Thursday, January 10, 2008

Would You Like Coffee, Tea or Milk . . . You Jerk.

I am probably betraying my age but I remember when airlines were concerned about your comfort. The friendly flight attendants really wanted to know what you preferred. Today, when the overhead luggage rack looks commodious and you find your knees in close proximity to your nose, those days seem long gone. Nowadays the flight crews, working under stress, have more important things to do.

But back in the day, airline executives were more concerned about service. I remember reading an article about an airline finding that most of their complaints were directed at 10% of their personnel and they actually wanted to know why. The reason I am relating this is that their solution was one of the inspirations that lead me to develop the Workplace Attitudes Test that screens for employees with bad attitudes.

Their pre-employment interviews clearly did not work and turkeys were getting through. If you’ve read the other parts of this blog, you know that I define a turkey as someone with bad workplace attitudes. For example, “Would you like coffee, tea or milk . . . you jerk.”

The airline needed a system to weed out the turkeys. Like the Workplace Attitudes Test, they wanted to identify bad attitudes in potential flight attendants. I think that their solution borders on genius.

They had each of the prospects go to the podium and tell about their hobbies, their pets, and their aspirations. Each candidate could go on for as long as they wanted and it oftentimes was up to twenty minutes. The presentations were not video taped, instead the camera was focused on the audience.

The goal was not to evaluate the presenters but to evaluate how tolerant or patient each member of the audience was. Some were doing their nails, frowning, or talking to colleagues. Others would show great patience and respect. Guess which ones got the job? And guess what happened to the number of complaints.

It was a happy ending for many years, at least until the airlines started to pack people into airplanes like sardines and the entire industry went into the crapper. Did I mention that I fly coach? For information on weeding out the turkeys see

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