Is It Really That Important That I’m Wearing a Name Tag?

17
597 views

Share on LinkedIn

There’s always that one employee who refuses to follow directions. It seems that no matter how many times you talk to him, he continues to “forget” to do what he’s told or at worst, intentionally refuses to do it. So, what do you do with an employee like this? Sure, we can give him a kick in the rear and show him the door, but you never want to lose an otherwise half-decent employee if you can help it. But even one who gives you a line like this; “Is it really that important that I’m wearing my name tag?

What is a Company Standard?

A company standard is the “specification of a product or process to be repeatedly and consistently used in the company”, (IGI Global).

I love this description of company standards from The Hartford Company:

“Your standards define how your company acts, which, in turn, builds trust in your brand. They can be guidelines that describe quality, performance, safety, terminology, testing, or management systems, to name a few. They can comply with authoritative agencies or professional organizations and be enforceable by law, such as required medical degrees for doctors or credentials for financial planners. Or they can be voluntary rules you establish to create confidence among your clients that your business operates at a high and consistent quality level, such as a restaurant only using the highest quality, locally-sourced ingredients.

Standards must align with your mission, business objectives, and organizational leadership, and be implemented consistently across your enterprise. Employees need to buy into the value of adhering to standards, so everyone is pulling in the same direction and reinforcing your brand.”

Are Company Standards Important?

Wow, that sure sums it up! So, what do you say to an employee who complains that there are too many company standards to follow and many of them are small and really aren’t that important?

My answer is,

“If you don’t care enough about the “little things”, how can I be confident that you’ll care about the “big things?”

I’ve worked with so many managers who turned a “blind-eye” to “little things” like name tags. They didn’t seem to care about employees who were habitually late, or who always seemed to call out on Mondays. If the employee underperformed, they did little to correct them. If they switched shifts with a team member without prior approval, well, “At least they got their shift covered”. I disagree.

Are Name Tags Important?

As I’ve written in a past post entitled, “What Do You Do When Your Employees Don’t Care?“, not every employee is happy with their job or will go to the ends of the earth in order to fulfill the needs of the company. Many just want a paycheck. But, and this is a big but…

When employees know they can continually bypass certain rules, guidelines, or procedures because the boss never seems to hold them accountable, they become emboldened. They feel untouchable. They believe they can get away with this or that with little repercussions. But where does this end?

Can we expect a lackluster employee to wake up one day and suddenly adhere to all the rules he so frequently avoided in the past? Of course not! That doesn’t happen. Maybe in the movies, it does. The actor sees a shooting star then gets an epiphany and realizes his failures and how much stress he’s caused his manager. Yesterday he forgot his name tag but today (and every day forward) he doesn’t. Yeah, sure. Never gonna happen.

Should we care about name tags or employees who come in late? What about deadlines not being met or deliveries constantly late because someone failed to follow procedures? What about the one who spreads gossip or false rumors? Or the one who always seems to be “on a break” when there is extra work to be done?

Should we do nothing about these things too? Or, is it really that important? Your thoughts…

17 COMMENTS

  1. It starts with deciding what kind of company you want to be. A high performance company operates with high performance people delivering high performance results. These are populated with people who are committed to what the company stands for and recognize that the little things matter. They focus on the mission and do not waste time fussing over form. High performance companies also nurture supportive but disciplined cultures that value excellence and therefore hold every team member to that standard. Slackers need not apply. If there are employees who blow off doing the little things (like coming to work on time), it tells the leader (and fellow team members) that the person has become uninterested in being a part of a high performance company and therefore needs to be encouraged to seek work elsewhere…in a mediocre company that tolerates sub-standard behavior. Leaders don’t need to be babysitters who put employees in timeout because they “won’t wear their name tag.” Leaders need to model excellence, expect excellence, and require excellence.

  2. There are two choices here: whether the manager will enforce the policy and whether the employee will follow it.

    Of course, a good manager will expect certain things and hold people accountable, but they also know they can’t control someone else’s actions. They would have a conversation, explain what’s expected and why it’s important, listen to their concerns, and ask for cooperation. If that doesn’t work, the manager would respect their choice, but point out the consequences. And then act appropriately.

    In my view, this is very much like mask mandates. Most people will do the right thing, caring for people they may not even know. Others will not. They’ll justify their decisions using whatever beliefs make sense to them. They’ll die on that hill, no matter how silly it is.

    At some point, we all must realize that the only person we can control is ourselves. We all make our choices, and live (or die) with the consequences.

  3. Yes, I know it’seems quaint and old-fashioned, Steve, but I 100% agree with you. Knowing a server’s name breaks down barriers, and also doesn’t allow them to hide behind anonymity. But in a bigger picture perspective, it’s the little details that make such a difference. For example, the moment I see an email or a post that has spelling errors, it loses much of it’s credibility, and then if that’s repeated, I just don’t want to see anything else from that person or company.

  4. This is an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, yes, standards are important across the board – processes are standards, policies are standards, data quality and governance are based on adhering to standards. Without standards chaos reigns. However, if employees are held to standards that are too strict, then there is little room left for creativity. Value is created in the sweet spot between chaos and control. This is where the concept of “emergence” in complex adaptive systems comes into play. Too much control does not allow for experimentation and thus no new knowledge is created. Too little control, and nothing meaningful will be accomplished as anyone can do whatever they want. The key is to “make the punishment fit the crime”. This applies to information governance – many organizations do not have control over their information ecosystem because standards for managing information, onboarding new sources, and architecting systems and applications have been too lax. Innovation is encouraged as large enterprises attempt to be nimble and agile however without minimal standards, the opposite occurs and innovation is impeded because of accumulated technical debt. In fact, many problems that organizations are attempting to solve with artificial intelligence and machine learning are to make up for past sins in information curation and management. However if enforcing standards is done in trivial ways that people do not understand or that contribute little value and are perceived as bureaucratic red tape, employees are turned off which can lead to work arounds or lower morale. It is a tough balance and is best achieved through transparency and open dialog. Get buy in and show why the standards are needed. Perhaps a standard thoughtfully applied will make employees lives easier. If they see that, they will comply “for the greater good”. People want to do the right thing and will if they understand the rationale and why it is important.

  5. Hi Ed,
    It is true, and frustrating, that some employees will fight you about something as little as wearing a name tag. Sure it may seem trivial to them but if it’s company policy, it doesn’t make sense to fight it. When they do I ask them, “What other company policies do you NOT want to follow?” And yes, what consequences do you want to face because of it?

    Thanks for your comment.

  6. Hi Chip,
    You are correct…as usual. We allow negative behavior by our inactions and willingness to allow it to continue. We cannot expect high performance when we allow low performance on other issues. I don’t want employees in fear of losing their job but I do want employees in fear of letting their team down by not doing as expected. Thanks, Chip.

  7. Like it or not, companies that stand out, companies that succeed and companies that are sustainable have a foundation of standards and rules that employees are expected to follow. It is a part of the culture. Employees that choose to not follow these and managers that choose not to enforce these are a problem. As Ed pointed out in his comment, we are responsible for the decisions we make. If we choose not to follow or enforce the rules, where and when does it end? Bottom line, these people do not belong in the company, as not wearing or not enforcing the name tag is only the precursor to bigger issues.

  8. Hi Ali,
    Yes, upholding standards is becoming an old-fashioned way and that’s the problem. Today’s managers weren’t mentored by the “old guys” who maintained a level of professionalism that helps to create high performing teams. No wonder why service has changed. Thanks.

  9. Hi Seth,
    I believe your last line is the key. Employees will do the right thing if they understand why a certain policy or procedure was put in place. Communication is the other key. Tell them why. Explain the benefits or reasons. It works wonders. Thank you.

  10. Hi Dennis,
    I agree. As I wrote in the post, if the little things are not important to you, then what about the big things. We can blame the employees but management is usually the problem. Thanks, Dennis.

  11. Companies that hire for attitude first, skills and experience second, normally don’t have rogue, uncommitted employees (as long as their standards are ‘reasonable’ and consistent with company purpose and culture). To illustrate: There’s an old Southwest Airlines HR story about the potential hire of a highly experienced pilot for a management position. As part of the hiring process, he captained a Southwest Airlines flight. Ultimately, the pilot wasn’t hired because he failed to communicate with passengers in the light, entertaining style for which Southwest had become known over the years. Southwest considered this value-reinforcing behavior a ‘standard’, and the captain failed to meet it.

    Not exactly a missing name tag, but very much along the same line of behavior.

  12. Hi Michael,
    That Southwest story sure proves that the company is dedicated to maintaining its standards. If only more would do the same. My correction; if only their managers would do the same. Thanks.

  13. I follow most of the rules, but there are some that are just plain stupid and out of touch with reality. A good manager will take a critical look at rules and, if they still apply, will explain why they are important and work with employees to ensure compliance.

    One example is the work from home policy. In 2019, many managers did not let employees WFH, and some did a ‘one-day-per-week’ policy. The pandemic exposed this as a bad policy. Employees can work from home and are as or more productive than when they were forced to come in the office.

    When company rules are broken, the company should investigate if that rule is still valid. The bottom line should be getting the work done, not having my butt in my chair in my cubicle at 8am. For an employee who is a part of two working parents with three kids, this might be an impossibility. Is this rule really needed to maintain the corporate culture? Make sure you are enforcing rules that make sense and are not just doing that because that is how we have always done it.

  14. Hi Steve: interesting blog – thank you for posting. As managers, much as we’d like employees to acquiesce to the rules – our rules in particular – I posit that organizations would fail at customer service if employees were uniformly compliant. The aphorism is ‘be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.’ When it comes to employee behavior, all organizations depend on a combination of compliance and intelligent resistance from their employees. Want rote compliance? Then be prepared for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or Wells Fargo under John Stumpf, but minus the conscientious objectors.

    Regarding your reference to the deliveries that might have been delayed because someone failed to follow procedures. Possible, though consider how many customer service victories occurred because an employee had the courage to step outside the corporate playbook or procedure manual and do what was necessary to get the right thing done. One could formulate an equally long – or longer – list of good outcomes, I suspect. So it’s hard to impugn employees for not following the script when just as many push back and “call an audible”, thankfully. We can all recount a customer service circumstance where we we benefitted from that reality.

    As to the immediate name-tag question. It’s hard to determine what exactly might be behind the employee’s reticence, but it’s incumbent on his or her manager to be curious and discover the root cause. Maybe it’s from a physical condition that makes the name tag difficult to pin to a uniform or shirt. Maybe it’s a bad experience at a previous job in which the employee was stalked by a customer who learned his or her name from the name badge. Maybe it’s because the employee’s name was carelessly referenced by a customer in a survey complaint for a problem that another employee committed. Or, maybe the employee is just being obstreperous. The manager needs to find out and address the issue before jumping to conclusions.

  15. Hi Daniel,
    I sure agree that many rules are either antiquated or stupid; made by those out of touch or who have their own agenda. I’ve dealt with this throughout my career and sometimes think I’m the only one who realizes it (maybe I’m the crazy one).

  16. Hi Andrew,
    I can’t disagree with your take at all and always enjoy your comments. I’ve always believed that every business must have a core set of minimum standards that must be followed when it comes to quality, safety, uniformity, etc. All others, especially when it comes to satisfying the customer, can, and usually should be modified as needed.

  17. I think name tags are passe. Before the pandemic I worked for a hotel where we wore a badge with ONLY the name of the hotel on our tag, so we look official. We acted polite and professional and introduced ourselves when it is appropriate. No one should need their name on a badge to provide excellent customer service. Now I work for a hotel that requires the name be on the badge. It makes zero difference. Customer service requires compassion and communication skills, not a name on a badge.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here