The Difference Between A Manager At The Post Office And A Manager At Walmart

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[credit provider=”Daniel Goodman / Business Insider”]

Author and social entrepreneur Geoff Smart shared an interesting little anecdote in his new book “Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) into Government.”When Smart was a graduate student, he had to observe two different leaders for a class project. He went to a Walmart and Post Office and compared the two.

The first was a manager at a Post Office, and what Smart saw was a management catastrophe.

He writes:

“I noticed that the boss slouched in his chair with his shoulders slumped forward, and talked with a frown on his face. He pointed his finger at the other people in his meeting. The discussion he led was all about rules and compliance — the concerns of bureaucracy — for almost the entire meeting, combined with some unpleasant nagging of the workers. He talked down to them and insulted them.

“The boss and the workers complained about customers and how much of a nuisance they were. There was no discussion of problems to be solved, results to be delivered, or accomplishments recently achieved. No mention of analysing, allocating, or aligning people to achieve great results.”

Smart didn’t fault the workers. He blamed the boss, and the boss’s boss, and so on until you get to the voter — like himself — who puts bureaucrats into the system in the first place.

Walmart, in the private sector, was the total opposite, even though its low-level jobs are as infamous as any other retail chain in the world. There, he saw what was basically a pep rally. They talked about goals and results from the previous week. They talked about analytics and rewarded an individual who had set a record. “They looked like they were having fun,” writes Smart.

There’s one major issue at the core of this — that government agencies like the Post Office are different because they’re in the government. There’s no rule that says government agencies have to be inefficient, treat workers like crap and ignore customer satisfaction.

And yet, that’s how many people — on both sides of the counter — see it. Until that changes, the Post Office won’t either.

Work at the Post Office? Shoot an email to [email protected] and tell us if Smart is right.

NOW SEE: 11 Services That Don’t Exist Anymore At The U.S. Post Office >