So my teeny-tiny little airline (US Airways) is going through this teeny-tiny little thing called “Becoming the Biggest Airline in the World.” Last week, Taylor and I went on a quick drive to a Denny’s in Buckeye while I ranted about projects, coworkers, bosses, and people who wouldn’t know what common sense looked like if they met Thomas Paine. I got most of the frustration out, but in light of the fact that I really have no idea what day of the week it is, let me share with you a few things that I’ve learned in the 14 months since our merger with American Airlines became public knowledge:
- Communication is KEY.
Yes, it’s a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they’re TRUE. I’ve been in meetings where an employee is holding vital knowledge back. In these meetings, everyone is frustrated, the discussion goes in circles, and the wrong conclusion is determined.
As an airline, we are responsible for communicating with our employees and with our passengers. In a merger situation, we have to take into consideration that EVERYONE is a little confused 100% of the time, and that goes double for our passengers. “Well, I can do it [check my bag for free, change my flight, etc.] on the other airline, why can’t I do it here?” is a question I’ve heard so many times over the last year that it echoes in my dreams, and sometimes all we can answer is, “Because that’s the policy.”
Now, imagine that conference room where the employee is holding back the answer. Imagine the employee knows the answer to why that passenger can’t check his bag or change his flight. Imagine all the employee says is, “Because that’s the policy,” instead of sharing the why. Now imagine this is happening in every meeting in every building in every company in the world. You know what would happen? We in the conference rooms would turn into Congress, and nothing would ever get done.
- Days of the week are a figment of the imagination.
I do the schedule for my department. Actually, I do 4 separate schedules for my department: one for agents assisting with delayed/cancelled flights, one for agents assisting with merger-related issues, and two for agents who need recurrent training in American Airlines and US Airways policies. In addition, I have to take into consideration who’s on vacation, who traded shifts, who called in sick, and who is in the other two training classes going on within the department.
In addition, in the last year, I created a guide to help our agents learn the American computer system and I’m in the middle of creating another one that has to be done by April 1st. In addition to THAT, in the last two weeks, I researched and solved a critical issue with our phone lines after having 4 hours with the software, I rewrote a training manual, and I trained 11 agents individually on new policies and procedures. And still did the schedules. And sat in on meetings. And took on a few other issues that are not even really related to my department, but by golly, did they get fixed.
All of this to say, I’ve willingly not had a day off in at least two weeks. I was working on the schedule today and I could not remember for the life of me what day of the week it was. I had agents scheduled on their off days, other agents scheduled at hours they would never work. In the end, I threw the schedules on the wall and decided to call it good. Also, today might be Wednesday, or it might be Sunday, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t had a Tuesday in at least a month.
- People’s true colors really start to show.
Turns out, I like to get credit for all of the stuff I do. However, I don’t want any extra credit that I haven’t earned. That goes for rewards, accolades, and the like. If I did not put in the time or the effort, I absolutely, 100%, do not want the credit or the reward, and if you give it to me, I will fight you.
Just like there are people like me, there are people on the other side of the fence who are more than happy to take all of that credit I don’t want . . . along with plenty of the credit I am due. One such person is actually convinced that he really is the mastermind behind one of my successes, which has made for an interesting time. To be honest, I’m not going to fight it because of something I learned in school: when someone copies your homework, they won’t have a clue how to answer the questions on the exam. I am more than happy to wait for the exam to come around.
However, there’s another way in which those true colors are extremely interesting. I have two coworkers who are polar opposites. One manipulates, manipulates, manipulates to the extent that it is impossible to tell if she is lying or not unless you have thorough firsthand knowledge of the situation. She’s the type of employee that would hold back information, if she were in any sort of position to gain information to hold back. The other coworker is the exact opposite. She’s very giving, very straightforward. When you ask her a question, she will give you the answer without a hint of bullshit. If she doesn’t know the answer, she will hunt it down until she knows the answer, she understands the answer, and she can relay the answer to anyone else who might need it. She’s the type of employee that makes success possible.
I have many an opinion about this merger, about this company that I love and want to see succeed. Those opinions themselves don’t need to be shared on a public forum. However, it doesn’t change the fact that there are a few things that will make this merger start to go a bit smoother, especially as we’re counting down the days until we get our Single Operating Certificate:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
I don’t care if you don’t want to send that email, send it. I don’t care if you don’t want to hold that briefing, or check in with your employees, DO IT. Communication is as much about taking responsibility for your people as it is about making sure they can effectively do their jobs. If you aren’t communicating, and they aren’t doing their jobs right, your entire department is going to be an easy one to cut at the end of the day.
- If you don’t know the answer, find it.
If you don’t understand why, find someone who does. This is an airline. At the end of the day, we’re all here to make sure the big metal birds get from my airport to your airport, filled with satisfied passengers. This means that our end goal, from airport agent to CEO, needs to be the same. This is a team.
- If you’re holding back knowledge because you “just don’t see why” another employee/department needs to know, chances are you aren’t looking at the big picture.
You know who keeps their jobs all the way through a merger? The people who make the merger a success. You know who gets burned out? The people who keep spinning their wheels trying to prevent things from moving forward.
- Treat EVERYONE, regardless of department or paygrade, as a teammate.
You may not care for that one guy on your pit crew, but when you’ve blown your right side tire at Daytona and fishtailed into a wall, he’s going to be right there with everyone else, patching up your car to ensure you finish the race.
- Understand that bigger isn’t better.
Sure, we’re about to be the biggest airline in the world. That’s awesome (literally). However, my department is at a crossroads: we can expand and give okay training to okay agents, which will allow us to satisfactorily answer a higher number of calls OR we can give excellent training to make our okay agents excellent, which will allow us to exceed our callers’ expectations, handle a higher number of calls, and make our department truly vital to the well-being of the company.
- There is no “I” in TEAM.
There’s also no “airport” in TEAM or “help desk” in TEAM or “reservations” in TEAM or anything else. We–WE–are AN airline, or at least we will be soon. WE have to work together, because if something goes wrong and our passengers stop showing up, WE will be the ones forced into pulling out of cities and laying off our employees.
My god, I think I could go on for pages more. (When Taylor and I drove to Buckeye, I ranted–RANTED–for three hours. If I am passionate about one thing, it is my career and the quality of service we provide to our passengers.)
I think I’m going to stop here. I have tried to be respectful of my company and give generically good advice rather than pointing fingers at specific agents or departments, though I may wake up tomorrow and feel the need to delete this whole post. It’s also a bit ranty for my traditional taste, but that’s what two solid 60+ hour weeks of work does to someone like me.
Good night, all! Much love! And please leave any questions or concerns or remarks in the comments below.