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Oh, you wanted me to thank you for being decent?

By September 23, 2009How To

16When I was young, I went to summer camp. An amazing girl’s camp in Northern Minnesota called Kamaji where I spent 8 weeks every summer for 9 years, first as a camper and then as a counselor. Hands down, best and most formative experiences of my life. I was always my truest self at camp. My light shone brightly in that pine forest.

I remember about a million things from camp, but today – as I went head to head with Vladimir from Comcast – one particular story jumped into my head. I was a C.I.T. (counselor in training) and sixteen – how convenient that Facebook has provided my camp friends with a way to show the world what I looked like that summer (I’m the one on the right). Anyway, it was time for my mid-summer evaluation with my camp director.

He told me I was doing a good job, but then he proceeded to run through all the things I was doing wrong. He was very clear, and always had been, in his belief in my potential to be better than I was at any given moment. And on this day, that really pissed me off. Being me, I didn’t stay quiet. I challenged him and said that I basically thought it sucked that he hadn’t mentioned any of the millions of things I had been doing right.

His response, “That’s because you’re supposed to be doing things ‘right’ – did you also want me to give you some sort of award for breathing?”

Not many things stop me in my tracks, but that did. My predominant thought was, What an asshole! Admittedly, it took me a while to get that he was on the edge of right. I said I would do a job and I was doing it, but it’s still great for staff, colleague, general morale to give positive feedback and thank people for doing a good job – even if it’s what is expected of them. I would call this the ‘human’ component. And it’s why I’d say he’s only on the edge of being right.

And then today…

My internet went down, and Vladimir came to fix it. As he was leaving, he said, “Well, I got your internet to work for now, but there’s a bigger problem that I need another guy to help me figure out.”

“So…you’re coming back later this afternoon?” I asked innocently.

“No, I have to go work on other jobs now.” He responded.

“But, you haven’t finished this job.” I said.

“Lady, most guys wouldn’t have even told you about the big problem, they would have just left and said it was all set.”

{Hold on, I’m gagging because someone just called me ‘lady’}

“Excuse me?” I said. “You want me to thank you for being decent and honest and for doing your job?”

Yes. Yes, he did.

Huh. So being decent and honest is somehow going above and beyond the call of duty? Is this an American thing? (Andi, my dear Frenchie, maybe you can answer that one for us) Is it a teenage mentality? (that was my excuse in the story above)…

All I know is that I love when people do things that make me think, ‘Oh look! One more way I do NOT want to operate in this world!’ What a gift. Thanks, Vladimir!

P.S. If you want to hear how I used social media to solve my problem with Comcast, follow me over here… to the Soc Media 101 pipeline.

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Jason says:

    Andy Rooney covered this topic decades ago, when he voiced his irritation (does he ever have just an opinion?) with regards to newscasters and correspondents constantly thanking one another at the end of their “piece”. I noticed after his bit, fewer “thanks” were voiced at CBS.
    Personally, I’m a tough read. You can thank me for a job well done, but from my perspective, I’m doing what I feel is required for you to continue to be a client. On the flipside, if you work for me don’t expect to hear “thanks” very often. I will always point out what STILL needs to be done on your part. I own the business; if you don’t do what YOU need to do, it only gives me more to do myself.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    I’m a big thanker. I thank waitresses all the time, just for bringing me my food–even though that’s their job and they do that job a kazillion times every day. Then when I meet someone who is exceptional–you know, the computer guy who doesn’t just fix my computer, but also makes it, dunno, sparkle–I really pour it on. When I was a manager (in my last lifetime, it seems), I tried to showcase the talents of the poeple who worked for me. I think a little thanks and appreciation goes a long way, but honesty (being that mirror that can be a little painful and really show you all of your pimples and blackheads) can go a long way, too. I value both in people.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Great comments, you two. I’m also a ‘thanker’ – especially to those good ones that go above and beyond. In this case, he wanted to be thanked for not being a total douche – and to that, I take issue!

  • Jason says:

    Objectively, I think that the majority of tradesmen that used the word “lady” think women are blithering idiots that need to be saved from themselves. I worked in the trades growing up and you should hear how they talk when U are not standing in front of them. I think they must just have boobie-envy!? :P

  • Andi says:

    Unfortunately, it’s the same in France in my experience. The cable or phone or mail-person would have never even mentioned the bigger problem! It is awful dealing with government workers (but I think that is global!). When you need to get something done – better have all your i’s dotted and t’s cross because if you don’t good luck. They will deny you whatever you want but leave it up to you to figure out why! You just have to keep going back until you finally get it right! There is no concept of customer service, the customer is not right (just look at the legal system – you are guilty until proven innocent) and God help you if you need help before 9 between 12-2 or after 5 – or the weekend – not going to happen. Also the French never want to appear as if they really want to know anything, or when asked, they don’t want to appear like they do not know – be wary asking for directions – if they don’t know the answer, instead of saying, “I don’t know” they will give you any answer.

    Having said that,in Switzerland it would have been fixed, the guy would have re-organized all his appointments so that none of them were disrupted and would have finished the job!

    My boss is a great guy, but he rarely gives out praise. His stance is you were hired to do a job, do it and don’t expect a gold star, you get a pay check. It sounds harsher than it really it – but at least he is open about it. And if you do do something exceptional, he will be the first to mention it.

    Sorry, that was long-winded!

  • Michael Roth says:

    Nice shades, Julie! And those abs….

  • Customer service is NOT what it used to be! The one and only time I told somebody to, “Go to Hell!” before flinging my cell phone against the wall was inspired by the same sort of incompetent apathy.

    If you’re going to do a job, do it WELL. Bending over backwards to help clients should be standard practice. Likewise, all people doing a good job deserve to be acknowledged. Not fawned over, but acknowledged. It’s common decency for Christ’s sake!!

  • Katherine Collmer says:

    Good blog, Julie. I am the type of employee that attempts to do 150 percent… most of the time in areas in which I THINK the boss wants work done! My husband’s fave saying (or one of them, anyway:) is to put your best effort into what the supervisor/owner wants done versus what YOU think should be done. I’ve taken that to mean that you have to be sure you are communicating and understand what is expected. With that said, when it comes to customer service, the BOSS is the client…hence, it’s important to be sure you understand what he/she expects. We can simply say that they want “good service.” BUT, what exactly does “good service” mean to YOU? Friendliness, timeliness, a smile, a finished job…you get what I mean? It’s a complicated business, good service is! In the end, I agree that customer service is not what it used to be; but then, what is?

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Hi Julie,
    Miss you already, though I’m currently chuggging one of your lovely blue bottles of water with gratitude (re-hydration necessary today especially).

    When I lived in England, folks called people like your Vladimir “job’s worths,” as in, “Lady, it’s more than my job’s worth to spend any more time or effort working on this problem.

    I’ve always thought that was a succinct description.

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