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Our company has decided to implement a company uniform policy for all client facing staff. This global policy was decided as a part of an overall global strategy to take our services to the next level.

Well, all of the service staff are okay with this except one--our senior receptionist. We only have two of them, and the senior one is very good at what she does. The other one has only been at it for a couple of months, so she still has a lot to learn. I have been telling the service staff over the past several months that there were thoughts of implementing a uniform policy. I always got a few grumbles out of the receptionists and also told HQ that the receptionist was reluctant to wear uniforms.

Anyway, the decision was finally made, and now I am hearing that the senior receptionist is threatening to quit if she has to wear a uniform. The only reason she can give for not wanting to wear the uniform is that she simply doesn't like wearing uniforms and thinks she dresses appropriately.

I feel like my back is up against the wall on this one. If we lose her, our reception service will surely suffer and I will be hearing it from our local senior management.

In general, my question is...how to deal with employees who have such "power" and threaten to quit when a policy or decision is made that they are not happy about? And in general, what to do about employees who are in such a unique position that they threaten to quit if they are not happy about a decision/policy, and if they follow through on the threat, then overall performance will suffer for a long time?

TimBryce's picture

Good question. I have seen this many times in the past. First, you
should obviously try to reason with the person regarding why this
policy was instituted (e.g., teamwork, image, etc.). Sounds like you
have already done this though.

Second, if she wants to walk, let her. Never let a job be held hostage
by an employee. In this instance, there are bigger things at risk than a
single person. If she insists she is going to leave, tell her not to let
the door hit her in the ass on the way out.

Hope this Helps,

tokyotony's picture

[quote="TimBryce"]

Second, if she wants to walk, let her. Never let a job be held hostage
by an employee. In this instance, there are bigger things at risk than a
single person. If she insists she is going to leave, tell her not to let
the door hit her in the ass on the way out.

Hope this Helps,[/quote]

Well, I guess I could take that line, but I think it would have some real challenges for my team, not to mention 1) the image that could be ruined when clients come to our company and are handled by inexperienced receptionists, 2) the complaints that would come from internal users when their rooms don't get booked properly or their calls don't get transferred quickly, etc. There could be a lot of damage caused. I really don't like to be put in such a position and I am thinking about completely outsourcing all our functions so that a compentent company (in the case, a company that handles reception services) can take the risk and also come up with suitable backups.

TimBryce's picture

I guess you are going to have to weigh her talents against the
overall position of the company. I primarily work in the I.T. industry
and have seen programmers hold their jobs hostage as managers
are afraid to fire them. I guess they think they will lose valuable
skills and knowledge if they do. This is why I am a firm believer in
documenting your processes (methodologies in my world) so that you
can avoid this type of situation. Because of this approach, we have
never been held hostage.

Good luck in your decision.

All the Best,

regas14's picture

If she is in fact as instrumental as you say she is then promote her, make her a leader of your organization and as a leader demand from her that she act in the best interests of your organization and your people.

Adherance to corporate policy, unless it is unethical, immoral or does a diservice to key stakeholders is part of leading at times. Empower her as a leader with the increased expectations that lie in that empowerment. Otherwise, if she's not a leader of your organization and you don't feel she ought to be a leader of the organization, don't fret over her threats to leave. Her holding the organization hostage is not helping anyone.

tokyotony's picture

[quote="regas14"]If she is in fact as instrumental as you say she is then promote her, make her a leader of your organization and as a leader demand from her that she act in the best interests of your organization and your people.

.[/quote]

All good suggestions and understandable. In fact, I have been with the company for 6 months and none of the processes were documented. So, I am getting that done. However, there is a certain "organizational knowledge" and "knack" that she has for the position that is hard to document (e.g. knowing where things are, who likes what kind of drinks for their guests, people's favorite room, where all the rooms are, etc.) For example, you can of course document how to play the position of quarterback, but it you don't have a good knack for it or an understanding of the nuances of the team, the team can suffer.

Second, there are only two positions in reception services, and from the discussions I have had with her, she likes being a receptionist and really doesn't want to do something else...so kind of hard to think that a promotion would really do the trick.

Thanks for the suggestions. Keep them coming. They are helping me to better define the real issue I am having..."how to deal with team members who have too much "power" to the point they can threaten to quit if they don't like the way things are going...in effect holding the manager hostage to their demands."

Lionel B Dyck's picture

She will leave at some point. It might be retirement it might be some unexpected accident, or it could be a vacation. You should always have a succession plan in place for every position and that includes having a qualified backup identified and the key processes/procedures documented.

Regarding the uniforms - perhaps you could encourage those selecting the uniforms to bring her and the other receptionist in to help come up with an appropriate uniform for them - perhaps it could be slightly different from the rest and if they help design it you get their buy in.

Just my $0.01 for your consideration.

tokyotony's picture

[quote="Lionel B Dyck"]She will leave at some point. It might be retirement it might be some unexpected accident, or it could be a vacation. You should always have a succession plan in place for every position and that includes having a qualified backup identified and the key processes/procedures documented.
[/quote]

I agree. That would be the second receptionists...however, she just joined us 2 months ago and is a bit slow to get up to speed. I think she will need another 3 months to fully fill comfortable with the position.

One of the disadvantages of working with small service teams.