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The Emergency List: When employees aren’t empowered…

I had to share this moment that I had with my apartment complex (Rochester Villas owned by Hartman Tyner) this weekend which is a textbook example of what happens when companies don’t empower their employees to make their own intelligent decisions. It drove me to better appreciate the "ISMS" that we live and work by at Quicken Loans: “It’s not about who is right, but what is right, do the right thing… down with corporate hierarchy…” etc.

So Saturday I head into my bathroom upstairs and notice there are 1,2,3,4,5… (eek!), EIGHT hornets just hanging out in there. Hairbrush, light fixture, dental floss… wherever. And there are no windows in the bathroom. This being an unusual place for hornets to reside, I realized they were coming in from the vents. And even just standing in the bathroom, you could hear their little hornet butts bumping up against the drywall… they were actually IN the walls. I ran outside to figure out where they were coming in, and there was a swarm of about thirty of them at the roofline, each of them traveling in and out from underneath the siding. (Excellent!)

Since my dog and my fiancé are both allergic to hornets I called the “weekend emergency line” for my apartment complex. A woman answered. I explained to her the problem and the potential allergic reaction. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hi. We have hornets pouring into our bathroom from the vents, and they’re swarming outside around the roofline. We can even hear them in the walls. My fiancé is allergic to stings, can we get someone out here to fix this?!”

Dispatch: “Oh, wow! That does sound like an emergency! Let me check my list.”

Meg: (“Huh?”)

Dispatch: “Well ma’am, I’m sorry but that situation isn’t on my ‘emergency list’. So unfortunately I can’t help you.”

Meg: “What?! But you said yourself it was an emergency…”

Dispatch: “Yes, ma’am. I know it SEEMS like an emergency, but it’s not on my list of emergencies the owner has given us here that I’m allowed to patch you through to our emergency team for… See, it says nothing about bugs here. You’ll have to wait until Monday.”

Meg: “Great. Thanks. You’ve been so helpful. We’ll just shoot you the hospital bill for our un-emergency then.”

I would like to say there was a resolution here, but nope… just crickets. So I left a message for the weekday crew at the apartment complex. They called this morning letting me know that had we presented a doctor’s note for my fiancé that states he’s allergic, we could’ve been on the emergency list. I informed her that I must’ve misplaced my fortune teller hat last week, or else I would’ve surely been able to predict this would happen.

I’m reminded daily of the importance and efficiency of a company culture that trusts its team members to make intelligent decisions. It’s amazing something as small as a bee could shed so much light.

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  1. I agree, this is something we all need to understand. You make a very good point.

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  3. No doubt the situation was handled badly, but the person you spoke to at the emergency number was almost certainly not an employee of the management company. Management companies usually contract that stuff to third party call centers who get a list saying things like “a burst water pipe is an emergency, but a dripping faucet is not.”

    Posted by: Employee of an apartment mangement co. | July 29, 2009
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Friday, January 19, 2018