Work: Keeping One’s Dignity

People who are aware that I have an interest in applying reality therapy techniques to the workplace sometimes send me work-related anecdotes.

A recent email about a stressed-out customer service representative re-emphasized that some knowledge of choice theory/reality therapy would be helpful for people at work.  Here’s the situation.

An employee of a large retailer in British Columbia was feeling the strain of working at the front lines during the holiday shopping rush. She chose to respond to that stress by writing a letter to the local paper expressing a litany of complaints, including her perception that “trying to keep one’s dignity while working in retail is very difficult indeed.”

Among her complaints to the local shopping community was her view that customers are rude, abusive, and treat retail workers like slaves. She described herself as a “victim” of customers when the store is understaffed, and complained that store management “dumps” on workers.

Her most pointed remarks were directed toward seniors, calling them among the “worst offenders” who feel that they should take precedence over everyone else.

What effect was the writer hoping for? In her mind (I’m speculating, of course) this letter was simply a plea for more civility, pleasantness, and respect in her workplace.

Oh dear! Whether you wear the hat of a retail worker, manager, or customer, you can foresee that this letter won’t have the writer’s hoped-for effect.

Let’s consider the likely response of her readership.  Among them will be a few stressed-out consumers who perceive that they can never find what they want on store shelves, nor can they find anyone to help them. Then there will be the managers who perceive that workers call in sick at inconvenient times and don’t seem to care about whether the company succeeds or fails.

Finally, think about all those senior shoppers, especially those who have never felt that they ask for precedence over anyone. Seems like an unfair attack, eh? At the very least, a reasonable perception would be that they are not valued as customers, so they should consider spending their money elsewhere.

It’s a rare person who has never felt hard-done-by in the workplace. It’s difficult to do your job, let alone be at your best, when you feel unappreciated or stressed.

Now, what if the letter writer had a friend trained in choice theory/reality therapy, with whom she discussed her plan of airing grievances in this open rant to the community?  What do you think that friend would say? What would you say?

On another note, if you had made a New Year’s resolution, have you tried keeping a log of your activities? If so, how’s that working for you? If not, any day is a good day to begin.

This article is the first in a series on the workplace.
The next article in this series is here.
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