I recently read this post on USA Today, "Has Jet Blue Lost Its Heart?" and was struck by the notion that an airline, which has prided itself on being of the people and for the people, may actually be a part of an industry that makes it impossible for its employees to uphold this corporate position. While it may seem like a wise marketing strategy to attract customers as the "un-airline" (reference also T-Mobile's Uncarrier positioning), the article suggests that the reason many airlines don't occupy this customer-friendly position is because it is just plain unsafe or impractical, given what is at stake. In a steel tube, propelling at hundreds of miles per hour at altitudes of tens of thousands of feet above the ground, giving the customer exactly what they want or need may be a dangerous proposition.
Further complicating the risk that not everyone will be able to thoughtfully apply the company values in stressful situations is the reality that every employee may simply not be onboard with the scope or intent of the company's values. The article cites "Randy Pennington, author Results Rule! Build a Culture that Blows the Competition Away, [who] says it comes down to numbers. With 13,000 full- and part-time workers, and assuming that 5% are not completely aligned with the company's values, 'that's 650 opportunities for something to go wrong.'"
So what happens when something goes wrong? The author returns to the importance of company values as the touchstone for front line employees who struggle with how to handle these trying situations. The experts maintain that a well-trained employee feels empowered and supported by the company to act in a way that both values the customer and protects the business interests.