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Beware The Stockholm Syndrome With Employees

You may remember the famous incident in Stockholm, Sweden in August of 1973 where robbers held a number of people captive in a bank vault for 5 days. Wikipedia cites that “During this situation, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point and even defended them after they were freed…” It is possible for a company to have one or both kinds of two other types of “captive” employees, not as a result of being held against their will but in these situations: extended placement in a client’s place of business where they work daily and become part of the group of people they serve; or, working in a branch location away from headquarters where they identify with their customers more than the company for whom they work.

You would never want either placed employees or branch employees to ever NOT be oriented to serving customers properly. But the potential problems arise when they become isolated from headquarters and feel as though they get no support or communication. One big problem is bad-mouthing the company that pays them when they are forced to handle negative customer issues. There they are, face to face with a customer who is upset looking for someone to blame. So what to do to minimize ore eliminate these problems?

1.    Make sure everyone understands how their job is connected to the jobs everywhere in the overall effort to serve customers and generate positive customer outcomes and profits (or budget stewardship if the organization is a non-profit.)

2.     Remember that almost every vacuum in communications is filled with negative assumptions. And also remember that those vacuums are not just defined by you. Communicate regularly and test for understanding.

3.    Ask remote employees regularly how they are doing. What do they need to work better?

4.    What suggestions do remote employees hear from customers about service and product improvements?

5.    Keep remote employees feeling they are heard, they are valuable and they are part of the family.