It’s Not My Job!

As I write this, I am high. How high am I? Approximately 35,000 feet!

I’m on my way from Boston to El Paso, Texas. And, while most people find great fun and satisfaction in knocking airline travel these days, I must admit that I am still in awe that I can leave my home in Boston at 7 a.m. and by dinner time be in the high desert, with the glorious purple mountains behind me, happily ensconced in my daughter’s home, nursing the best Margarita ever — thanks to son-in-law Jorge’s secret recipe!

Being on a plane makes me think also about how much flying has changed. I smile when I recall that the first time I flew (Boston to New York), I actually did have on a pair of white gloves and was wearing high heels! In only two generations flying has gone from being something almost elegant to being something very quotidian.

And as the flight crew squeezes down the aisle selling frozen, dry sandwiches and dispensing weak coffee, it makes me think, “Is there any job that has changed more than being an airline stewardess or steward?” I bet not!

If I Had Wanted To Sell Food…

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a Pan Am Flight Crew Reunion in Miami, Florida. It was a charming story of hundreds of crew members coming together to reminisce about the “glory days” of flying and the elegance that was Pan Am, especially first class. There were photos of many in the group and most have held up quite nicely, I would say.

It was a bittersweet look back. I was particularly amused by one comment made by a stewardess who still flies, now for Delta Airlines. When asked about the current “state of flying,” she replied, “If I had wanted to sell food, I would have worked in a grocery store!”

Like the airline industry, many companies have had to “adjust” the original responsibilities of their employees. Due to downsizing, a change in strategy, or a major shift in an industry, many employees have been asked to do more than one job or do a very different job than the one for which they were hired.

While you may not be running an airline, you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of “readjusting” what your employees are being asked to do as well. If that’s so, here’s a short checklist of things you can do to keep those employees happy and motivated in their new role:

  • Explain Clearly: If you are asking a member of your team to take on additional responsibilities, explain clearly why this is happening, how you see the situation, and how their changing role can help. More importantly, explain that this additional responsibility may be in their best interest in the long run (it could be their opportunity to demonstrate management potential, learn new and valuable skills, etc.).
  • Be Empathetic: Taking on additional responsibility or possibly changing the nature of a job can be very disconcerting to anyone. Many times companies “morph” a job into one that the employee never would have interviewed for or accepted in the first place. If this is so in your case, acknowledge this and give your employee an opportunity to decide for themselves if they want to continue with the company.
  • Have A Time Frame: If you are asking employees to take on additional responsibilities or perform jobs that they were not originally hired to do, have a clear time frame for when you see the situation returning to “normal.” If in all honesty you don’t know when that will be, clearly communicate that fact. Promise them that you will keep them in the loop and appraised of the changing situation. Then be sure to address the issue on a regular basis so they know you have not forgotten the extraordinary circumstances.
  • Compensate: Yes, I know that any company that has had a RIF (reduction in force) has done so to save money, but think about this: You are asking employees to take on additional responsibilities and, more than likely, work additional hours. Clearly, at a time when you are in a cost-savings mode, part of the funds saved by cutting your workforce can be used for a small increase in salaries to employees who are doing more than one job.

Gone are the days of luxury flying — for most of us anyway! Sadly, gone are the days of the 40 hour work week as well. People are being asked to do more with less, whether you run an airline or a technology company. If that’s the case with you, these four points can help ensure your employees remain happy and motivated in their new jobs.

Time for me to stow away my tray table, make sure my seatbelt is securely fastened, and adjust my seat into the full upright position. And let me just say, I sure am looking forward to seeing my family — and my margarita!

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