We had an employee who quit a few months ago. As someone who has just welcomed a new baby into his family, I could understand why he would want to take another job that would let him spend more time at home with his own newborn. On the day he gave his notice, however, I sat down with him to chat about his job to see if there were other reasons why he wanted to quit.
After a few minutes of talking, he said that since taking the job with us, he just felt stressed out all the time. He felt stress to get jobs completed, stress to get systems working, stress of constantly having to solve problems and figure new things out, and stress from the calls and texts during off-work hours to get information on jobs. He just couldn’t take it anymore.
Ultimately, he said he thought he liked this industry when he started working with us, but after a couple of years, he didn’t think it was right for him.
On the surface, when you think about this industry and what we do, our days should really be filled with fun and smiles. We’re the trade that most customers are actually excited about coming onto the job. We bring toys and other cool stuff that make their homes actually fun to live in.
But there’s often a lot of money involved in the projects we work on, and with money comes expectation—whether real or imagined—and when those “expectations” somehow aren’t met, there comes some form of conflict.
As a company principal, I feel like we try to “shield” our employees from stress; trying to act as the insulator between client and technician, but, admittedly, as the techs are the ones out there on the front lines, that’s not always possible. And there’s a lot of stress to go around in this industry, and it definitely rolls down from the top.
If you’re busy, there’s the stress of getting all the jobs finished so you can get to the next ones. If the schedule is jammed, there’s the stress of having to tell people you can’t get to them for another week (or more). If you’re on a big job, there’s the stress of not effing something up and getting yourself sued.
At CEDIA this year, I had dinner with some of the Residential Systems writing team including fellow bloggers Todd Anthony Puma and Heather Sidorowicz. As is the case after a few glasses of wine—in vino veritas—we all started talking about our industry gripes and the challenges of running a business, and client stress and pressure was number one on all of our lists.
We all had similar stories about the clients who think nothing about emailing or texting at all hours to declare some “crisis” or concern, or who get irrationally upset when something—often beyond our control or not even our equipment—fails.
Whereas in the past someone would need to wait until you opened at 9 or 10 in the morning to vie for your attention, with email and smartphones we are “forever tethered” to customers who can reach out to us whenever the whim strikes.
And if you are anything like Todd, Heather, and me, you find it is virtually impossible to ignore it when you feel that beep or buzz in your pocket. Some sadomasochistic part of your brain forces you to look and see whom it’s from and what it’s about.
And just seeing a certain name come across your phone can be enough to ruin an evening or a weekend.
Just last night I was watching a movie at home when I got a rapid succession of four emails from a client at 10 o’clock describing issues he was having with his cable box and Apple TV. Did he expect a callback with a resolution or remedy then? Probably not. But that infringement into your personal time, day after day, is certainly enough to gnaw away at your love for this industry.
I had another customer who periodically needed to reboot an audio controller to turn off the volume due to a manufacturer’s software bug. Until the problem could be resolved, we put a button on her touchscreens that said, “Audio Reboot” that would take care of this process via a programmed power cycle in about 10 seconds. Instead of pressing that button, the customer texted me every night for two weeks around midnight requesting that I log into her system to virtually press the button.
My days start with the same bit of dread each morning: I walk over to check my phone before getting into the shower, taking a quick swipe through the notifications to see who called, texted, or emailed overnight with some bit of panic that needs to be attended to or triaged before I even technically start my work day.
Now that we live in such a connected world, and with most of us priding ourselves on delivering fantastic service, I’m not sure there is a solution to this. But I am sure we’re not the only company that has lost an employee to stress.