I guess I've heard worse comments by employers about their workers, but this one was right up there near the top.
While returning from a recent business trip, I shared an airport shuttle with a gentleman I've spoken with several times over the years as our paths have crossed. He's quite familiar with the tire industry and, as we made small talk to pass the time, our conversation briefly touched on a past experience he recalled about a long-ago retread shop he was familiar with.
As they used to say in the old Dragnet TV seriesyes, I'm certainly dating myself with that referencethe names have been changed to protect the innocent. Actually, in this case it's more like protecting the guilty.
My fellow traveler elicited a pronounced wince when relating how a guy referred to his retread shop employees as my weasels.
This is the respect he held for the workers who probably helped keep his business afloat? Weasels?
According to an online encyclopedia, weasels have been assigned a variety of different cultural meanings. In Greek culture, a weasel near the house is a sign of bad luck, even evil, it says, 'especially if there is in the household a girl about to be married,' since the animal (based on its Greek etymology) was thought to be an unhappy bride who was transformed into a weasel and consequently delights in destroying wedding dresses.
While in Macedonia weasels are generally seen as an omen of good fortune, according to the encyclopedia, in North America, native Americans deemed the weasel to be a bad sign; crossing its path meant a 'speedy death.' And Robinson Crusoe author and journalist Daniel Defoe noted that meeting a weasel is a bad omen.
Probably a bad omen for a business owner who must rely on his weasels to keep producing and rolling those retreads out of his shop.
Seems to me Business 101 basics should apply here: Showing respect for customers starts first with valuing your own employees. If this guy called them by that derogatory term, I have no doubt he probably treated them no better when it came to things like wages, benefits, showing compassion for personal issues, etc.
I also wonder what terms of endearment he held for his customers and suppliers.
Business seminars constantly harp on the need for ownersand their employeesto seek ongoing training in their fields of expertise to stay on top of new equipment, business trends and strategies, lest they be rolled under by them. That includes, or should, personal and professional relationships.
Let's face it, we've all probably worked for owners, managers and supervisors whose people skills are, to be polite, sorely lacking. No doubt some people are just plain uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with the public, be they employees, customers, suppliershell, even family members. We all know someone like that.
Maybe he or she is the person looking back in the mirror.
But running a business sometimes means fording across that stream of discomfort while challenging oneself to attain a higher level of professionalism. Compassion probably can't be force-fedsome people just seem to be born with it while others just don't get it. Simply showing a little of it is maybe the least we can ask of ourselves and those with whom we come in contact.
So that hard-bitten shop owner called his employees weasels, huh? I can only imagine what they called him in return. Do any of us really want to have that kind of reputation and working relationship?