It was a wild one at work last night. You might think that working in a busy traditional pub, it’s always pretty wild, but there’s a difference between wild and busy: no true synonyms in the English language ‘innit.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it over the four years I’ve worked in the hospitality sector. The customer in question had been asked to leave several times on account of the fact that she and her partner had repeatedly fallen asleep at the back table. It was around the fourth time of waking them up, when they finally roused themselves sufficiently to move, that she came up to the bar to register an offical compaint about the abuse she had received, apparently from us bar staff, by waking her from her ill-located slumber.
I’m not quite sure how, but the situation escalated rather quickly from there. The woman began to swear at my colleague and my colleague, much to my shock and awe, replied in turn. Invective flew, procreation was demanded to occur elsewhere, and speculation was made as to the sexual activity and proclivity of both parties. Some of it was even aimed at me (from the customer, I must add, not my colleague.) I was, to put it mildly, a little taken aback by the situation, on this previously quiet Monday night.
It ended with the customer leaving as requested, and my colleague and I continuing with our evening undisturbed, but the whole affair had got me thinking about the nature of customer service. I simply could not bring myself to talk to anyone like that, sober or drunk, although I’m by no means a prude and I use a healthy about F#s etc. now and then. I absolutely couldn’t talk like that in a customer service role – I’d fire myself! But my colleague did have a point – she shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of behaviour at work, and I don’t honestly think she should be called upon to act any differently, just for the sake of good customer service, when someone was being so rude to her.
It reminded me of the chapter on ‘Cheerfulness’ in Tiffany Watt-Smith’s The Book of Human Emotions. She writes about the creation of cheerfulness as an emotion and identifies it as the product of studies conducted into workplace productivity in the latter half of the twentieth century. Positive, enthusiastic, cheerful people, who always keep a smile on their face, no matter what, make great employees.
In the now increasingly enlightened days of mental health awareness, people are realising that constant positivity is actually rather a lot to ask of people, and in some cases could even be classed as discriminatory. By all means, some people with certain personalities will fit into some industries better than others, but I hope that the days of asking for a cookie-cut of the cheerful employee are numbered. I don’t know about you, but I prefer people to be honest, upfront, and truthful with me about what they think and feel, becuase ultimately that’s the only way we can build strong and stable relationships in work and life, which for me, is so much more meaningful than a bitten tongue and a strained, begrudged smile.