By Steve Moran

I am pulling this from a Starbucks employees Facebook group I belong to. Added some made-up names to make the story work.

The Set-up

Bob is the scheduled key holder (the person responsible for opening or closing each day — as in, the first one in, the last one out) during the morning. In the afternoon, a new person will come and become the new key holder until the end of the day. There has to be an official key holder in the store at all times the store is open.

The problem is that Bob, as the key holder, has repeatedly been stuck in the store past his assigned shift because at the last minute the next key holder has called off with no replacement.

The Response

The response from the group was, and rightly so, that this was a store manager’s problem to solve and not the key holder’s, and the key holder should talk to the manager about the problem.

The Store Manager

Except that when Bob, the key holder, talked to the manager … well read for yourself.

I’m terrified my manager will try to get me in trouble for it. I casually mentioned her time and attendance one day and she was PISSED.

The follow-up response was to talk to the district manager. The problem with this, of course, is that if the store manager was unhappy about a one-on-one conversation, she would go ballistic if Bob went over her head to the district manager.

Bob, the Key Holder

I am in speculation territory right now, but it is speculation based on human nature. Bob has a couple of choices that don’t include going over the manager’s head. He can quit and go find another job, or he can stage his own little micro strike — by caring less or not at all, doing the bare minimum, treating customers badly, and not helping out other team members.

The Big, Big Problem

Here is the big problem: The district manager and the people above the district manager have no idea why Bob is on strike or has quit. It will just be another statistic in the great resignation. Except that he is not really a bad employee but actually a good one — or he started out that way, but his direct supervisor turned him into a crummy employee.

And the leaders have no idea.

Senior Living

Over and over again, I hear stories from executive directors and others who end up dealing with terrible treatment from their immediate bosses. And while senior leadership can see they have a problem with staff turnover and occupancy, they are completely clueless as to what is going on.

Who’s at Fault?

The harsh truth is that the blame, in this case, falls on the district manager. She needs to know her stores well enough to know she has a problem like this. It is about really digging in and spending time at the local level, the next level below where your direct reports are.

The bigger the organization, the higher probability of this being a problem. It is hard, but it must be guarded against.