Hitting Close to Home

I can’t abide people who are rude to waiters or assistants. — Tim Gunn, via Twitter

On the off chance you aren’t familiar with Tim Gunn, his main job is to mentor contestants on the television show Project Runway. He is also Chief Creative Officer with Liz Claiborne.

He’s a very stylish man and holds high standards in both manners and dress.

I am quite a huge fan of Mr. Gunn and enjoy watching both his style and compassion as he helps over-stressed designers through the rigors of competition.

The show Project Runway is quite inspiring to me, creatively, and so it was with little hesitation that I began following Mr. Gunn on Twitter as soon as he began tweeting.

Last week was a bit of a drag at work, and Mr. Gunn’s words were timely.

Part of my job is to oversee folks who provide end user support to employees of our company.

Help desk support is, truly, a thankless job.

As I told the Boss of my Boss last week, “People don’t email us just to say hi.”

No, people email us to dump big piles of vitriol and venom on my extraordinarily hard working and talented team.

My employees always fix the problem, and they do it quickly and with grace, but my goodness how demotivating it is to all of us to be constantly hammered with rude words and shouting.

When someone pings us, outlines their problem and asks for guidance, then great.

When someone fills an email with everything they think is wrong with my program, the company and the world, it’s brutal. Once or twice is easy to ignore. Over time, it builds up, like soot in a chimney.

I have to keep an eye on my team because burn out is a real possibility hovering over us all. It’s a management problem in any support organization.

I was feeling a little low, worried about my folks, and then I saw that simple powerful quote from Mr. Gunn.

I can’t abide by it either. If only I might add “help desk personnel” to the sentiment.

Glad to know that there are others in the world that believe it’s wrong to treat support folks of any stripe with bad manners. I’m hoping there are more who believe it’s wrong than believe it’s right.

Ok, lament over. Sometimes it feels good to vent off a little steam. Important to ease the pressure a bit so I can dive back in and be polite in the face of overt rudeness.

Here we go!


Boss of my Boss had much the same sentiment for me.

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  • Natalie

    Yeah. I totally feel ya. I work with the public. ‘Nuff said. I try to be nice to everyone but especially with our tech support. We lost our brand new server last week. No computers, no copiers, no registers, no plotters– OMFG THE WORLD WAS ABOUT TO END!!!
    Took a day to get it back up and said, (cue smarmy sickening sweet *service* tone) “I’m so, so very sorry…” a gazillion times. My tech guys in Dallas rocked it.
    We fill out surveys about their service and I named them all and gave them high marks.
    It’s all quite thankless but I get a lot af satisfaction in actually helping people.
    When a team helps me help people-no matter how much stress/pressure, I know they are workin’ the solution.
    Rock on, sister friend.

    • Karen Fayeth

      Oh yeah, a down server will bring out the charming in people.

      Like you, being able to help actually makes me happy. But there is a cost. Oh the cost.

      Thanks for listening and understanding.

  • Scott

    I’m reminded of when I worked the Disney parade, there were breaks (many, and long) in the parade where we could usher people across the street in packs for a little while before we were instructed to close it up again, *no exceptions,* for the safety of all concerned, when the floats got too close. We were instructed, to be as polite as possible while this happened, particularly in the even that a family would get split up as they were trying to cross en masse at the last second. In this event, facing a panicked family member on our side of the street staring desperately at his family on the other side, one of the comments we were taught to say–my favorite one actually–was, “If they love you your family will still be waiting on the other side when we open the gate again.” I suppose it was a bit snarky now I think about it–after a long day of fighting crowds in the heat they were all pretty short-fuse. However, I’ve never been told “f’ you” by so many moms in my life, nor do I hope to ever have the experience again. It really taught me something about human nature, but I’m not sure I wanna know what that is.

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