Too often, organizations promise satisfaction to external customers and then allow internal politics to frustrate their employees’ good intentions to deliver. It’s important to remember that your customers aren’t the only ones who come through your organization’s door every day seeking quality service. Your coworkers and leaders also need to be served. If they’re not happy, it’s not likely they’ll deliver stellar service, and the same goes for you. Inevitably, “difficult people” will creep into your work life, disturbing your workflow and negatively affecting the service you provide your customers.
I have some eye-opening news for you. At some point, we’re all viewed by our colleagues as the organization’s “difficult person.” That’s why it’s important that we find a way to provide uplifting service internally all the time…even (and especially!) when difficult situations arise so internal tiffs don’t lead to rifts with customers.
Once you’ve characterized someone as a “difficult person,” you’re already in a lose–lose situation. It’s like my view on difficult customers: There are no difficult customers; there are only difficult customer situations. Similarly, there are no difficult coworkers. There are only difficult coworker situations. And once you start to think differently about how to manage those difficult situations, everyone can be more satisfied and better served, including you, your colleagues and, most importantly, your customers.
What I am talking about is an uplifting service culture change. In my new book, Uplifting Service, I write that service is taking action to create value for someone else, and that “someone else” can be outside or inside your organization.
When the entire organization agrees to define the way they work together using this definition of service, everyone will be able to focus on creating value and serving each other better, which leads to better external service. Instead of seeing an angry coworker and not wanting to have anything to do with him, you will naturally stop and think, What does this person value? What is he not getting that he needs? What can I do now to serve him better? When this culture of service takes hold in the organization, everyone feels better and works better together.
Read on to learn five ways you can use difficult situations to start building an uplifting service culture in your organization, from the inside out.
1. Assess the situation carefully. Is your colleague deeply upset or simply having a bad day? Is she angry about an ongoing internal issue that must be addressed and solved, or a one-off situation like a presentation gone wrong? Is this a process problem that persistently provokes, or a one-time irritation that will naturally fade away? Once you have assessed the situation you can then determine whether the person just requires a little personal attention from you or whether a larger plan must be created.
2. Shift your perspective. Stop thinking of your colleague as “difficult” and start thinking about the difficulty he is experiencing, and how you can serve him in his current situation. What is it he is concerned, disturbed, or upset about that’s leading to his behavior?
Once you realize what a difficult situation means to another person, you can approach the issue with more compassion, generosity, empathy and patience. This is far more effective for both parties than concluding that another person is difficult all the time or is always overreacting.
The reality is that you never really know all that is going on with another person, with his family’s health or his financial situation. You don’t know what happened at his home that morning or the night before. You don’t really know what triggered this emotionally upset moment. You can therefore decide, Let me choose compassion for this person instead of judgment and start exercising empathy.