How Runaway Businesses and Runaway Expectations Taint the Job Market

It’s the refrain of every disgruntled worker, citizen, member of the public these days; they fire all the good help and keep the bad, including the sloppy, the ones with bad attitudes, absolute airheads. Not much however has been said about why or what effect it has, until now. Looking at shows like Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, Kitchen Nightmares and Undercover Boss provide some insight. Fully aware that it is reality TV, heavy on the TV light on the reality, knowing they will present the worst salons, worst restaurants, most explosive people, at the core are real businesses, real owners, real managers interacting with real employees, having real impact on the working world. Simultaneously stories abound of unlikely entrepreneurs making staggering achievements, success in a struggling economy, so much so we have come to expect it rather than see it for the rarity, happenstance that it is. Put the two together and you have a perfect recipe for what we see before us, millions out of work, no jobs to be had.

Viewing these programs you find people owning, running businesses who can’t organize their house, forget their business office, who can’t balance their personal checkbook, never mind their business finances, people known to throw things at employees, who shout, use profanity all in front of customers, don’t provide employee manuals or know what rules and regulations should be in place, who don’t know enough about the type of business they are running to know what products or tools should be in stock for staff to use; typically people who would’t survive in any other workplace operating failing businesses. The hosts of the former two programs mentioned are no better; chef Ramsey’s favorite word is f*ck edited for primetime TV, of course. But we as the public find it acceptable, even entertaining for him to throw tantrums, engage in tirades; Tabatha Coffey is the same way everyone she doesn’t agree with is a f*ckwit, is f*ing stupid, crazy, immature and many more questionably accurate adjectives. Cussing in salons and in to camera only commentary while admonishing employees for language; and where they used to make their money in salons and restaurants, now they make their money in a mix of consulting and reality TV.

However they are just a symptom of larger problems; namely that we will give a business license to anyone who can fill out the proper paperwork, pay the fee. Would be business owners can lease, buy space as long as they can pay for it; present a marginally good business plan, and they have a loan for equipment, space, incidentals. All minus said owner demonstrating any skill or understanding of how to run a business; without business bureaus attempting to offer classes in hiring employees, interacting with employees, simple things such as common forms found in operating a business, basic rules involving taxes and other common issues, management techniques, rudimentary tutorials in pricing goods and services based on city, area, comparable businesses, how to do that kind of research.

Consequently, people like Tabatha and chef Ramsey are called in by desperate people looking to save their livelihood, and by that time, they, owners, mangers have hired people to cook or do hair who have no experience, no education and were given little to no training, receive no ongoing classes, tutorials, mentoring. Unfortunately despite Tabatha’s continual recommendations of education, she often contradicts herself both in berating clueless stylists without any of those things and in being happy, practically jumping up and down, dancing, ecstatic the owner has put their business before friendship, before their comfort zone, before their feelings, exhibited managerial skills, took responsibility and fired unsatisfactory workers. Beaming that someone she was unhappy with is no longer dragging down the salon featured in that week’s show; the problem, those people routinely are the ones possessing less education, less experience, who were given half hearted retraining, learning opportunities. Such was the case with two receptionists in two separate hair care facilities; one was called the typical names in her to camera only commentary, but in her observation, in her takeover Tabetha never showed her how to be a receptionist at a salon or to cater to the needs of that specific establishment, nor did she encourage, demonstrate how the owner should go about doing so. Then asked if person X was the receptionist for them; instead of enforcing the idea they had an obligation to train them as they hired them, knowing their skills, lack there of. In the second case said owner hired a receptionist who had never held the position before, never mind in a salon, was given no training; Tabetha acknowledges that’s bad business, underscoring the need for a quality front desk person with prior experience, suggested training, but was again happy, upon follow up, to see the person replaced. Prime indications of supporting a business model that translates to trading one type of bad employer behavior for another, a consultant garnering her reputation should do better.

Simultaneously where some bosses are passive, sanguine personalities, disliking conflict, permissive regarding rules and behavior of employees, others are overly bossy, treating their staff like children, unappreciative of stylists who know their techniques, presenting quality work, set impossible expectations, nearly micromanaging themselves out of any employees at all. Yet Tabatha isn’t much better here either, dressing down stylists in front of clients, shaking the confidence of people she bought in to assess employees’ work, even if said customer is satisfied with services rendered. She continually fails to understand the type of work done in the salon up to that point; example, a men’s only hair studio was suddenly tasked with providing hair styles to women undergoing cancer treatments, creating everyday styles on wigs. Then wondered why the work wasn’t stellar quality, despite being hired for their expertise in men’s hairstyles. Another instance involved a woman running a kids hair cut business including staff minus any interest in kids; Tabatha’s idea to get clients flowing though their doors, catering to pageant girls looking for major hairdos, making it a place for little girls to have birthday parties, beauty days, rather than tell the woman perhaps she should return to school, fulfilling her long held aspirations of becoming a kindergarten teacher.

Taking into account the increasingly anti child attitude given off by people, she should have passed on the pageant hair idea for notifying the woman’s neighborhood, her city, this is the one place you can bring your child, them have a wonderful experience, and you not be scorned for needing to bring a child to have a haircut, a meal, for being in a public place likewise inhabited by adults. Similarly Ms. Coffey took on one marketing queen with 40 promotions, coupons going at once, removed all of them, saying they no place residing in a high-end business next to a country club; surprisingly their removal added to a meet and greet at said country club saw an upswing in the number of clientele. However these scenarios support both keeping people in jobs, ventures not for them and ignore proven tactics to draw people to your salon verses others. Clearly the woman had too many coupons, poorly written, not working, but people do use coupons even rich and well to do persons, as it saves them money, partly how they got to be so well off, and people getting a discount on one service might decide to splurge on additional offerings.

You know there’s a problem when a justifiably exasperated chef Ramsey is shouting to the owner why they own a restaurant, when he has a manager claiming lobsters are from Mane, yet they really are from Mexico or some other unusual place, encountering cooking staff who can’t properly put together basic culinary dishes, calling it by a fancy high end name, seemingly to get people in the door, far from the traditional form customers expect upon ordering that item. Chefs, cooks, food handlers who are incapable of cooking stake rare, medium rare, well done and knowing the difference. Absolutely appalling is when he goes into kitchens to find rotting food, filthy dishes, evidence of rats or roaches, but consents to help them rather than informing the local health department, a step also not mentioned or shown on camera when he returns to follow up on reformed eateries finding the same conditions. Something that never should get to such a point proving additional failure to regulate businesses dealing in food, which are supposed to be subject to regular, rigorous, even random inspection. Chef Ramsey will comment sadly, angrily and move on to the next hopeless case; again defacto supporting bad business practices, possibly endangering public health. And republicans want less regulation of businesses to entice them into hiring.

Issues training workers doesn’t just apply to new or inept business owners, but midrange to large, successful corporations as well; people given days to grasp complex routines and skills, abruptly fired for not being fast enough, using, lifting heavy things, completing extremely detailed tasks never done before, trainers ignorant of the level of experience, making rude comments in to camera only commentary, including profanity, all seen on Undercover Boss. Typically a show where no one is fired and CEO’s are moved to emotional displays ala John “boohoo” Boehner, when they hear stories revealing employees hard lives, usually handing out rewards to ease their burden, financing, education and so on, by shows end. Sadly an eye opening microcosm of the punishment we heap on people who need a job and are willing to work, because even though the boss is going undercover to see inner workings of his or her corporation, resort, cable company, only the TV, crew and television audience know, boiling down to the actions displayed by trainers are par for the course on how they treat, train all employees in whatever position. A window cleaner jeered for being several stories up on a shaky looking apparatus apprehensive about heights, a man cleaning bathrooms looked down on for not appearing happy to clean a bathroom, despite his efforts to clean it satisfactorily. One cable company worker training the new guy saying he could move faster without him, complete with expletive; the man had been employed all of one day. Truth is every show has an example similar to these, the attitude, abuse, and meanness leveled at workers, wanting to make a living, the majority of whom like, value their workplace. Feeding the toxic work environment nation wide, giving off the impression this is how it is when you get a job.

Inevitably when the economy turns sour people are forced to do things they never would have thought of up to that point, historically for some that meant swallowing their pride and working minimum wage, trying new types of work, going back to school, working for relatives, staring a business, however when business was easier to get into, the world in general more friendly; increasingly though it has meant wild risks, success only for those who can start a new business. This almost punishing people who don’t have a product, service or idea to sell, punishing people who are smart enough to know they don’t have the entrepreneurial gene, seeking to use their talent elsewhere. Likewise punished are people who have job skills, would be an asset to any company, but due to notorious job combining present in today’s employment market, are left out in the cold when they don’t know two dozen computer programs utilized in office work, when they don’t have marketing skills, business school classes, forklift operation, insurance, co-pay invoicing, accounting skills, routinely all for the same clerical job. As discussed, training unavailable from employers who claim not to have the time or money to give it. Success story after success story flashed on the news; PBS showcasing a husband and wife with two kids after he loses his job. She takes up babysitting for extra cash, clipping coupons; he looks for an office job. In the mean time, seeing her friends like her homemade chutney, a spicy English preserve, she transitions from selling to a few friends, local fairs to her own small business, and the family can make ends meet. A large family containing 8 kids and two parents survives after the father loses his 16-year job at a factory, on an idea from their son of selling T- shirts. Probably the most interesting, should be disturbing, case of what news produces call American spirit, American heart involves people willing to pack themselves, their young families into RV’s chasing work around the country, and we call this good, we call this ingenuity. Worse still we see it as the duty of someone unemployed, down on their luck, needing work to come up with, create a business venture, projecting the attitude if I can do it, they can do it, you can too, regardless of whether that’s true or not.

What it all means for business and jobs is huge; it means people looking for jobs who would have been fine with minor education, further training, lacking good references from their most recent employer. Only some of the takeovers, nightmares are successful and reversed; some go back to doing things as if the hard-hitting consultants were never there. Meaning when the place goes out of business more people are looking for jobs, never getting to the heart of the matter, never correcting pitfalls being that bad employees are kept because corporations, mangers don’t know how to find good ones, will rarely consider hiring someone, better, smarter, more skilled than they are. A primary reason good people are let go, because they will stand up to bad practices, polices that don’t make sense, make work harder or reduce quality. On top of that owning a business is seen as an easy escape for people toiling away in a toxic work environment of an established office, retail store, middle management positions, thinking anything is better than this, people who don’t have time to spend between 4-8 years going to business school. Hints mangers who appear lazy, uninterested, unmotivated never having been educated, informed about the amount of work involved in owning their own enterprise.

Couple that with outlandishly bloated job descriptions popular today, and your dealing less with incompetence and more employees expected to do too many things, chasing their tails to get everything done in a day, to meet impossible deadlines set by overseers who do not understand the real time it takes to do what is asked, forget do it adherent to any measure of quality. Business economy as a whole is effected when our chutney selling mom or T- shirt selling family doesn’t file the proper tax return, declares their income in the wrong place on a return, find themselves subject to an audit, possibly losing their new livelihood, going back to pounding the pavement in search of work. Employees chasing jobs across the country takes work from local job seekers, away from people who can’t afford to move, creates sinkhole spaces in area economies as they leave right behind the job.

We need to reinvent the standard of American business; not so long ago you didn’t have to tell seasoned entrepreneurs what made good business, that you hire a receptionist to do reception, you hire an accountant to do accounting, need a fork lift operator that’s what you seek not someone with dozens of other skills as well, or all of the above for the same position. Why because no one can do that amount of work proficiently, period. Not so long ago successful entrepreneurs didn’t have to be told training was required for employees, especially ones that had little to no experience, or that training should last longer than a few days to a week, depending on complexity of job. Even considering adjustments made because the growing influx of college gradutes, training wasn’t considered, as little as 5 years ago, the four-letter word it is now. If bosses of 10, 20 or 30 years ago behaved as some do now throwing adult temper tantrums, engaging in threats, intimidation, asking personnel to do things not in the companies job description, let alone their individual one, firing people on a whim, demonstrating gross irresponsibility and incompetence they wouldn’t have jobs, certainly not holding the authority they do. Middle management wouldn’t be synonymous with mini dictator wielding power independent of job parameters, independent of people noticing. Most are aware times change, that this isn’t 30 years ago; most admire progress. This however, isn’t progress; it’s progressing backwards.

No one is suggesting afore mentioned classes for new business owners be mandatory, that you have to pass a test on certain concepts to obtain business licensing, although some would like it that way, what is being suggested is making free, low cost classes available makes tools and information available, keeps fledgling businesses thriving and people employed. We need reallocation of regulation to incorporate items listed a paragraph above that didn’t used to require law, and legislation now urgently needed. Much of the reason employers have no time to train, mentor, even monitor staff is because they hire too few workers in favor of larger profit margins, big corporations in the billions, competitive mid-sized companies looking for more, more, more complain they can’t find suitable workers, yet are unwilling to train; while there isn’t anyone to step in and say if your business is this size you must have X number of workers, no one paying attention to want ads asking for lists of unrelated skills that don’t belong grouped together or obviously overtax the best of multi-tasker’s, moving towards separating jobs, creating a more functional workplace. Training should be a minimum of 90 days mandated by law for every position no exceptions; companies should be required to keep a person employed for six months, three months training three months to evaluate the persons acquisition of skills, baring excessive tardiness, coming to work drunk/high, various kinds of assault, harassment at work. For the various levels of mid-sized businesses to large corporations law would mandate minimum numbers of workers commiserate with size.

Neither is anyone paying attention to the outright illegalities so common place firing arbitrarily, people caught on tape making derogatory comments about a pregnant woman being fat, then fired, a woman fired for dressing too sexy at work, forgoing the part where she brought customers into her bank and her attire was both appropriate for where she worked and her figure, people getting jobs based on who they know in the organization, who they are related or married to rather than knowledge. Employers should have to provide a reason and evidence substantiating that reason for firing someone, just like in a court of law. If you hire them knowing their limited, nonexistent experience you should legally not be able to fire them before providing needed training or education. Strong consideration should be given to placing cameras in businesses to catch tirading bosses, grossly incompetent managers and staff, alleviated greatly by people who suddenly have manageable workloads, have time to train workers, monitor subordinates because they hired enough persons and those persons were properly trained before being expected to do a job.

Explosive bosses would quickly become a thing of the past as bosses would be required to demonstrate or learn leadership, management and adequate communication skills, no longer simply able to charm the right people, bully their way to the top self appointed god of wherever they work. Public perception too needs to change; you shouldn’t have to start a business, invent a product or service to sell, just to monetarily participate in society. If you can that’s great, if you want to, even better, if you have inherent business talent, go for it, but you shouldn’t have to, to be considered doing everything you can to better your situation. Positively more money would be available for business loans if 50% didn’t fail in 5 years, if we didn’t constantly hand it to people minus the ability to use it efficiently. Less strain would be put on social programs like WIC, welfare, general relief, social security, Medicaid, public housing, due to more people being able to get and keep jobs, provide for themselves. People are more likely to stick by companies in healthy work environments so your not always training new people, hunting for new employees. The question is why haven’t we done these things already; why is the business community more of a no man’s land than the 1920’s and 30’s?

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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