Monday, January 06, 2014

Working Means Swallowing Your Pride

I worked on a help desk, both as a worker and supervisor, for 14 years. During that time, I noticed one of the hardest parts about working--whether on a help desk or otherwise--is swallowing your pride.

When you drill down to the basic level, human beings don't like to be ordered around. It is demoralizing. It feels bad. It's the reason some servers look annoyed when someone asks for more napkins or a refill on a drink. It's also the reason your help desk worker is irritable when you run into his cubicle and yell at him that you need help.

Granted, some people are much better at customer service than others. Do they lack that pride mechanism that is so ingrained in many of us? Or are they simply better at hiding it? One of the best employees I ever had was a people pleaser. People came directly to him with computer problems and, instead of telling them to put in a ticket (as was the policy), he'd jump up and happily rush to help them. He didn't appear to be hiding any irritation, at all. He was genuinely a pleasant person who liked to help people, even if they were ordering them around.

On the flip side, I once worked with a woman who was so bitterly disgusted by being given orders, she pushed it back on the person issuing the order. She was a master at it. If someone told her they needed something, she'd immediately bark back that they needed to put in a ticket. Or she'd push it off on another team in a voice that made clear that the other team was beneath her and therefore had to do her grunt work. Even if it meant only offloading a small part of this task to the other team, she'd do it. I even saw her treat management as though they were supposed to do the work she was above. I think everyone was too scared of her to put her in her place.

Pride. It's a dangerous thing in the workplace. How do you swallow your pride and realize you're in a job to serve others? Do you find that being ordered around is difficult to take, even when a paycheck is tied to it?

13 comments:

  1. Pride is something to struggle with, surely, and I've often found Buddhist teachings very helpful in reminding me that any honest work is respectable and honorable. I feel as a society the emphasis on ephemeral values and on wealth really terrorize our sense of what is good versus bad. That said, recognizing my ego has been a main lesson in my life, one which must be contended with since working with brutally honest children (as I do) can be pretty demoralizing for a person who lack a sense of humor about their own faults.

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  2. As a supervisor, that is never easy to deal with.

    I have always tried to be a good team player, and as you said, if I am full of pride that is not going to happen.

    In addition to customer services, I also see pride ruining workplaces when employees demand credit for success. There is nothing wrong with recognizing the contributions of many involved in a good project--much better than seeing workers trip over themselves with attempts at self-promoting.

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  3. I believe this is a form of abuse albeit subtle. These people are bullies. Maybe they're lashing out--like the man whose boss yells at him and then he goes home and yells at his wife and she yells at their child and the child kicks the dog, etc. On some level your friend may recognize this and feel sorry for these unhappy, angry people. Could be that's why he smiles and rushes to help them. Perhaps he is grateful he isn't living the miserable existence these people suffer and out of charity offers them a small measure of compassion in their otherwise dismal world. He is the superior one. He should pride himself on not stooping to the level of these wretched individuals. As for me I'd probably stoop and, like most dogs, bite them.

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  4. I'm definitely not a "general public" people person, but it's easy enough to swallow my pride and hide my disdain from them, even though they're barking orders at me like I'm a worthless slave. It's all part of life, I suppose. You deal with the crap and at the end of the day, you've made some money to pay your bills.

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  5. I like helping people, but I do think how I respond depends on how I am asked, or if I am asked. No one likes to be ordered. Even if it's your job.

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  6. I have my coping mechanisms. I'm constantly swallowing my pride here. But I remind myself I have a good situation working from home, decent pay, a boss who's on the opposite coast...and when I really feel like I'm losing it, I'll just get up and go for a walk.

    Plus, the people who treat me like I'm lowly get low priority from me. The people who treat me with respect get my jumptoitness.

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  7. Not sure. Usually, I'm not in a job that's very service orientated. I'm about to get back to it, though.

    Generally, serving people doesn't bother me. Only when the person I'm helping is a jerk. In that case, clenched jaws and tight smiles are required.

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  8. Stephanie, I think you hit the nail on the head. None of us like being ordered around. Conversely, we love the folks that are willing to help us and do it with smiles and good will. Congrats on leaving your day job behind:)

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  9. Swallowing your pride is one way to build character, isn't it? It's hard, but it really makes us stronger when we have the right attitude. Been working on some of that myself lately. :)

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  10. Interesting post! I was a teacher for many years so I have always worked with groups of people. Luckily we had a great principal who never seemed like a boss. She ran a tight ship but we always felt like we were on the same level with her because we were all there for the kids! Thanks so much for popping by my blog! Have a lovely weekend! Nicole

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  11. I know a number of people who have started their own companies because they can't take orders....

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  12. Being self-employed, I kind of run my own business...and I can say if you have clients (or customers), you'd better be able to take orders! I think it's different when it's your own thing, though, so I see what you mean. You're more tied to the product and the customer/client perception of you, so you want to do a good job!

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  13. it is certainly a personality thing. Some people think the world revolves around them, others feel that they are just a small piece in a much larger order. Either way, it is pretty much a fact that business is much better when the customers and employees are happy.

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