The Day JR Ewingg Blew His Top!

The tour leader was mad. He was seething mad!!

"I have had it up to here!!!,” he shouted. “Today we have a long journey and will be going through many tunnels that will may slow us down. So, when we take any stops today, if you come back just 1 minute late, I will not wait 1 second! I will leave you!”

JR Ewwingg banged his fist against the side of the compartment on the bus.

JR is a tour leader who leads a group of tourists travelling on a bus around Europe. He’s just broken up with his girlfriend two weeks ago. “You inconsiderate bastard! I never want to see you again! I hope you and Ms Xena live happily ever after.” Those words uttered by his ex still echoed in his head. Susan had caught him chatting with Ms Xena on an internet chat room, exchanging explicit xxx messages, something involving how she’ll bend over his bald head and let him whip her. That was the end of their 2 year relationship. JR did not have a chance to reason with her but he was hurt. Xena was just a fantasy, not a real person, but a virtual obsession. He had made a huge mistake!

Now, he had this job to do with this group of tourists and he’s just not in the mood. JR expected people to follow his instructions. When he says be back at 5 pm, he means 5 pm sharp. Not a minute later. Why can’t people just listen??!

Santos and Cortez couldn’t believe what they just heard. What an arrogant tour leader! They knew JR was hinting that they they were the guilty ones and they had better heed his warning. Showing his temper like that! They knew they were late a few times in coming back to the bus, but that was only 5 minutes difference. To them, being on time doesn’t mean on the dot. It means there is an allowance of plus or minus 5 minutes, and since there was always not enough time for sight seeing, they decided to take the extra 5 minutes. Santos thought to himself, “If only Mr Bald head would come to us privately and talk to us, we could all come to an agreement about returning on time”.

In the story above, what could have been done differently?

The incidents and the ensuing tension could have all been avoided if expectations were clarified sufficiently at the beginning. It’s all about expectations management.

JR as the tour leader could have taken the initiative to explain his expectation that when he says come back on time, he means come back by the stipulated time and not a minute later. He then needs to ask people if their interpretation of being on time matches with his definition. There is a cultural sensitivity lessson here because people from different cultures have very different perception towards time. Some cultures see time as elastic. 5 pm may mean 5 pm or 5.15 pm. A difference of 15 minutes doesn’t make that much of a difference. Other cultures may see time as a limited and precious commodity. 5 pm means 5 pm sharp. A difference of perception towards time.

This is a lesson that I think people who is in the business of working with groups of people (e.g. facilitators, team leaders, etc.) need to pay attention to. Always clarify expectations at the beginning and spend some time talking about people’s interpretation of it. Then find agreement or consensus on the expectations. This will help ensure everybody is on the same page and may go a long way in preventing conflicts or dissatisfaction down the road.

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