every day to contribute to the business. Ruining each other’s day with quips and jabs runs counter to the original mission. Sell more stuff today than we did yesterday! When they do need to interact, they must keep it business only.
One more thing, the manager MUST record the conversations in each associate’s file. Having documentation on an associate issue in their file is a huge step to terminating someone if things don’t improve. In addition, the manager has to monitor the situation to check for improvements made by the associates. The process has to be repeated until the behavior changes for the better. If it doesn’t, the manager has created a paper trail that will go a long way when it is time to part ways with the associate.