Hat on Top, Coat Below


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March 5, 2003

I’m covering for one of my coworkers this week. He’s on vacation in the northern woods, unreachable. One of his customers, let’s call him Weasel, phoned this morning with a problem. We discussed it, identified what appeared to be the cause, and I told him I’d look into it and call him back as soon as I’d resolved the issue. Nothing unusual there. I was a little stressed that working on this problem would put me behind on my April Fool’s Project tasks, but since I had no choice about it, I dove in to figuring out a fix.

Less than half an hour later, my coworker Sam knocked on my door. He had a hard copy of an e-mail he’d just gotten from Weasel’s boss, asking him to help with the issue. How did the boss get involved? Why, because Weasel had sent him an e-mail, saying “Karen & I have identified the problem, however she does not seem very responsive.” Bossman had attached Weasel’s mail to the note he sent Sam, so there was no question about what Weasel had said. What the? I dropped everything I had been working on to look at his issue, and he complains to his boss about me. Can you say “Karen is pissed off”? I think you can.

It was at this point that I made a mistake. Right after I assured Sam I was indeed working on the issue and had in fact talked to Weasel twice about it already, I called Weasel. I was crying mad, and that’s not a good state in which to talk to anyone, much less a customer. I told him I had been told that he was not happy with my work and that he was finding me unresponsive, and I was confused about what I might have done differently. Had I not said I’d work on his problem and call him as soon as I’d solved it? What else did he want? Confronted with my obviously upset self, he backpedaled. His message had been misinterpreted, he said– he’d told his boss he needed a response from me before he could complete his work, not that I was unresponsive. Bullcrap. Hearing him lie about it just made me angrier. There are not a lot of ways to misinterpret “she doesn’t seem responsive”. How I wish he would have said, “I’m sorry. I’m stressing about getting everything done before I leave on vacation, and I made a mistake shooting that message off to my boss before giving you enough time to fix the problem.” But he didn’t say that. Instead, he weaseled around, and I was left feeling completely unmotivated to work on his problem anymore.

But I did continue to work on his issue, and even put the solution in place in stages so he could proceed with the next step of his work without having to wait for the entire fix. I may be irresponsible enough to tell a customer I’m mad at him for bitching to his boss about me, but I’m still a professional and not given to refusing to do my work because I’m pouting. It did make me feel better to see Sam’s response to Bossman, in which he said he’d never known me to be unresponsive to a customer request and it didn’t seem I was being so in this case. As long as my team members are on my side, the customers’ antics don’t matter so much.

A is for Anger

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