Leadership Mints Series Sampler Using Code To Resolve Conflict

How do you alert a colleague to a potential danger without alarming paying customers standing within earshot?

You use a verbal code to communicate in a crisis without exacerbating the inherent tension and stress.

For example, if you are in airport or train station in Britain and a fire breaks out in the baggage pick up area, you could hear over the intercom:

Would Inspector Sands please report to the operations room immediately.”

Code for Fire in the building

Or if you are in a theater complex and you need to report a fire as discretely as possible, you might say: “Mr. Johnson is in theater 2.” In the theatre district Mr. Johnson is code for fire in the building.

Meanwhile in the retail industry cashiers talk about Bob, Lisa and Mitch whenever a colleague or supervisor thinks a customer may have forgotten to put all their products in their basket on the conveyor belt or is deliberately trying to steal the merchandise.

Rather than accuse/and or embarrass the customer or reprimand the cashier, a savvy supervisor will use a friendly tone and a discrete coded language to call the attention of the cashier to a potential theft while the cashier is still scanning products for the customer in question. The supervisor might ask:

“Have you seen BOB or LISA today?

BOB is code for (Bottom of Basket) and serves as a reminder to the cashier to confirm that he or she did scan that merchandise.

LISA is code for (Look In Side Always) and serves as a reminder to the cashier to confirm that he or she did inspect the luggage (or tool chest etc.) to be sure no merchandise takes an illegal trip out the door. The supervisor might also ask:

How’s MITCH doing?

MITCH is code for (Merchandise In The Customer’s Hand) and serves as a reminder to the cashier to confirm that he or she did scan the drink or balloon etc the customer was holding.

Give my regards to Ellen de Groot.

Code has long been used on the battlefield and in crisis situations.

Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who hid from the Germans with her family for more than a year during World War II, learned the plight of their friends and neighbors in concentration camps through a code the German censors couldn’t decipher in plain sight.

In a postcard to the family, a friend wrote positively of their current living conditions in the concentration camp and then concluded: Give my regards to Ellen de Groot.

Ellen de Groot looks and reads like the name of a person. However it was actually code that expressed the misery of life in a concentration camp. ” In Dutch, the phrase —ellende groot— means great misery.

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