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It's a backstage pass to info on jobs and life at 50+. Gen Plus, headed by Janet Wendy Spiegel, is dedicated to baby boomers and the plus generation of age 50 and older. Read up and speak out on issues affecting your future: jobs, income, life and respect.

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Northridge, California, United States
Successful businesswoman, consultant, entrepreneur. I operate two businesses -- social media consulting, AND premium pet care services in the West San Fernando Valley. Love what I do, love life.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Is Ladders crossing the line in taking on American Airlines? You tell me.

I keep tabs on what other job boards, recruiters, and social networks are honing in on, so that if there are trends or issues that pop up I can pass them along to you, my dear reader.

One company that I admire is called The Ladders. While I don't like the fact that they charge jobseekers to pay for access to their job bank and I generally take a stand against that practice, this particular brand has done a pretty good job in staying niche-focused and aims to attract the higher salaried jobseeker. (Personally, I don't want to charge a 50 plus jobseeker to pay for resume search when they are already quite worried about their pocketbook but his niche is highly targeted and a bit more flush.)

Well, CEO Marc Cenedella, had a bad week of travel and wrote about it. And this is what I'm talking about today. He's really gone out on a limb talking about the challenges of poor customer service and focused on one questionable American Airlines employee. Is he talking the right stuff? Or is this going a little too far? I'm betting we'll hear more on this particular newsletter. Feel free to add your comments by clicking on the title of this post and hitting the "comments" link at the bottom of the post. (No, you cannot comment directly to this newsletter if you are a subscriber. You do have to go through the actual web page.)

Here are excerpts from his newsletter (I've deleted some of the letter that is not directly relevant to this topic):

A grumbly Monday morning to you.

Folks, other people’s travel hell stories are about as interesting as other people’s "kids" or "new exercise regimen" stories, so I’m not going to bore you with one of those.

And as a matter of fact, my recent flight on American wasn’t uniquely miserable. It was just run-of-the-mill lousy.

But what really got me bummed out was my flight attendant’s outfit.

Katherine had gone to the trouble of wearing buttons with all sorts of sayings on her uniform.
You know, when you’re on a flight on one of the legacy airlines, you kind of hold out hope that somebody - anybody - will give a damn. And like a drowning man might, I saw Katherine’s buttons as a statement.

She cared! She was going to stand out against the ennui and mediocrity of her co-workers and let the world know that she, Katherine of American Airlines Flight 673 from Miami to New York, was taking a stand!

A stand for friendliness, and approachability, and caring about her customers.

Now, if you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know I am a bit of a nut for our customers...

...So when I see somebody breaking out against the norm, standing up for customers, and daring to care, I can get pretty excited.

And so as Katherine approached me I strained to get my work weary eyes to read the fine print on her button.

It was a light blue button with dark blue writing, and I could just about make out the words:


And I have to tell you, that was just about the most deflating, disheartening, dispiriting, depressing thing to read after a relaxing weekend.

And I won’t share them with you here, but the rest of her buttons were of an equally sour-puss nature.

And you know, Katherine and her type stand for everything that’s bad in the world. For every one of us trying to achieve great things, there’s a Katherine standing nearby ready to tear it down. For each of us trying to make the world a better place today, this hour, this minute, there’s a Katherine in the wings sticking her tongue out.

And not only is there a Katherine, but there’s a company willing to hire her. Like American Airlines.

And while Mom said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, I wish the Katherines and the American Airlines of the world nothing but failure. Failure in their campaign to pull down the productive people, failure in their efforts to keep winners from winning, and failure in the marketplace so that better people and companies can serve American Airlines customers.

So don’t be a Katherine! As you go about this job hunt, don’t waste your talents or fall into the trap of working for a company that doesn’t respect you, in a job where you stop respecting yourself. You’re too talented, and forward-looking, and capable to waste your years away inside a rotting body like American Airlines...

...Whatever you do, don’t sell yourself short, and don’t let the Katherines of this world bring you down.

I’ll be rooting for you!

Warmest Regards,
Marc Cenedella, Founder & CEO
TheLadders.com, Inc.


Anonymous said...

Although I think Marc went a little far in publishing the name and flight number of the employee, I do agree with most of his points. If you hate your job - find another one! Don't advertise that your life stinks - do something about it! I began hating my job a long time ago and didn't have teh good sense to search for a new one until long after I should have. I needed a wakeup call like the one Marc wrote.

Anonymous said...

I think it crossed the line from what was supposed to be a weekly/daily newsletter about career development to that of a blog by the CEO.
The daily letter (I was a sub) was starting to get on my nerves because it wasn't that much in value-and it was far too often.
Today just sorta confirmed my decision to unsubscribe.
Sides information cannot be locked down-and ladders attempts to make money by locking down knowledge-always a failure business model

GoingLikeSixty.com said...

If she wants to announce to the world that she is miserable, then Ladders did her a favor.
Hopefully, someone at AA will see the blog and address the situation.
Remove the "flair" or transfer or quit.

Why would any company tolerate this kind of attitude? Especially one that has no product differentation?

More power to him, I hope this gets picked up by the Consumerist.

I will be putting a link on Flyertalk.com

Anonymous said...

Did anyone address her massive pay cut and increased work hours? Of course not. There is never any excuse for that behavior. We as peons and minions for the corporate giants must just take 18% pay cuts and doubling of work loads just to put food on the table as necessary to subsidize cheap airfare for these jack asses. Some of us are not going to just quit our profession but take a stand and fight this unacceptable trend in american business today. That flight attendant probably should not be wearing such flair but the fact that she can get away with it is evidence that AA does not care either about you the customer. Get used to it. When you offer air fares below the cost of operations thats what you get. For the price you are paying you get sullen airline workers with lousy attitudes because the job stinks. Instead of griping like a whiny, selfish corporate drone why dont you ask yourself why is this happening? Are you so unaware of the economics of the one of the most important industries in america you can come to the conclusion she is just a bad apple? If you fly AA with any regularity you will find a large number of employees wondering why they work for a corporation that dished out massive pay cuts but still finds enough money every year to give out millions and millions in bonuses to its managers. Only leaders deserve that kind of compensation and we have none here at AA.

Wendy, founder, Gen Plus said...

I'm just wondering if the badges were part of the game (like the jokes Southwest tell on their flights). Excellent comments so far. There are always two sides to every coin. So while I believe that customer service is extremely important, I can also understand how tight the compensation and pay cut challenges must be right now in the airline industry. I'm very interested to hear more.


Anonymous said...

I think this flight attendant just wanted to draw the attention to the fact that flight attendants in general are overworked and underpaid.
She couldn't have changed anything on her uniform with Austrian Airlines because crew members are are being 'checked' before they are boarding the planes. I was a stewardess in the early 60. Way back then, it was an honour to work for an airline. You had to go through a three months training.....speak more than three languages etc..... AND you didn't have to serve so many passengers!

I sort of sympathize with this lady!!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely sympathize with this lady. Either Mr. Marc Cenedella has no clue, or worse, he actually approves of the abhorent working conditions imposed upon flight attendants and other non-management employees at American Airlines.
For someone that founded an online job search website and purports to try to make the world a better place, Mr. Cenedella shows a shameful lack of understanding.
Mr. Cenedella and those like him, will be in for an awakening when the tens of thousands of workers (pilots, flight attendants and mechanics) at American Airlines demonstrate a unified voice against the employment practices of American Airlines.

Wendy, founder, Gen Plus said...

Your comments are all excellent -- on both sides of the coin.

There is the individual and there is the corporation. In a corporate environment, every worker becomes a "piece" of the whole and a player on the chess board. In this case the individual appears to make a statement in the form of a visual cue. Mr. Cenedella doesn't say anything about the actual customer service delivered, just about the visual statement, that impacts the customer experience.

Not being a airline worker myself, I don't know what recourse the individual attendant has to make her protest (if it was indeed a protest -- may have been her sense of humor) and whether branded dress code allows her or other attendants to wear "statement" pins.

However, there is a lot of chatter taking place on the challenges staff are facing at the airlines (like the extremely long shifts, leading to fatigue). Every passengers first concern is their safety. I'd rather get to my destination in one piece.

Obviously this issue needs more airing and it goes far beyond this one particular experience.