Sign of troubled times

When I was in London in April, I was surprised to see these signs scattered around transit areas.

It made me wonder if there had been so many incidents of passengers abusing the staff that they needed to post signs telling them to stop.

It also made me wonder if the signs had any affect. Generally, signs don’t change negative behavior. With few exceptions, “No Littering” signs don’t stop people from littering.

I can’t imagine someone being angry enough to curse at a bus driver, but then think, “I better not. The sign said to not take it out on the staff.” I don’t think that’s how people think.

I also was curious about what behaviors and how many prompted the signs. How was the decision made that this was the best way to curb unwanted behaviors? Did management query other large municipal transit authorities to see if they were experiencing similar problems and if so, what had they done about it? Had they measured the effectiveness of those changes?

In 30 years of consulting, I find organizations often initiate a solution without much critical thinking or research into if the intervention will create the desired change. Usually, it’s someone near the top who thinks their solution is brilliant and ought to be implemented immediately. There’s rarely any measurement afterwards to see if the change made a difference. They decide something worked based on anecdotal stories, not hard data.

So before initiating a change, make sure you’re addressing the real problem. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking the reason people are swearing at the bus driver is because the bus is late. What if they took the same money spent on the signs and instead installed solar-powered LED signs at the bus stops that showed each bus’s projected real arrival time, as in Paris and other large cities? People often get angry when they don’t have information that impacts their lives.

And then why don’t they give the drivers training on how to calm upset customers so the upset doesn’t escalate? I know a good book on the topic! 🙂

Perhaps the London Transit Authority has already investigated these steps and the signs seemed the best solution given their constraints. I also understand that there is evidence that more and more people are letting lose with vitriol, especially on those they perceive as “having to take it.”

You can learn from their situation and apply it to your challenges. Make sure you’re addressing the cause of the issue, not putting an ineffective bandaid on the perceived problem.