Angry Customers and Scared Employees by Jim Johnson


Have you noticed how today’s consumer has changed over the years? I’ve been in retail banking for 15 years now. I’ve been noticing how angry they have become (I’m generalizing here). What used to be a call, letter, or visit questioning a business practice has now evolved into rants, cursing, and/or filings with the Better Business Bureau.

There is a spirit of “you vs. me” and I’m not entirely convinced that we (the business) have brought it on ourselves. Folks are very quick to blame and assume the worse. If they don’t get their way, they resort to personal attacks – thinking this will force them to get their way.

How are you helping your team cope and manage these very difficult situations?

1. Support them when they get this kind of call. If they bring this type of a situation to you, listen to them. Don’t blow them off. These calls create stress and a “newbie” may or may not have the tools ready to handle it. They need your experience, your advice, and your calm.

2. Help them create a response plan. The response should be based on facts. In other words, don’t make stuff up! I’ve seen that way too often. A new employee gets backed into a corner by a screaming customer, and soon that employee is fabricating “facts” that are far from true. The customer then takes this new info and makes things even worse.

The response plan should focus on listening to the complaint and then offering solutions. Help your team by getting them to focus on facts and not emotion.

3. Sit in on the call. If you can, take the time to sit in on the difficult call. This is a great coachable moment! Your team member will appreciate you being there. If things escalate out of control, you can take over the call.

4. Know when to fold ’em. There are rare times where it is necessary to “fire” the customer. No matter what you do or say or give back, they are angry and unreasonable. They threaten, bully, and become perverse. It’s time to cut the relationship. They can take their business elsewhere.

Will they tell others this has happened? Yes. Will others be influenced by them? Maybe. Maybe not. If their rants with you are common, it’s likely that those who know the ranter better know this even more. Blow-hards aren’t widely respected.

5. Debrief after the event. When your team member has successfully handled a tough call, talk with them about what went well and what did not. Teach. Coach. Listen. Encourage. Calm. This will make the next call easier and take the fear factor away.

It can be rough sailing these days with angry consumers. It’s your job as a leader to help your team navigate these periodic stormy seas. Your team member wants to become better at handling difficult circumstances. Your team member and your company will be the better with your investment of development.

Rudeness at Work has Far-Reaching Effects


by Linda Wasmer Andrews

If you’ve ever been the target of a boss’s demeaning tirade or a coworker’s offensive behavior, you know how lousy it feels. In a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, those who had been on the receiving end of workplace rudeness said it had serious consequences:

80% lost work time worrying about the incident
78% felt less commitment to their employer
66% said their work performance suffered
48% cut back on how hard they worked
47% started spending less time at work
25% took out their frustration on customers
12% quit their job because of rude treatment

According to the researchers behind the poll—professors Christine Porath, PhD, of Georgetown University and Christine Pearson, PhD, of the Thunderbird School of Global Management—it’s a growing problem. In their research, half of workers now say they’re treated rudely at work at least once a week—double the number who said that back in 1998.

Lately, more researchers have been paying attention to the decline of civility at work. What they’ve found is a rude awakening for employees and the companies they work for.

Anger Begets Anger

Being the target of rudeness at work can stir up powerful emotions. Another study by Porath and Pearson found that, not surprisingly, anger was the most common emotional response. About half of employees said they felt sadness or fear as well.

Anger often led employees to retaliate aggressively; for example, with their own belittling comments or obscene finger salutes. If the rude person was higher up the corporate ladder, employees frequently took out their anger on someone else or the company itself. Sadness often led to absenteeism. Fear often led to indirect retaliation; for example, by spreading nasty rumors or withholding vital information. Employees who felt afraid were also the most likely to quit their jobs.

Screw-Ups Happen

Being treated rudely or witnessing rudeness increases the risk of making a mistake at work. In certain situations—say, in an operating room—that’s something you especially want to avoid. Yet, in a survey of British surgical staff, more than half said they had borne the brunt of aggressive behavior by nurses or surgeons over the past six months.

Loyalty Erodes

In one study, simply working in a hospital where bullying occurred made nurses want to quit, even when someone else was the bully’s target. In another study, seeing a supposed bank manager publicly chastise an employee made people less likely to patronize the bank in the future.

Marriages Crumble

Unfortunately, it’s hard to leave all that stress at the office. Baylor University professor Dawn Carlson, PhD, and her colleagues found that the spillover to home created tension in relationships there. For employees with abusive bosses, satisfaction with family life was diminished. For their partners, the family unit didn’t function as well. It grew harder for family members to come together to share feelings, make decisions, and confide in one another.

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