There are many moments when you can upset people in the workplace. When someone is hurt or upset they have an emotional reaction. They might pull away from you or they might attack you in some way, even when you didn’t intend to hurt them.
A man walks into … his manager’s office. His face is red, hands shaking and eyes nearly popping out of his head. He is mad about something! “This new directive is just nonsense!” He roars.
The supplement in last weekend’s Dom Post in Wellington (Saturday 26 January 2013) had a feature about the terrible customers that turn up in hospitality settings and the often equally nasty things some workers do to get back at them. It was a story full of horror and negativity.
People who work in customer service, especially in hospitality can get jaded. Customers can be very difficult especially if they are affected by alcohol in bars and restaurants or highly anxious such as when travelling.
I recently stayed at a luxury resort as a birthday gift from my family. It was a lovely place and we had a relaxing time except for one thing that I was struck by.
Their by-line was "We're all about YOU". Great I thought, I will be looked after here.
Here is a TUF tip when speaking to individuals or to a group of people in a meeting, especially about new projects that you are wanting to introduce.
When someone asks a question or puts up an objection, you will have more chance that they will listen to you if you acknowledge the feeling or concern that is most likely behind that question. Be aware of their emotion, even if they don’t express it fully.
I have just returned from Christchurch where I presented a free seminar for businesses and organisations on dealing with angry people in post earthquake Christchurch.
Participants from many sectors recognised the same stresses in their staff and customers.
My nephew Scott Garvie, a Wellington plumber (see Scotty’s Potties), volunteered to work for a week in earthquake-stricken Christchurch. He discovered that people needed to talk even more than they needed their plumbing fixed — and listening became harder than fixing their toilets! My own experience of talking on the phone with friends from Christchurch confirms this. People who have gone through severe shocks, like the earthquake, desperately want to talk about their experiences.
This makes being a good listener so important.
When I rang my friend in Christchurch the other night, his 13 year old son answered the phone. “You must have got quite a shake up by the earthquake” I said. “Nah, not really, it was nothing”, he shot back offhandedly. I was taken aback but didn't pursue the conversation at the time.
Later his father told me that he had stopped his son making inappropriate jokes about the earthquake. At that point I saw clearly how this was the boy’s way of dealing with the scary shake.