By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I try really, really hard to be good at my job. I work late, work extra and always go the extra mile. I get really upset when customers get mad at me anyway. Recently, a customer made a big stink after I bent over backwards to help her. I felt so unappreciated. I keep obsessing about what she said about me and worried about my reputation. How can you handle negative reviews when you try so hard to do it right?
A. If you aren't being criticized occasionally, you are doing nothing interesting. People really do have a million reasons for criticizing you, and many of them have nothing to do with you.
There's a math to ingratitude in the workplace. It goes like this: Take one customer who expects the moon, add you bending over backwards and you will get severe criticism. I know that readers don't think this is logical, but I promise you it is always true.
Here is a different equation: Take one customer that has appropriate expectations, add you doing what you normally would do and it equals you receiving gratitude. The bottom line: The more a customer expects you to do, the less you'll receive in appreciation.
The emotional logic behind this interpersonal math is that normal people don't expect the moon and the stars. The customers who want you to levitate to make them happy will in reality never be happy with anything you do for them. These same customers are black holes into which you can pour your good intentions, self-sacrifice and overtime - with nothing coming back out for you.
I find that the person who is vulnerable to the need to be good or competent is a sitting duck for these entitled customers. The customer asks and asks, and the person gives and gives - and at the end of the business transaction the customer leaves scorched earth where the good and competent person used to stand.
To defend yourself, get comfortable with diplomatically disappointing people. The truth is that you cannot make everybody happy. You cannot be all things to all people. Lastly, you actually don't run your company and make all the rules.
The irony is the more defensive you get about not being able to disappoint a customer, the huffier you will become in your response. Then the customer responds to your touchy attitude rather than your boundary. The formula for setting effective limits is to validate the customer's emotion - "I can see why you are frustrated" - while stating your boundary - "This is what our policy allows me to do."
No matter what you do, some people some of the time will throw a tantrum. Just as you wouldn't give a screaming kid a candy bar, do not give a screaming adult a goodie. If you reward bad behavior, you'll just get more bad behavior from that same customer.
The next time you notice yourself doing way too much for one customer, be forewarned: That person is about to eat you for lunch. Workplace predators always growl a lot before they decide you are a tasty meal. Even predators in the wild evaluate potential prey before deciding who to eat. Make sure your behavior does not make you look yummy.
The last word(s)
Q. Is there any tool kit that would let me avoid conflict in my workplace?
A. No, effectiveness requires the tools to manage conflict, not avoid it.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the April 17, 2016 - April 30, 2016 edition.