What do you do when an otherwise good optical employee treats a customer disrespectfully? My first instinct would be to call the employee out on it but that approach probably has little to no effect. I found an article in the paper today about this very subject and thought it worth passing on. So what do you do when an employee is disrespectful to a customer? Constructive optical employee feedback is one answer but easier said than done! Even the most skilled manager can have difficulty keeping her criticism constructive. But that’s generally the goal. Sound advice can be found in Richard Gallagher’s new book,
How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work
Gallagher, a corporate trainer, suggests “starting at a safe place”‘ which means first asking the employee about her reaction to the customer. He suggests a three-part approach:
- Observation: “I can tell you are frustrated'”
- Validation: “Lots of people feel that way,” and
- Identification: “I’d be frustrated if that happened to me'”
Gallagher admits that putting that much energy into being supportive of people who are doing something wrong initially “feels like drinking poison to people.” But he claims it is useful because “It makes it clear you understand their view of the world, so they have nothing to argue about.” This sort of understanding gives you power for the next step: engage the other person in solving the problem.
Next comes the step of asking questions about the situation. In this case it would be something like, “What are your expectations for interacting with customers?” “The goal here,” Gallagher writes, “is to be curious, not furious.” After some back and forth, it is easier to be frank about the problem. You might say something factual about the need to hold onto customers. And explain that keeping customers requires that each customer finish a transaction feeling respected, even if they don’t seem to deserve it. I think this is an excellent example of constructive optical employee feedback as we know that every optical customer is extra valuable right now and most optical employees will recognize that.
Finally you should ask for her help in meeting the company’s goals regarding customers. Gallagher offers several options that re-frame criticism: Instead of telling people they are doing a bad job, tell them what standards they could meet to help them do a good job. Instead of saying what is unacceptable, let them know what will work better. Instead of telling them to change, show them how they will benefit.
In real life, following a several-part approach when you are angry about an employee’s or colleague’s behavior is no easy task. Gallagher suggests stepping away from the situation, if you can, until your emotions calm down. He also points out that this sort of approach requires much practice. If you have trouble with it, try again the next time. Even occasional interactions that incorporate empathy and re-framed criticism can vastly improve overall relations in a workplace. So don’t give up on constructive optical employee feedback, it will work better than criticism every time!