We've all experienced poor customer service. My wife and I lament all the time that customer service seems to be declining fast everywhere we turn--but somehow not fast enough to make the perpetuators sales decline fast enough so they'll do anything about it.  

Enter Matthew Rose, a Wendy's customer, who decided to do something about it.

WCVB in Boston recently reported Rose visited the restaurant chain twice this month in the Wareham, Massachusetts area. He experienced poor customer service both times so he sent Wendy's corporate office a complaint email.

I've done that a few times before and frankly half the time I got a milquetoast response, the other half no response at all. I would have preferred either to what Rose received.

The Wendy's aficionado got an email from the Wareham area's District Manager that both angered and offended him.  Here's the email that was sent to Rose (edited for brevity)--strap yourself in:

Good morning Matt,

My name is Keith and I'm the DM for the Wendy's in Wareham. I apologize for your experiences at this location. Not an excuse but the town of Wareham has little to no talent pool to hire from. This is an ongoing issue in that area. We are constantly interviewing and hiring any and all qualified candidates. Unfortunately, those candidates are hard to come by, as most are recovering addicts, and we cannot hire them.

Holy. Moly.

Can we all agree that it's probably not a good idea to respond to a complaint about poor service with poorer, outrageous service that's also offends a geography and an entire classification of people?

This makes the brand seem insensitive and like they are making no progress on diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices. Indeed, Wendy's corporate response to the District Manager's response indicates as much:

These comments are inconsistent with our company's values and do not reflect Wendy's hiring practices. We work hard to create a welcoming and inclusive environment in our restaurants and will address this appropriately.

The overall tone of the DM's email tells me that he was probably trying to be forthright, but there's a (somewhat controversial) lesson here for leaders.

Honesty is not always the best policy.

I am a massive believer in truth and transparency in communication. Nothing is more transparent than when someone is not being transparent. The best bosses I ever had were all authentic, to a fault. Which brings me to my broader point; there are times when being honest puts you at fault.

Here are six occasions when leaders actually shouldn't be honest--let's see if you agree.

1. When venting in anger.

Outbursts are never acceptable in the workplace, and just because they might be fueled by honesty doesn't keep them from being poisonous clouds. Any such point that would be made in an outburst should be carefully thought through and couched in high emotional intelligence so that the receiver can receive the message in a productive way. There's a time, place, and a way for the truth in such cases.  

2. When you're around toxic negative-nellies.

Why feed the beast? Sharing unsavory truths or even basic complaints gives negative people power. The more negative fodder they get, the more power they get, especially when no one challenges them. Their cynicism will just multiply and likely backfire on you at some point.

3. When honesty is just plain mean.

Yup, I'm talking about the "little white lie" here and yes, I confess that I use it from time to time.

Because I have a heart.

I'm the first person to give honest, forthright feedback, even if it stings a little. But that is not the same thing as crossing the line into truths that are vicious and hurtful. You know them when you see them. Resist.

4. When someone asks you a super-personal question at work.

OK, if it's a friend, use your judgment. But in general, co-workers and bosses need to understand there are boundaries. Just because you're asked a personal question, no matter the intent behind that question, it doesn't mean you have to give a personal answer, or any answer at all.

5. When someone asks if layoffs are coming (and you know they are).

Set aside potential legal ramifications. Layoffs and job losses are life-changing announcements that need to be handled with extreme care--too many people's lives are at stake.  

6. When you truly have someone's best interest at heart.

Yes, I'm giving you carte blanche here to use your judgment and withhold from total honesty if you know, in your heart of hearts, the truth does far more harm than good. Again, you'll know it when you see it.

So leaders, lead with honesty and integrity, without exception. Except for the exceptions.

Published on: Aug 14, 2019
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