Articles

THE FATAL ILLUSION OF A SERVICE PROVIDER
By Ben Henry

Picture yourself as just graduating from university with an upper second in business. You fancy yourself as a team player. You have sent out résumés all over the place in the hope of getting the job that you really want. No luck. So you decide to take a job as a service provider in a bank until you find something better. You are convinced that you'll make a success of this teller job, although you hate being a teller. You are about to start a high touch job for which you are not suited.

"I'm a very good man," said the Wizard of Oz. "I'm just a very bad wizard." This mismatch of values and interests - even if you have the technical skills and capabilities to do the job - can lead to dissatisfaction, poor performance, conflict, and organizational dissatisfaction.

This illusion - that you can be successful in a customer contact job you don't like - is deadly. In the long run no one can be successful, unless he/she is reasonably well-matched with what he/she is expected to do. And this matching isn't just a one-time event at the moment of hiring; matching values and interests with assignments is an ongoing process.

Some organizations are no longer impressed with résumés. Résumés can be a deliberate illusion, telling them nothing about who the applicant is. Even if the résumé does tell the company, it may not tell it who the person really wants to be.

The résumé is where you put your best foot forward. You are not going to tell the company that the reason you are applying for the job is because you don't have a choice ... that you want a place to hide until you find a job you really want. Frankly, the company would rather you tell the truth, because they would then know that to expect from you ... which is less than peak performance.

No matter how good the money is, you are going to shortchange the customer. Customers are very perceptive. Your body language is going to give you away. There will be a mismatch between your words and your body language. Your tone of voice might even sound insincere.

No matter how empowered you are, you are going to shortchange your company. No matter how positive the organizational climate is, you are not going to get out of bed with any enthusiasm. Your negative self-talk ("Another day with those awful customers") will follow you to work and influence the interactions you have with your external and internal customers.

Since you and the job are mismatched, the employer and you are destined for disappointment. Satisfaction is the hardest thing to achieve and, as far as truly innovative and excellent performance is concerned, the only thing that counts.

We may think that training can make the difference, but it can't make an apple into a banana. The right person in the right spot at the right time can save an entire organization. A top-notch person who is in that same position, but who hates it, might never even see the opportunity.

Exit interviews are a waste of time in many instances, so the company never really knows why you are leaving. If you are smart (and I know you are) you are going to tell the company what it wants to hear - the acceptable responses - in those exit interviews. If you tell them that the job wasn't really what you wanted and that you are bored to tears with it, you are going to make them feel bad, and they are going to feel that you were no good in the first place.

But if you tell the company that you decided to migrate, or you are going to join daddy in his business, or you are going to do your MBA, then the company is going to feel that they have done good by you - that you are a good person - and if you feel at any time that you need a recommendation, they would be glad to write one for you ... etc., ... etc.

You might say "There goes Ben Henry again ... he is full of baloney". True, any job is better than no job at all ... especially in today's Jamaica. But serving others requires that you like to do it. Just don't take a service provider's job because it would be unfair to the customer - and to the business. You'll drive away the customer and put the company in jeopardy.

I know you have to put food on the table and also pay back that student loan before they start putting your picture in the newspaper. All I am saying is that it is a fatal illusion to think that you can be successful in a job you don't like, especially one that involves high touch interaction. Take any job you want except a frontline job. In this kind of job, if you don't like serving people, there is no way you can hide that fact. Let me repeat, customers are very perceptive people. They will know by your body language that they are being a bother to you. They will know by the very way you walk. You can't hide it ... they know. Believe me. So go get a job you don't like so you can pay your bills, but please get one in the "back of the house" where you don't have to deal with paying customers, only the internal ones. Your penchant for "team playing" can be played out in the "back of the house".

But I don't really blame you ... I blame HR for hiring you for a frontline job just because you have a degree. HR should look at each frontline position and ask the question "What personality characteristics are required by the holder of this position?" and hire by that. Having a degree should never be the major criterion for hiring you. If I was the HR Manager, I would rather have a high school graduate with a good attitude and a service orientation than a university graduate with a bad attitude. Remember, it's the attitude that brings the customer back, not the possession of a degree.



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