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Can I pick out a few experiences with rude, lazy, and/or incompetent government employees (of all levels, in lots of places)? Sure. But just today I had a minor issue with a DC government thing, and the person I spoke to (nicely, patiently) fixed it promptly for me. That's *generally* been my experience with day-to-day DC workers. They may be hemmed in by regulations, they may have problematic co-workers who they can only lightly cajole to behave better, but they've generally done what they can. Which is more than I can say for employees, and even management or corporate parents, of a NUMBER of private businesses.

Fortunately, when I was a fed with my direct line publicly available, my managers were in full support of my approach to angry phone calls. If someone called me up PO'ed to the point that they were being abusive, I'd simply start with "Sir (they were ALWAYS men if they were acting like that), I'm happy to help you right now, in whatever way I can, if you calm down and let me explain what is going on with this {thing}, how you fit into it, and what you can do. Or I can hang up and you can call me back when you've calmed down. Your choice." Since I sound younger than I am (and look it, too), I occasionally whipped out a "wow, I hope you don't speak to your daughter that way" if they sounded to be middle-age or older and were being particularly rude. I literally had conversations start with a cascade of cursing and end with prolific thank yous (and, often, apologies for the rude beginning), even if they were still kind of screwed (at least they understood a kind of obscure program and how it worked after I got through with them). The 2 or 3 percent who persisted either got hung up on and screened until they left a message apologizing and asking for help or directed to my manager, who hung up on them for me. While I hate the "I pay your salary" attitude, even if that's true, that doesn't give you a right to be abusive. If the owner, manager, or whatnot in a private business behaved that way toward their employees, they could end up in legal trouble. OTOH, people who are and were nice to me, even if it took a dressing-down to get them to cut the attitude, got as much as I could give them (I have never been in a position to give people *preferential* treatment, but I've been in numerous situations where I can make things easier or harder depending on your attitude). Who knows, maybe I just have the right combination of innocence (so you shouldn't be swearing at me) and authority (if you want some help) in my voice to make this work, but it's almost always worked for me.

Plus, it's true that you catch more flies with honey, and all that. Screaming at or berating someone is unlikely to make them want to help you. You say that employees need to empathize, but that's a two-way street. You're having a problem, maybe it's even complicated, maybe you've got the wrong person to help you. Sure, that's frustrating. But so is dealing with a bunch of jerks who think that, well, being a jerk is going to get them the best, fastest results. There's a human being on BOTH ends of the line. Act like it. And if you ARE frustrated or start to get that way, admitting it helps! "Sorry, I don't mean to be short, this is just frustrating. I have written down that I need to do X, Y, and Z, am I missing something?" works WONDERS.

by Ms. D on Feb 19, 2013 8:13 pm • linkreport

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