Integrity Matters
December 13, 2006

Micromanager undermines service

Question: (E-266)

Dear Jim:

Just had an evening out at a top-rated restaurant and left unsatisfied, embarrassed and upset. The waiters were great, but the supervisor's behavior was awful. Intimidating a staff that knows more about people than he will likely ever learn, he created a level of anxiety among his most important resources, his people. Before he arrived they were relaxed and friendly. Around him they acted like robots. To make matters worse, the food was mediocre, and I am not sure I will ever go back. Am I complaining about an integrity issue?


Micromanaging bosses can mess up a good thing - in a restaurant, an office, with sports teams and just about anywhere that communication, trust and mutual support are important to success. These three interconnected leadership factors are critical everywhere.

Obviously, you were expecting top-level service and exquisite food and received neither. You are describing a disconnect between what this high-end establishment has provided in the past and what you likely paid for, yet again, but did not receive. Something has changed in the way the organization - in this instance, a restaurant - delivers its service. Expensive mediocrity is unacceptable.

Your positive description of the service staff indicates they are not the problem. So, with no more data, the evidence points to an ineffective supervisor who might lack interpersonal skills as well as an understanding of the distinction between price and value. When unskilled and ineffective managers fail to distinguish between costs and investments, they will tend to make unwise decisions. The manager of this fancy restaurant is trying to generate short-term profits. His operating style might ultimately create customer-relationship disasters that will do more harm than good, down the road. Disappointing customers violates the first of our Integrity-Centered Attributes: character, which demands consistency between word and deed.

My suggestion is to clarify your disappointment with those in charge and if you do not receive a professional and gracious response, then take your restaurant dollars elsewhere.

In contrast to your recent experience with poor customer service, note how two Monterey-based United Express employees, Judy Hamilton and Eric Deberdt, dealt with a customer issue. When they learned that a couple's ticket to Iowa was somehow "lost" in the black hole of computer space, they teamed up and quickly found a solution. The already distraught travelers were leaving home to attend a memorial service and were grief stricken. They did not need to be advised or accused, as is sometimes the case for travelers, that something in their ticketing process had been recorded incorrectly.

Two customer-service professionals recognized a need and filled it. Judy and Eric chose professionalism and graciousness - because integrity matters.

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