Put chronic gabbers in their place

If it's true that "the business of business is business," then the bottom line key is productivity.

By Raymond Dreyfack December 1, 1998

If it’s true that “the business of business is business,” then the bottom line key is productivity. As any experienced manager could confirm, if there’s one thing that kills productivity, it’s the not uncommon corporate disease sometimes referred to as “diarrhea of the mouth.”

Supply Room Attendant Pauline Pfister ran a one-woman operation and was famous — or infamous — for her talkative tendencies. Whether on the transmitting or receiving end of a phone call, it was hard to get her off the line. Although otherwise good at her job, her longwindedness was the bane of Maintenance Supervisor Joe Lehman’s existence. He had called her on the carpet more than once to complain.

Lehman’s “last straw” decision occurred when he was unable to get through to the supply room to determine if a set of special wrenches was available. Exasperated, he made the 10-min trek to the supply room. Sure enough, Pfister was still on the phone, gabbing away as if she were at home in her rec room. At sight of her boss, she quickly put an end to her talk and hung up.

Lehman said through tight lips, “I’ve had it with you, Pauline. You can clock out. Your final check will be mailed to you.”

Pfister was dumbfounded. “I was only…”

Lehman didn’t hang around to listen. He put through a termination notice for Plant Engineer Phil Trapp to okay.

Question : Is Pauline’s dismissal justified?

Trapp’s decision: Plant Engineer Trapp summoned Lehman to his office. “This comes as a surprise,” he said. “I thought Pauline Pfister was a good worker.”

“She knows her job,” Lehman conceded,” but doesn’t know when to shut up. I don’t know how many times I talked to her about yakking on the job and tying up the phone.”

“I checked her file and see no indication of that other than a couple of notations.”

“Today I decided to carry it a step further”

“That’s not good enough, Joe. She received no official written warnings so far as I can see, and no suspensions. A few oral complaints aren’t sufficient to warrant the ultimate discipline. As a good longtime worker, Pauline deserves more of a chance to reform. You also have to make it clear to her on a progressive basis that a failure to cut out her excessive gabbing could lead to dismissal.”