Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What the JetBlue Story Can Teach Us

By now most of us have heard the story of Steven Slater, a 38-year-old flight attendant who got fed up with an annoying passenger, cursed out the whole flight, and made a grand exit by grabbing some beers and sliding down the emergency chute. But given a week to think about the consequences of such an action (and the debate goes from "he's an idiot" to "he's a hero"), let's take a look at some lessons Human Resources can take away from this:

Be First Class in Your Response

"No news is bad news," is sometimes the moniker of advertising,  but this type of news can't be good news if you're in Human Resources of JetBlue. But as HR Hero blogged earlier this week, Jet Blue responded in the best way possible in their blog post "Sometimes the news is about us." While most of us would a) not have the sense of humor to write a blog title like that, b) want to go on the defensive and start shoving accusations at Slater, and/or c) focus on the bad, JetBlue did none of that. They took the high road and acknowledged the great crewmembers they do have. And they referenced one of my favorite movies, Office Space, in the process. Bravo, Jet Blue!

Make Sure This Is Not Something People Feel Is OK

While it's OK to joke around about a story that has become funny news, it's important to let your other employees know this behavior is not tolerated and this is not the way to handle being disgruntled. Vault looks at it from the worker's side (and references a famous Half Baked quitting scene--which was in itself a parody on the Jerry Maguire quitting scene) and says things like "never quit out of anger", "don't burn bridges", and "give ample notice". This is something that your employees should take as regular behavior and not the way Slater (or Scarface or Jerry) quit their jobs.

Manage Your Employees' Workplace Stress

Barbara Safani wrote this post for AOL Jobs probably without Slater in mind, but the timing couldn't have been more prefect. The article is titled "Work Stress: What Are Companies Doing About It?" and should be a legitamite concern in the wake of Slater's seemingly stress-induced outburst (or maybe it was to land a reality TV show as TheWrap reports). This part is especially timely: "Managing stress in the workplace is a business issue, not fluff," says Rania Sedhom, principal at Buck Consulting. She notes, "Companies that make the investment to reduce stress in the workplace can improve employee loyalty and retention."

Those are three pieces of advice to give in the wake of the Slater incident. Many are hailing Slater as "a working class hero", but your company does not need Slaters of their own. Make sure that employees know the rules, that they are not stressed enough to quit like that, and that if something bad happens, that you are first class in your response. I'm sure the JetBlue employees who remain are happy to know that they are still appreciated.


  1. Stress in the work place... what's that like?

  2. Great article! That's really informative.
    Thanks for sharing.


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