The TSA & Limitations:
How many times in life do we come to a crossroad? More often than not it is something as fundamental as which lane do we drive our car or which line do we choose at the grocery store. As we all know, each decision has the possibility of a positive or frustrating outcome.
During a recent business trip, I chose the wrong TSA security line. I got to the airport in plenty of time. Being a Southwest A-List member, I benefited with the express line to enter the security checkpoint. There were four lines to choose from. I, unfortunately, picked the wrong line. While I received initial A-List preferred treatment, entered the terminal with well over an hour before my scheduled departure time and had an A26 boarding pass, I ended up being the second to the last person to board the plane – which resulted in that all too cozy middle seat.
All a result of choosing the wrong security line. Other lines were moving efficiently at nearly a 20 x 1 passenger ratio compared to our line. The passengers in my line had a wide range of visible emotions ranging from comical to ironic, to frustration to outright meanness. While somewhat patiently waiting in line, I could hear the complaints and venting of frustrations of virtually every person in line with various TSA agents. Unfortunately, the TSA Agents taking the brunt of the pain were not the ones causing the delay. It was all the results of the one individual viewing the scanner.
Near the end of the line, I overheard one passenger passionately complaining to the supervisor. The Supervisor responded saying that not all employees have the same abilities, so it just happens. I could not believe that this was what she thought to be an acceptable response. As a parent of a special needs child (as well as a manager of 100s of employees throughout my career), no one understands having to manage a person with limited-abilities. However, this is not an acceptable excuse to negatively impact hundreds of people. If that is the case and the employee cannot keep the pace of the morning demand, then schedule the employee at non-peak hours.
It was sad to see the judgment and then frustrations tossed at this employee. Although I agree that the Agent was ill-equipped to adequately handle the level of work required, it was not an employee issue but moreover a management issue. The manager identified that the employee had some limitations. Personally, I do believe that this TSA Agent should do all aspects of her job (including monitoring the scanner) and I congratulate her for doing so. However, I also believe it to be grossly poor management to subject the employee to ridicule and frustrate passengers by scheduling her to work peak hours. Every passenger impacted by the delays had the right to be frustrated, but I believe their frustration was inappropriately focused. Rather than being frustrated at the struggling individual TSA Agent, their frustration should have been directed at the manager who set her up to fail.
Poor management decisions created an unhealthy work environment overall. Other TSA Agents were forced to endure unwarranted hostility from passengers for something entirely out of their control. Such hostility can foster resentment among employees and erode the positive fibers of a team.
There were two main principles observed this morning. (1) Individuals of all abilities can bring value when appropriately managed and positioned for success and not set up for failure. And (2), a single weak management decision can have devastating negative results to customer experience, overall efficiencies, and workplace environment. In the end, it honestly comes down to management accountability.
We never under-estimate my autistic son’s ability and always try to give him the opportunity to excel and thrive. What’s most critical though is that we manage each individual situation for successes.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.