The Internet was abuzz this past year with the Steven Slater incident on the Jet Blue flight. He was the flight attendant who got annoyed with a demanding passenger and announced his irritation on the plane’s PA system and then quit his job by dramatically taking a beer and sliding down the plane’s emergency slide.

Clearly he was not happy at work! He certainly found a dramatic way to give feedback to his employer and the rest of the world about how untenable his job had become. To me this is a really sad example of how difficult today’s workplace has become. To many people meaningful work is just a dream.

No wonder Steven Slater has become a folk hero. People are cheering him for telling the boss what he really thought. Too bad he waited so long and became so frustrated but maybe there was no other way. Companies do have a way of ignoring situations until someone blows up.

I am sympathetic to Slater's rage. I worked for a large company where there was a yearly employee satisfaction survey. It gave the employees the opportunity to share their thoughts about the business with management. I took the survey seriously and gave my comments as did many others. Our concerns were never addressed and the only comment I ever heard about the survey was that the managers were puzzled as to why job satisfaction was very low

Management does need to watch, look, listen and act. One year the manager of my sales group hired a young woman in January. There were four guys on the team at that point and me. The woman was new to both our sales team and sales in general. The boss liked her and he gave her at least a half a dozen hot sales leads during the year that resulted in sales for her.

At the time I had had several large sales at the end of the previous year and was busy implementing them. We got paid on revenue and revenue didn't show up until the systems were installed so I was totally focused on my work. Late in the year I noticed the many sales the woman had. It was a slow year for everyone else. I kept wondering what the guys felt but no one said anything.

In October there was a package offered to managers who volunteered to leave. There was a layoff pending if not enough managers volunteered. The boss took the package offered and left in mid December. At the end of December each of the guys in the group handed in his resignation to the Branch Manager and then shared the frustration of the year with me for the first time.

The company lost 4 good guys who were so frustrated that even without the old boss there they could not stay. After all they said the branch manager should have noticed and questioned how a novice sales person could get so many sales while the veterans had very lean years.

Sure Steven Slater was wrong to do what he did but did Jet Blue give him an avenue for his frustration so they could address and resolve it? Maybe these fellows told the Branch Manager at their exit interviews what had happened but it was too late and they left the company. In January the woman and I were absorbed into other sales groups and went our separate ways.

Burning bridges may feel good in the moment but there is a price to pay later on. It certainly does not lead to career success. Slater has become a folk hero of sorts so maybe he has a chance to build on his fame but others who burn bridges by bad mouthing their previous company or manager are not likely to profit.

What lessons can we learn here? First if you are looking for work, look for a company that values its employees by encouraging feedback and acting on it. Find current employees to talk to off the record and ask questions about the work environment. Are they happy at work? Is the work that they do meaningful work?

If you are a manager or business owner, you have a responsibility to listen to your team, to notice when things are not right and to find a workable solution. Don't get so involved in your own daily work that you fail to notice what your team is doing and whether something is amiss. Having employees who are happy at work will help you to maintain good customer/client relationships.

Many years ago I read a book by a travel business owner, Hal Rosenbluth, entitled The Customer Comes Second: Put People First and Watch Them Kick Butt. The title says it all. More and more businesses today are beginning to worry about keeping good employees when the economy starts to pick up. Maybe putting employees first is the answer.

Author's Bio: 

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor (The Attorneys’ Coach) and a Career Changers’ Coach as well as publisher of “Parker’s Points”, an email tip list and “Road to Success”, an ezine. Subscribe now to these free monthly publications at her website Parker’s Value Program© enables her clients to find their own way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. Her clients are attorneys and people in transition who want to find work that is in line with their own life purpose. Alvah is found on the web at