Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Means No

A few years ago I attended a customer service seminar where the theme was, "Just say yes!" This went hand in hand with the leadership of the company I worked for. Our approach to customer service, was to give them anything they wanted. Someone looked at you funny? Here, take $300 worth of tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Don't like wiping your own butt? No problem, we'll get a volunteer to do that for you. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but only slightly. The answer was always "yes" and God forbid anyone take personal responsibility for themselves. This was highlighted by the fact that we used to send out postcards to remind people when daylight savings time would begin (or end, I never got that right) so they wouldn't be late for their Sunday matinee performance. Never mind that it was always in the newspaper, on the news, on the calendar, etc... We had to hold people's hands to let them know to be responsible and know what time it was.

This was the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a sign of the times and we weren't the only ones doing it apparently, because now we have a whole generation of people who can't accept the word "no." We've all become screaming two year olds when someone says that word to us. And like a two year old, we cry, beg and throw tantrums until we get our way.

Now, I'm a pretty nice guy. I'm certainly not a mean one, but sometimes in my job I have to say no. I have to say it to staff, volunteers and customers. It's not that I want to say no. I'm personally not looking to deprive you of your pleasure, but my job has certain responsibilities which I have to adhere to. For example, I can't let you take photographs of a performance of Wicked. I can't let talk on your cell phone during a show. I can't let your infant cry during Beethoven's Fifth. And, no, I can't let you go to your seat in the third row, in the center of the section, twenty minutes into the performance. No matter how much you call me an asshole, wish cancer on me, threaten my job, blog about me, or threaten to kick my ass, the answer is still no! It's my job.

I wish this was confined to working in customer service, but it's not. Try telling someone you don't want to stay out and have another drink because you have to work in the morning. Watch how much begging, pleading, and even threatening goes on. Say no to someone bumming money. Say no to the customer service rep about credit insurance when you're just calling to make a payment. Say no to the friend who always seems to have some crisis you must help her out with.

A wise friend once told me when someone asks you do something you don't want to do, don't say you "can't", say "you don't want to." They can't argue with that.

That's good advice, but why must I feel like an asshole because I say no?

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