February 16, 2017
The employee who had accepted my package apparently thought I had left. Holding my package up in the air, she yelled across the post office to a co-worker, “What an idiot. That woman put way too much postage on her package. She used the wrong box.”
Her embarrassed co-worker pointed out that I was standing less than 20 feet away and had heard her insult. So had all the other customers who were standing in line. Everyone was silent as they waited to see what would happen.
The package I dropped off at the post office had $3.00 too much postage on it because I had mistakenly used a flat-rate priority mail box instead of the lower rate box. Since it weighed over a pound, I was required to hand it directly to one of the postal employees. After I turned in my package, I walked over to another area to pick up some envelopes.
It was tempting to defend myself, but I was so angry that, rather than say anything, I just kept quiet. I smiled at the woman who had insulted me. Rather than apologizing, she started lecturing me by saying, “Well, you should have used the right box and weighed your package more carefully. You just wasted money.”
Again, I didn’t reply. Instead I headed for the door. Because I’m a regular customer, another employee ran after me to apologize on behalf of his co-worker. His explanation? “She doesn’t always think before she speaks.”
This was a blatant example of name calling, but less obvious examples of this problem take place in workplaces all the time. Your customers pick up on more than you think they do. If two employees are whispering to one another, customers may think they are the subject of the conversation.
When the offensive postal worker called on the next person in line, the customer responded, “No, thank you. I’ll wait for a different window!” The other customers giggled and one gentleman applauded. I felt redeemed.
An employee who gossips or makes snide remarks about anyone in front of customers will quickly earn a reputation as unprofessional, immature and offensive. If at all possible, regular customers will go out of their way to avoid interactions with that employee. An employee who maintains a friendly, nonjudgmental demeanor, at all times, will earn the respect and appreciation of customers. He or she will also earn the positive attention of the boss. These types of employees are more likely to be promoted.
If your customer or a co-worker makes an obvious mistake, position yourself as a coach, rather than a critic. The postal employee could have earned huge points in my book if she had simply said, “Let me show you how you can save money on your future shipments.”