"We find the defendant not guilty by reason of low self esteem."

“We find the defendant not guilty by reason of low self esteem.”

It’s amazing how a day (or two) in public service can teach you how to reflect on your company culture. Take jury duty and airlines, for example.

When you operate in a box (or a tube at 50K feet), your view of reality can warp significantly over the years.  This warped view of reality can create negative cultures that severely hamper your ability to be successful.

All jurors are actually misbehaved children in adult clothes

At least this is what the experience at jury duty in Charlotte delivers. The day starts off with a trip downtown and kicks off with a wonderful eulogy from the county clerks as they describe the ever-so-painfully-obvious.   Instead of just the basic rules – you know, short and sweet – they take it one step further and go into amazing depth on things like:

  • Parking validation.  A full 10 minutes were spent on not just how to validate, but apparently no one on the planet validates correctly on the seemingly simplistic validation machine provided.  In addition, all potential jurors go out of their way to give the county clerks a rough time.  I guess that’s why this particular county clerk treated all of us like 5-year olds as she demonstrated how to insert the parking ticket with the magnetic strip facing the correct way.  Not to worry, she then repeated the entire display on her right side, just in case any of us morons missed it on the dozen monitors around the office.
  • Virtual tour of the facility.  Started off somewhat educational for the first 45 seconds, then turned quickly into condescending stories of inserting $20 bills into quarter vending machines and explaining in great detail (to the crowd of nearly 50 of us) how we shouldn’t complain for having too many quarters in our pockets if we fail to read directions.  Not to worry, there’s a game room upstairs if we want to play cards with strangers we meet today.
  • Parking places.  Back to our parking ticket – isn’t this fun?  Apparently if the ticket isn’t shaped just right, then you’re the moron who parked in the wrong garage.  The county clerk was quick to describe people who have “educated her on things she didn’t know about her family” which is why she’s apparently forced to treat us as if we’re all drooling on our coloring books.  She even invited us to stop by her desk at 10:00am to witness the horrible verbal insults jurors sling her way for parking in the wrong place.  (I stopped by her desk at 10:05 am and you could hear a pin drop, so apparently I must have missed the scuffle that occurred right before the parking validation machine was placed on the counter).

Then they insert a few quips that the audience isn’t paying attention, that we need to shut off our cell phones, that we need to speak louder – as if to justify their view of the world that we’ve arrived today with the singular mission to give them a hard time.   Of course audience members are not paying attention because when you largely insult your listeners, people sort of check out.

The entire experience is built around the assumption that today will be a miserable day spent around miserable people. Hmmm, I wonder how today will turn out.

I don’t know about you, but I still can’t figure out why everyone loathes jury duty.

Not all airlines are created equal

The environment here at the courthouse reminds me of those Southwest wannabies on USAir where a flight attendants try to be funny by mentioning the plethora of devices you can’t use for fear the Boeing 747 inverts in flight.

Instead of everyone chuckling, the rant usually ends with a dud as half the airplane is insulted or annoyed.

Why? Because USAir’s culture isn’t much fun like Southwest’s and therefore their delivery has that not so subtle tone of disdain.  USAir can’t pull off what Southwest can because everyone knows most flight attendants on USAir feel wronged in some way by their employer, and boy are they angry about it.  And this anger comes out in their comments, the way they interact with passengers and their customer service levels.

Their worldview is one where passengers are a nuisance and they are trapped in a tube all day at 50K feet for little to no pay, horrible benefits and pension plans that were cut by 90%.  Maybe that’s why I detect a hint of sick pleasure when they update the passengers that there will be absolutely no liquid sustenance on the short flight from Charlotte to Washington.

It must be the favorite part of their day.

Now that you’ve read about the background info on my jury duty experience, think about the culture at your kitchen and bath showrooms.  What signals are you sending out, and how are you treating your clients?  We’ll get more into this in part 2…stay tuned!