Potty-Mouths R Us

Is it me, or does it seem that profanity and expletives have become more common in regular business interactions? And there are a few residents who take those choice words to a whole new level when they are not happy with the service or the answers you provide.

What to do when a very disgruntled resident decides to rapid-fire every nasty, dirty, rude, crude and foul word in your direction to try and get what they want? Here are some approaches to consider:

  • Control your physical and verbal reaction, because a reaction is often what the person is looking for. By catching you so off-guard and putting you in a potentially humiliating situation, he or she is hoping you'll agree to their demands just to get them out of your hair. It can be effective to take the bull by the horns and say, "Did I personally do something to offend you? If so, I'd like the opportunity to apologize." This can turn the tables, and even cause the person to admit that it wasn't anything you did, personally. They will then tell you the real situation (giving you the opportunity to provide a solution!).
  • Calmly agree, but selectively. When the resident goes off about how ?#@*&%! ridiculous it is that she didn't have any hot water, go ahead and agree. "Twenty minutes is a long time to wait for the hot water to be restored. I can see why you are upset." And then continue with whatever information you have regarding the situation. Often, a simple agreement or acknowledgment kicks the cool right out of the complainer.
  • In a very explosive situation, the most direct approach is to tell the person (in a calm, controlled voice), "Excuse me, but I will not respond to that kind of language. If you can't speak to me without raising your voice or using profanity, I'm ending this conversation."  If they continue, follow through on your warning and either hang up the phone or walk away. Go directly to your supervisor to tell them what happened and document the incident immediately. In many cases, the person will later call back or come back with an apology. If not, the manager can handle all future interactions to ensure the safety of the staff, and to continue to document any threatening behaviour, as well as follow through on any applicable company policies.
  • As employees, we are all asked to provide the best possible service to all customers, but the safety of everyone is the most important thing. No owner or manager will allow their employees to tolerate any kind of abuse, whether physical or verbal.  It's important to understand your company's policies on safety in the workplace and the best course of action when someone is indeed threatening with words or actions.

Fortunately, most of these potty-mouthed people are just blowing hot air. By cooling them off with either a direct response or agreeing with a bit of empathy, we can have a win-win (or at least a civilized) conversation.