Stood in a queue at the local Post Office I read the following sign:
We work hard to provide you with an excellent service and deserve to be treated with respect.
Neither we nor our customers are here to be verbally or physically abused.
Anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated. We will refuse to serve anyone who behaves in an unacceptable way.
Strong language, I thought; the implication being that some employees have indeed been treated with disrespect; and that others have experienced verbal or physical abuse. Hum…
Thinking something must have happened recently to prompt this public warning, I asked the shop assistant who was serving me. Curious to know if a fight had broken out or if a particular customer had lost control, she gave me a dispirited response. It turns out that verbal and physical abuse is quite commonplace these days and that the sign is designed to make people think twice.
I wondered if my neighbourhood was partly to blame; whether it had declined without me noticing! Apparently not, as she said similar signs are on display in other outlets around Manchester, including Doctor’s surgeries and local hospitals.
So, what does that tell us? That ‘Joe Public’ is unable to manage and cope with life’s stressors — big or small — and remain balanced; so they have to take out their anger on poor unsuspecting people trying to provide a service. That Joe Public cannot ‘roll with the punches’ without being knocked off their feet. It would certainly suggest a lack of self-awareness and self-control; both of which are important to maintain our sense of well-being.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that people should disregard their emotions or experiences; far from it. Nevertheless, we would all do well to make sure our emotions don’t take over and overwhelm our decisions and our behaviour; whether at home or at work.
In fact, this is becoming a real problem for organisations, with so many of our interactions being ‘overheard’, reported back and shared on the public domain. So, what can we do about it?
There are numerous things you could do – as employers and as individuals; and here’s one suggestion relevant to both:
FIND A WAY TO RELEASE TENSION
You could do that by:
JOURNALLING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES: Managers should be keeping a log of employee behaviours anyway – the positive as well as the less desired – so that you have plenty of reinforcing examples when you sit down to review performance
TALKING WITH A FRIEND OR COLLEAGUE: A problem shared is a problem halved as they say; and being able to ask for and accept help is the mark of a resilient person
ENGAGING IN CONSCIOUS DISTRACTION: You could spend as little as one minute on this or much longer depending on how much tension you feel. The key word is ‘conscious’; recognise when you need it and act accordingly
These techniques needn’t take up much of your time; and yet they could be the difference between experiencing a tense relationship dynamic with those around you or a relaxed and positive one. I know which I’d prefer.
This week’s link is I.N.S.P.I.R.I.N.G for those curious about why people behave as they do.