Stress. Employee burnout. Customer service rage.
All of these may have triggered JetBlue’s Steve Salter to scream profanities at his company’s customers, illegally deploy the aircraft’s emergency chute and run away.
In a world rocked by inflation, wars and sociological changes brought on by increasingly fast technology shifts, Salter hit a raw nerve with folks, especially online. Alternately lauded as a hero for some previously sated proletariat or the expression of rage for service professionals, Salter is neither.
Worse, his crimes were not victimless.
He damaged the people who own JetBlue stock. That might be you or your loved ones if you look carefully at your retirement plans and other savings. He damaged the JetBlue brand and thousands of employees and their families. And he created an unsafe ramp-area environment for JFK employees on the ground. Peter Finch played a character having a meltdown in Network (clip below NSFW).
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But Salter is not Finch’s Howard Beale, nor is Salter a hero. He is a burned out employee who created an international sensation by flaming out in a highly visible way.
I’ve had two Salters in my career. Both screamed obscenities–one at a customer and one at her manager in front of dozens of people. Many might think their situations warranted drastic action and been inclined to forgive them. They were wrong, just as this flight attendant was wrong.
As the person leading them, I was more wrong.
In one instance, the manager and I had already discussed the employee’s growing resentment of him and the firm. We saw the burnout signs and tried to muddle through. I was a young manager during the second instance and sensed that the person didn’t belong anywhere near customers. This employee didn’t care about the company, co-workers or customers. With just a little more confidence as a leader, I would have taken action before she screamed curses at a client in our retention-driven business and slammed her phone down.
Your takeaway as a small business leader is that you already know where your potential employee burnout issues loom, and you need to act now
If you are compromising now and there isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime emergency situation in your organization, you must act fast before your employee blows and slides down your company’s emergency chute. Action can be anything from time off to different schedules or job assignments to termination
But if you know today that an employee is at risk and you are not actively working to protect your organization and the employee, then their failure is yours.