Monday, July 17, 2017

What I learned on my summer vacation

Saturday evening my family and I returned from our two-week California vacation. Five nights in Los Angeles, two in Paso Robles (if you ever pass through, I cannot more highly recommend Sculpterra Winery and the Paso Robles Inn), three in Palo Alto (where Donovan participated in a research study seeking a link between Noonan Syndrome and ADHD, and which resulted in both of my kids now wanting to attend Stanford … best of luck to them and me), and three in San Francisco. We had epic adventures, experienced Disney (of course), hiked and biked, enjoyed beautiful scenery, reunited with family and friends, and walked … a lot (72 miles to be precise).

We also learned one valuable HR lesson.

I’ve never used Airbnb until this trip. When comparing the cost of a hotel in Los Angeles to renting an apartment for five nights (coupled with the ability to eat a meal or two in instead of dining out three times a day) it seemed like a no-brainer.

The problems started, however, upon our arrival. Our reservation for four people was greeted with only two towels. I immediately messaged our well-reviewed, four-plus star host, who failed to respond. After a half-day and the need for all of us to bathe, I walked a few blocks to Target and purchased some towels. Not ideal (and the lack of response certainly left a bad taste in my mouth), but I dealt.

Fast forward to our last night in Los Angeles. Tired after a full day touring Disney California Adventure, we returned to the Airbnb and began packing up for our trip up the coast the next morning. From the bedroom my wife and I heard our kids let loose a harmony of blood curdling screams. When we ran out to confront the problem, we found Norah trembling and in tears, Donovan already over it and sitting on the couch watching Nickelodeon, and a four-inch cockroach scampering across the wall. I’ll spare you the gory details of my disposal of said intruder. Suffice it to say we packed in a hurry, fled like nomads in the night, and started our trek north up the Pacific Coast Highway 12 hours earlier than planned. (Special thank you Andy, the night manager at The Anza Hotel in Calabasas; you and your property were a savior.)

And you know who still hasn’t responded to my complaints, about the towels or our insect intruder? Bree, our Airbnb host.

So here’s the HR lesson. Never, ever, ever, ignore your employees’ complaints, about anything. No employee wants to earn the label of a troublemaker. If an employee complains about something, they are upset. They have taken the time to complain and put their reputation on the line; you should take it seriously.

Indeed, if the complaint is about unlawful harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, the law requires that you take it seriously by investigating and, if necessary, implementing reasonable corrective action.

No matter the complaint, however, you should not ignore it, regardless of how trivial you perceive it to be. A little attention goes a long way to engendering positive relations with your employees. I’m not suggesting that every complaint requires a DEFCON-1 response, and the degree of response (including your investigation and corrective action) will vary based on the seriousness of the alleged offense. If, however, your employees perceive that they have an open and helpful ear, can bring issues to you, and can obtain a resolution (even if that resolution is, “We looked into it and respectfully disagree”), they will be much less likely to look to outside sources—such as attorneys, government agencies, labor unions, or social media or other websites—for help.

Here’s my bonus travel tip. If you ever find yourself looking for an Airbnb in the LA area, avoid renting from Bree, who to this day still has not responded to me, and most definitely avoid 1406 N. Martel Ave., #2.