Common Courtesy isn’t so Common

I would like to tell a tale about two people who work together: I’ll call person one Kay and person two Doris. They both work dealing with customers over the phone.

Kay is a consummate professional. She has plenty of personal issues, including mental illness that has severely debilitated her in the past. However each and every day that she is at work she is polite, friendly, considerate and respectful to her customers and colleagues around her. It doesn’t matter how bad she feels, the professional face is never ever dropped.

Doris, well Doris is just a bitch. She too has problems in her personal life, no diagnosis of mental illness but she has other issues. The difference is that Doris lets her personal mood affect those around her. On a whim she will be snappish, terse, rude and unpleasant. She makes the workplace a very uncomfortable environment – her teammates are constantly walking on eggshells trying not to say anything that will cause her to snap.

Doris has had a number of complaints made against her by coworkers and even supervisors of other departments. She has had to have meetings with the managers to address her behaviour. If Doris doesn’t like something a customer has said, or the way they have said it, her demeanour will suddenly change and she goes very cold and unfriendly. She has been known to yell at coworkers if they did something that annoyed her, such as if they request that she ask nicely instead of demand that they switch lunches.

In start contrast, Kay hasn’t had a single complaint against her. In fact at least once or twice a week she is commended by a customer, or a colleague for her “exemplary” behaviour. This really amuses Kay because, despite her troubles, she doesn’t see what she does as out of the ordinary. She believes it is completely natural to show respect and courtesy to those around her. And on the days that she doesn’t think she can manage to maintain her professionalism – she takes the day off and hides from the world. Simple as that.

The character of Kay is me. I see it as my job to always treat others in the way that I want to be treated. It doesn’t matter how bad I feel inside – no one else around me is responsible for my feelings, they don’t deserve to be punished for it. I work with Doris (not her real name), and while I have compassion for her personal problems, I find it difficult to understand the way she behaves towards people who haven’t done anything to her. I can’t reconcile her behaviour towards customers or other staff, when there is no way while I still breathe that I would treat anyone I worked with, or worked for in that way.

I long for my life to be easy. And if I can do small things to make it easier – like be pleasant to others, not make others unnecessarily angry or agitated, and generally be well liked – then I will do that. It takes far less energy to be polite to people than it does to be rude or unpleasant.

And I know who in this story I would rather work with!