The Tyranny of the Funeral Service Ten-Call-Men


A lesson on management from the bible

One of the most common and pervasive hiring and staffing problems in funeral service is the funeral home employee who undermines almost every current and future issue management tries to address.  They are the “Mayor of the Prep Room.”

No matter what initiative you attempt, these funeral home employees quietly work behind the scenes to undo it.  Sometimes they employ a subtle mechanism I call being “cooperatively uncooperative”.  They give the appearance of being on board, but quietly “forget” to do what they have promised.

These “Mayors” are absolute geniuses in providing what seems to be reasonable excuses for why exceptions must be made.   Every staff meeting is followed up by a “meeting after the meeting” where they hold forth on “what we are really going to do.”

The worst of them are blatant about simply ignoring expectations and just doing things the way they want rather than the way they are asked to do them.  Effectively daring management to “make me.”


An Example of the “Mayor of the Prep Room”

Recently, the more progressive funeral homes have implemented monthly, weekly and even daily staff meetings.  Attendance is mandatory.  Still, every owner that has been successful in establishing regular meetings has had to chase down and face down at least one funeral home employee repeatedly to make them attend.

Many owners and managers simply gave up trying, and either exempted them or stopped having meetings.

This obviously caused other employees to lose heart and wonder (sometimes openly) who was really running the business.   Formal power, said the owner –but informal power didn’t agree.


Why do we allow this behavior? 

They say that it’s because they believe the person is too valuable to lose.   They have convinced themselves that they would lose 10, 20 or 30 calls.  And maybe they would.

But over time, the lack of progress in responding to the many challenges the funeral service faces –  and the loss of employee morale (not to mention the loss of owner morale) cost much, much more than the loss of those calls.

I call these trouble makers “ten call men” because the owners live in daily fear by thinking they control that many calls.

I don’t like “ten call men” because they arrogantly wield informal power and prevent opportunity without assuming any risk.  They play owners and managers like puppets.


Jim Collins, in his “must-read” book, Good To Great makes this observation about these funeral home employees:

“We have a wrong person on the bus and we know it. Yet we wait, we delay, we try alternatives, we give a third and fourth chance…we build little systems to compensate for shortcomings…We find our energy diverted…that one person siphons energy away from developing and working with the right people.

Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to the right people…

The reason we wait too long often has less to do with concern for that person than our own convenience…Meanwhile all the other people are still wondering: ‘when are you going to do something about this?'”

It is not unusual in my consulting practice to find inspiration in The Bible.  On more than one occasion a verse from Proverbs has enabled clients to take long, delayed, but desperately needed action:

“Cast out the scorner and contention will go out;yea strife and reproach shall cease”

–        Proverbs 22:10


Have you had a first-hand experience with these “ten call men?” Share your experience!



“Ya know how sometimes we get ourselves into situations and nothing we do seems to work to get us out? Well, Alan Creedy has the unique ability to quickly see what can be done, separate it from the ‘rabbit trails’ and create a personal strategy for success.” Alan Creedy is a business advisor and consultant with more than 32 years experience in the funeral and cemetery professions.

Subscribe for free to his weekly commentary offering insights for better performance by clicking here on The Creedy Commentary

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