In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard the words “we’re spending a lot of money” used twice in regard to one of metro New York’s public transportation systems, the Long Island Railroad, lovingly known as the “LIRR”. Both times the phrase was used in a news story on news radio.
The first story was about cuts in service because the LIRR, like many organizations since the recession started in 2007, is desperately attempting to save money. The man who was recorded as bemoaning the amount of money paid to the railroad seemed to feel that the pre-cut service wasn’t good enough to justify the amount being paid — and no way in hell is it justified by cuts in service.
The second story was about the LIRR shutting down after 2 tornadoes and multiple near-tornadoes rampaged through Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County last week. The angry man quoted in this story seemed to feel that the amount of money he paid should guarantee service no matter what the weather conditions.
I have a simple question for both these gentlemen: “What the hell are you talking about?”
To Commuter No. 1: Haven’t you heard about the recession? Everyone and every organization are cutting back. The amount of money you pay as an individual has almost nothing to do with the overall viability of the LIRR.
To Commuter No. 2: What is with you? Do you seriously believe that your money somehow immunizes you and your railroad from the devastation of tornadoes? Maybe you should cancel your commutation ticket and use the money saved to see a shrink. You are in serious need of a reality adjustment.
The problem with both of these gentlemen is simple: Their expectations are ridiculous. They feel that the money they spend is the overriding factor in the equation.
What should organizations do about outlandish expectations from their customers? Employees? Stakeholders?
Communicate, and then follow up with more communication, and then return with even more communication. People, as the above examples show, can be incredibly dense. You need to be communicating constantly and redundantly.
And you need to accept a harsh reality: No matter what you do or say, there will always be some people who won’t get the message. Some people who think that their money means tornadoes don’t shut down the railroad. Customers who think non-working products are for other people. Employees who feel they are overworked and underpaid. Stakeholders who feel unappreciated, no matter what the return on stock or how much community service you do.
If you’re reaching a solid majority of the people you’re communicating with, pat yourself on the back, have another cup of coffee, then restart your efforts toward the people who just don’t get it. It’s a vicious cycle, but you’re stuck with it. After all, you never know when the next tornado is coming.
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