Thursday, December 30, 2010

Treating your employees like your customer base

It was recently mentioned to me that one of the problems with my company may be that leadership communicates with the corporate employees as if we were their customer base.  This idea has me thinking, because I certainly do not fall into the demographic my company targets. 

The demographic my company targets are people who make less than $50K a year.  I'm not sure if that's on an individual basis, in which case it would probably be $100K per household, or if it's $50K per household, but either way, that's not me. 

I feel like leadership frequently communicates with corporate employees as if we were naughty children, and the only way to get us to behave is to be forceful and demanding, much like saying you WILL sit still at dinner, rather than saying, if you sit still at dinner we'll know you're grown up enough to eat in a nice restaurant.  Not that I'm advocating bribing children to behave well, but the second way makes it the child's choice, offers a semblance of a compliment, and lets the child know that good behavior will not go unnoticed.  And of course, with children, you need to explain what you're looking for, and model the behavior.  It's just dumb to yell at them the first time they don't do what you want if you haven't told them what it is they're expected to do. 

So, this got me to wondering if my company was making a series of assumptions about both their customer base and their employees.  For one thing, a salary of less than $50K in California may indicate that you're less educated, but elsewhere in the country it might be quite normal.  Additionally, if you assume that people who make less than $50K are less educated, but you treat them like naughty children, then you're confusing the issue.  Not being rich does not equal being dumb. 

Sometimes I feel substantially underpaid at my job.  San Diego suffers from this confusion about the cost of living.  In other expensive places in the country, like New York, generally the salary is increased to adjust for the cost of living.  But in San Diego, we pay the "sunshine tax." Our salaries are not increased to compensate for the high cost of living.  If my company knows they're underpaying employees, does that make them think they can walk all over us in other ways, and we won't complain?  It's like taking advantage of someone because you think you can.

And if our corporate leadership treats the employees as if we were the customers, and this is how they treat the employees, does it stand to reason that they're treating the customers poorly, too.  Does the correlation go both ways? 

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