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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Don't shoot the messenger
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

Does doing your job make people smile — or cringe?

Some jobs are shoe-ins for fun. If you’re serving ice cream, playing music or giving a massage, it’s fairly certain your customer or client loves you.

If you’re charging them a high tax, locking their jail cell or herding people in lines for hours before they fill out pages of forms, there’s another predicted outcome. They’re cranky about something, and they’re taking it out on you.

Let’s turn that question around. When you are the client or customer dealing with an agent or officer, are you pleasant or rude?

Frankly, it’s easy to smile back at the hair stylist who just made you look like a queen. It’s a lot harder to be polite to the person on the customer service line who said your account cannot be credited back and you will have to pay extra charges.

Recently I had one of those types of transactions no one wants to go through. I was upset and finding it hard to keep my composure.

An image of my job flashed in my mind: I have fun at my job. My dealings with the public are pleasant and enjoyable.

Did this customer service agent enjoy dealing with me? Most certainly not.

“I’m sorry I’m not keeping my composure very well,” I said. “I’m just feeling frustrated with this situation and not used to dealing with these things.”

“That’s OK,” she told me with kindness.

“I guess most of the people you deal with are sniffling or complaining,” I said.

“Well actually, honey, a lot of them are mad and we even get plenty of drunk people, too!”

“Oh!” I said. So perhaps I was behaving better than I thought (given the circumstance)?

How sad for those people, though, that instead of their jobs being fun to go to, they must face each day dealing with unpleasant people.

Once I was on the phone with a customer service agent. We were going through some whole rigmarole. I don’t even remember what the situation was. I just remember being really mad and insistently trying to prove my point.

I also remember that several times during the conversation I said, “I am not meaning to yell at you. It’s just that your company’s policies are just so stupid that we’re not getting anywhere.”

There’s the difference in perceiving the company or procedure to be at fault and being the person at fault and having to face the music.

Fortunately, I can’t say I have too much experience with that one, except for the time the principal gave me a whipping in seventh grade (they don’t still do that, do they?). I’ve witnessed plenty of it, though, when I’ve worked alongside law enforcement officers.

They’ve been spit at, cursed at, scowled at and more, just for trying to keep some fool under control and everyone else safe.

There’s an old saying about shooting the messenger, which means taking out bad news on the person who brings it to you. It harkens back to olden days when messengers would deliver news personally. Sometimes the recipient would get so mad he would take his rage out on the messenger.

To all of you out there in those difficult jobs, cheers! Have a good day today at work.

To the rest of us, let’s help them have a pleasant day (for once?).

 

 
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