Workplace Etiquette: The Phone Edition

I am fresh out of light conversation topics. I am someone who if I feel comfortable with you will happily talk your ear off regaling you with stories about my life, somebody else’s life, my thoughts on an assortment of topics, etc. Today I overheard a co-worker apologize for the umpteenth time to a client on the line, this seems innocuous enough except that he apologizes for things that aren’t even his fault daily, say someone calls in and says they faxed their information to the wrong phone number, he’ll apologize to them for their mistake. Why does this bother me so? Because I’m all about personal responsibility…do not confuse this with always accepting blame gracefully, because that’s not what I’m saying here, but I truly do have the ability to choke down criticism like a mouthful of saltines with a dash of cotton mouth. Look I never said I was perfect! Fact of the matter is it disturbs me when people apologize for shit they didn’t do, it’s irresponsible because it promotes and rewards bad behavior. I don’t care if this involves clients; don’t apologize for something that you don’t need to apologize for. Don’t get me wrong if you work for a company and you happen to pick up the phone to a barrage of angry from a customer/client and you know someone in the company fucked up…then yeah you apologize under the ‘one banner’ rule and fix the problem; but if this customer/client calls you, admits they missed a crucial deadline, never checked the various correspondence the company sent to inform client of deadlines and then you get the rage call and decide, because this individual is screaming and foaming at the mouth, that your first reaction is to apologize…well that is completely unacceptable and even worse once you apologize you accept responsibility. We need to know how to treat customers but I’m a firm believer that the whole ‘yell and you get what you want’ mantra that seems to be popular is unacceptable. Believe you me, my current position has taught me quite a bit about business, bottom lines all that good stuff but most important, it’s taught me how to be a better customer. Here’s another piece to that better customer bit, please stop asking people how they are doing if you don’t mean it, it comes across as totally fake, which is why you’ll rarely hear me ask this question unless I genuinely want to know. I don’t care to chit chat on the phone with someone calling in with an action-item who wants to waste time asking how I’m feeling and ‘how’s the weather up there’, or cracking corny ass jokes. There are too many things to get done in the day; while I don’t want you to feel like a ‘number’ I also don’t want to have mindless chatter for several minutes before getting to the gist of the issue. I used to be horrible on the phone, I’d call my credit card company, tell them why I was behind on my bill and then proceed to give my life story aka excuses as to why I’d fallen behind and why I couldn’t afford to pay my minimum balance. That type of stuff irritates me to no end now and I wouldn’t have learned that vital lesson had I not been in my current position. So please spare me the empty apologies and the mindless chatter.

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