How are you treating those around you? How do you treat your customers?
Are you letting your day-to-day interactions with them cloud your
judgment and effect your behavior? This is one of the most insidious
problems you can experience as you build your career and yet it is
something we experience every day in our work and in our lives. Despite
our best efforts, if you deal with certain problems frequently enough,
you can forget that people are still individuals and should be treated
I first noticed this problem in friends and acquaintances that work
in law enforcement or as attorneys.Confronted daily with the reality
and cruelty of crime, they begin to see all people, regardless of
their actions, as potential criminals. They have been over-exposed
to the baser sides of life and begin to believe that their friends
and neighbors are just as capable of murder as anyone else they encounter
in their work. Observing this attitude from the outside, we can see
the inherent fallacy in these beliefs, but when you are immersed in
it, it can seem very real. Eventually, these folks can come to believe
that there is no "good" in the world anymore, only a progression
of threats to be avoided. In the worst cases, you will find people
withdrawing from friends, family and society. What a sad situation,
made all the more so by the fact that it doesn't have to be this way.
While this is an extreme example, I see similar behaviors in those
people engaged in less life-threatening daily work such as customer
service and support. The causes may be different, but the results
are strikingly the same. Even more, whenever you begin treating
everyone the way you would treat the worst of society, your career
is in danger.
I see this all the time, and I am sure you do, too. Almost every sales
and support interaction in my day, and yours, is colored by behavior
like this. We suffer tortuous return policies at some retail stores
because someone else has abused their previous policies. We ask a
perfectly valid question, only to be treated rudely by someone who
has answered that same question a hundred times that day. A sales
associate treats you badly because she was treated rudely by 10, 100
or 1,000 other people that day. I call this "the punishing of
the innocent." Some people's behavior is rude, stupid or evil
and everyone else must pay.
These employees, and possibly you as well, are preparing for the unemployment
line, if this behavior continues. Offending and mistreating your best
customers and clients will drive them away, reduce profits and perhaps
even destroy the company. Your day-to-day behavior has a direct effect
on the future of your job.
So, how do you avoid this pervasive problem? First, you need to start
treating each person, each customer, each client, as a unique individual
again. You need to stop assuming that they were placed on this Earth
to simply make your life more difficult. Yes, of course, there are
people who will try to abuse your policies, rip you off or willfully
remain ignorant, but there are many others who are simply trying
to return a product that did not work or ask a very simple question.
Notice when you, and your company, are punishing the innocent and
do everything in your power to stop it.
Having previously worked in help desk operations and even in my current
computer consulting role, I know it can be frustrating to answer
the same question again and again, but instead of getting angry
customer, why don't we explore why the question keeps being asked?
What flaw is causing the question and what can we do about it? Getting
angry is simply giving up.
No career can be built on a structure of annoyance and contempt for
your customer. If you have started to see everyone as the enemy
then your career will be a slow progression of disdain, anger and
In this world, everyone treats each other with such contempt that
the world becomes an increasingly difficult place to live and your
career becomes a burden instead of a launching pad for a better
- END -