Attribution attributes human behavior to internal and external factors. Internal factors relate to the in born nature of an individual that cause him to behave in a particular manner. External factors, on the other hand, explain human behavior by looking at the circumstances or environment surrounding the individual. In the Safeway case, the superior service policy where clerks are required to smile and maintain a three seconds eye contact with customers seems to be sending a different message to male customers. Instead of seeing it as a company policy which encourages clerks to be polite and friendly to customers, they interpret t as flirting. The male customers are said to even follow the clerks afterwards and demand to get acquainted with them. Most men like flirting with women and this is their nature. However when the clerks smile at them, the male customers see this as a sign and hence this explains their behavior. Their behavior can therefore be mainly attributed to the wrong interpretation of the clerk’s friendliness. This means that their behavior is a result of their environment or the circumstances which they find themselves in.
The Safeway smile school seems to be a training program that emphasizes on customer etiquette. The clerks are trained to be friendly and helpful to the customers as this encourages shoppers to visit the stores. It is a thorough program as the clerks are even trained on how long to maintain eye contact with the customers (Greenberg J, 1995). In order to ensure that the clerks are conversant with the program, the clerks are asked to demonstrate the superior service policy to their instructors using a real life example. The clerks are also educated on the need and benefits of treating customers well. The program’s end result is to produce customer friendly clerks who bear the face of the company.
The warning letter sent to unfriendly clerks, serves as a reminder that they are not being as friendly as they should be. It is not like the normal warning letter in which the employer threatens the employee with dire consequences if they do not pull up their socks. Instead it recommends that they go back to smile school for remedial classes so that they can improve on their customer relations. As Debra Lambert, the Safeway spokesperson, says that it is not about discipline but being friendly to customers and training clerks on how to do so (Greenberg J, 1995).
Greenberg J. & Baron A. J. Behavior in Organizations: Understanding & Managing the Human Side of Work. University of California. Prentice Hall Edition. 5th Edition, 1995