Teri Haynes: What You Tolerate


This Spring, my clients want customer service, not business attire classes as usual.  How odd, until I place the requests in context.  We do not see other people’s clothes, or most of them, via Zoom or the telephone.

Here are some of my clients’ pressing concerns along with ideas that may help you.

SENSITIVITY & RUDENESS. Our intolerance for other’s “differences” seem to be at an all-time high.  Thankfully, cell phone cameras and events such as formalized social movements are bringing inequities to light.  The temporary down side is that we all seem unsure what to say or do.  If our words have a negative effect, we may be unaware.  Our individual lens from which we see and experience the world sometimes prevents us from seeing and understanding other peoples’ perceptions.   One of my favorite “make-the-point” stories is called “The Man on the Subway” from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey.  The moral is that you do not know what someone has experienced.  You do not know why they do what they do or behave how they behave.  Because of that, we should be kind, thoughtful, and respectful of everyone, always.

GRAMMAR.  Earlier this week, I called a firm for information.  The recorded greeting was full of slurred and mispronounced words, making it hard to understand.  It was then no surprise that the outgoing voice message from the person I transferred to was curt and lazy sounding.  An organization that allows rude or unintelligible first customer touchpoints will more than likely have less than professional customer service skills throughout.  Poor grammar, both oral & written, indicates a lack of education, laziness, or both.  Remember, for customers, the employees with whom they have interactions ARE the company.  Staff who write and speak clearly, using good grammar make the company look professional.  The opposite is also true.  Insist that your staff use their “business voice” when at work.  Have their immediate supervisor review all written communications before they are sent.  Hint:  Do not fix incorrect grammar and punctuation.  Kindly point it out and have the employee learn and correct before sending.  Everything is available on the internet!  

CASUALNESS. Casual clothing goes hand-in-hand with a casual attitude toward speech, treatment of other people, rules and procedures, and authority.  In a casual culture, we incorrectly assume a relationship with people, however brief the encounter.  This results in inappropriate jokes, stories, personal sharing, clothing, challenges to authority, and many more.  The fix is a touch of formality.  For your business, find the perfect mix of casual and formal attire.  Provide a refresher on good manners and polite business behaviors.  Insist that your employees treat each other with a little more formality.  Top leaders set the tone.  How executives treat managers is how managers treat employees.  How employees are treated is how they treat customers/patients/clients.

Too often, we expect employees to “mind read” what we want and how we want it done.  Unfortunately, that sets those employees up for failure.  Instead, make the time to teach your employees what you expect.  Show them how it is done.  Have them practice it for you.  Critique their practice.  Practice again.  Perfect practice makes perfect.  To quote Jocko Willink, “What you tolerate is the standard.”  If you tolerate inappropriate behavior, bad grammar, rudeness, and insensitivity, then that is the standard at your organization.  As a leader, be the example and teach the example that you want your employees to display.

Teri Haynes | Business Interactions, LLC | Improving human interactions in business

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