Customers from hell – part 3

Nobody likes dealing with miserable people, and in parts 1 and 2 of this series we looked at how important issues of self-image and self-esteem created unhappiness and obnoxious behaviour. I also discussed that there are serious consequences that both you and the unfortunate other party have to deal with when we are unable to resolve problems and complaints effectively. In this final article I want to share some more practical ideas for dealing with these.

In any “customer from hell” situation, we need to assume that you have made all efforts to deal reasonably with the unhappiness. An easy way to remember what to do is summarised in the acronym LESTER.

• Listen carefully to what the unhappy customer is complaining about
• Empathise with them
• Say sorry and apologise
• Thank them for bringing it to your attention, and for having the courage to complain rather than just bad-mouthing your business, defecting to a rival, or worse. And then, when they are calm
• Explore options and explain what you can do, and finally
• Rectify the problem with a win:win solution, (following up to make sure it was truly resolved.)

But we are not dealing with normal, unhappy customers and their complaints and problems in this article. We are discussing the emotional, irrational, illogical and unreasonable customers from hell that don’t respond to all of your efforts to help them. You must be able to protect yourself from such individuals, because of the awful effect that they have on you. That one person that you have to deal with makes you forget the other 99% of nice people that you deal with on a day-to-day basis. The terrible memories of this encounter will stay vividly in your mind for a very long time. It makes work very unpleasant, and is demoralising and demotivating for everyone involved. Most importantly, it starts eating away at your own confidence, esteem and self-worth.

There are a few choices that you have in dealing with these customers…

• Laugh it off: Not always easy, but remember it’s mostly their problem, not yours. Of course, they will do their best to get you caught up in their problem – and their dramas.

• Just accept their behaviour, and allow the abuse to continue. It may be that this customer from hell is too important to your business, or has too much power for you to deal with. I don’t like this option, however, because if you allow the abuse to continue, it will continue, and maybe get even worse. More importantly what about the effect that this has on you? If you have no choice, protect yourself from these individuals by talking to somebody, or by taking out your frustrations somehow. Remember that ships don’t sink because of the water around them… They sink because of the water that gets in them. Are you going to allow this to happen in your life, and allow things to weigh you down? Do anything to let it go. Alternatively, just laugh it off.

• Confront with equal aggression: also not a good choice most of the time, because they will not like it, and the resulting consequences may be even worse. Also, don’t forget that passive aggression where you come up with creative ways of taking revenge on them or putting them down, is just as bad as real aggression.

• Confront assertively, by interrupting them in a firm voice to say something like this: “Mr. Smith, I want to help you, but I can’t do that while you are aggressive/abusive/shouting at me. Will you allow me to do so?” This is particularly important when customers become abusive and threaten you, bully you, insult you or even get physically violent. You need to be able to “draw a line in the sand” so to speak, and to let them know that their behaviour is not acceptable.

• Put the ball in their court. You may want to try this out: tell them that you have now come to the point where you have exhausted all of your options. You have tried everything in your power to help them, and they have not responded. “What do you want me to do?” There are three possible answers to this question. First, they may tell you what they want, and it’s impossible for you to do that, so you are going to have to say “No.” Second, they may tell you what they want, and you are able to respond to that, in which case do it and move on. But there is also a third possibility: they don’t respond, because they can’t think of anything else that you can do. At this stage, they may come to the realization that you have done your best, but don’t expect them to readily admit that. But at least they may become more reasonable.

• Cut the anchor: let them go. This is a tricky one, and we suggest that you check it out with your manager first. But if the abuse is becoming too much for you to deal with, you could say something like: “Mr. Jones, I am uncomfortable with all of the swearing and insults that you are shouting at me. With the greatest respect to you, I am now going to walk away, (or put the telephone down. Goodbye” And then walk away or put the telephone down softly. (In fact, pass them onto your competitors!) Don’t wrestle with pigs. It will get you all muddy and the pigs will love it.
• Just keep trying to sort it out, whatever it takes. If you do manage to turn them around, and you keep trying everything you can to turn them around, you may find a customer for life. What often helps is if you in fact tell them that you will not give up on them, ever.

Some final thoughts

• It’s obvious that you need a really great sense of humour to be able to deal with these abusive customers, and, as one author put it, “A thick skin is a gift from God.”

• David may have fought Goliath – but he didn’t choose to wrestle him. Choose your battles carefully

• Don’t take things personally. Remember that what people say is more a reflection of them, their reality, not a reflection of you.

• Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most

I’d like to end off with a line from one of my favourite lines from the poem “If,” written by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’, and blaming it on you…
Then yours is the earth and everything that’s on it.

By Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of Leadership Launchpad

Seven ways you’re killing conversion

Words matter. People may not read everything, but they do scan. And they process information subconsciously at lightning speeds to determine if they’ll click or bounce within a few fractions of a second.
While some words (like “Submit” on your button) may seem innocent enough, they could be costing you dearly, turning away visitors in droves.

Here’s why, along with a few other conversion-sabotaging words you need to replace in your e-mails, ads, and landing pages ASAP.

‘Submit’
“Submit” is a derivation of submission. And therein lies the problem. There’s a negative connotation with yielding to someone or something superior. People, as a general rule, don’t like yielding.
This was proven definitively years and years ago by Dan Zarella and HubSpot. They took a look at the conversion rates of over 40 000 customer landing pages and quickly noticed a huge discrepancy.
When call to action (CTA) buttons included the word “submit,” conversion rates tended to drop immediately by a few percentage points.
Use words like “click here” or “go” instead.

‘Synergy’
What’s the fastest way to learn terrible copywriting? Get an MBA.
Because in just a few short weeks, you’ll find yourself spewing out “synergy,” “competencies,” and a host of other clichéd, meaningless words that have old professors nodding their heads in approval.
As evidence, go visit almost any B2B website outside of marketing and advertising. Your eyes will glaze over, your face will contort, and a sudden bout of narcolepsy might hit at any moment.
Many times, clients and bosses don’t notice anything wrong at first either. The problem with “best in class” and all other common business jargon (besides the fact that it also appears on every competitor’s Web site) is that customers can detect that the company is talking nonsense.
Research shows that people prefer things that are easy to think about to those that are hard. Generally, the level of reading comprehension is low. People aren’t focusing or reading online; they’re scanning and multitasking and browsing and tweeting while looking at your page.
Rewrite anything with the faintest resemblance to what you learned in school.

‘Spam’
Consumers are bombarded with hundreds of “greymail” e-mails each day. Trillions are being sent by marketers each year. So you’d think, logically speaking, that assuring visitors you won’t spam them would help conversions. Unfortunately that’s not the case. “Spam” is a huge stop word — or no no — that causes
people to become apprehensive and hesitate.
A test carried out by Michael Aargaard showed the surprising ramifications. He added the seemingly harmless line of “100% privacy — we will never spam you” in between the form fields and submission button.
Typically, these extra credibility indicators surrounding a CTA can help to give conversions a nice little boost. But not in this case, and it backfired by over 18%.
Try assurances like “Your information will not be shared.”
Avoid words with a negative connotation (as we saw with “submit”) in general, and use additional messaging to reinforce the positive aspects of what someone is about to get.

‘We’
“We” opens a door. It’s like the gateway drug of bad copywriting. One small hit, and you’re quickly off to dabbling with bigger, badder things.
While it might seem harmless at the time, “we” puts you on a path to jonesing for a fix of “synergy” and “best in class” in no time.
But keep in mind, that as a general rule, people don’t care about you. Instead, they want a “better version of themselves.”
This is especially so for all those visiting your site at the top of the funnel, who haven’t realized a need for your product or service yet. They’re Googling solutions for drilling a hole in their wall so they can hang a picture… they’re not looking for a drill (just yet).
That means the focus of messaging should be centered around a problem and solution, not a tool, product or service.
Instead of “we” begin with “you” or don’t use a pronoun at all (like a question or a command/call to action).

‘Your’
The copy on most web sites is written in the second person. And that’s a good thing! Copywriters are taught to use “you” instead of “they” when explaining the benefits derive from the latest product or service.
However, there are exceptions. When focusing on a CTA or specific conversion event, the “possessive determiner” should switch back to first person.
Another test from Michael Aagaard proves the point. Michael initially thought that “your” in the CTA button copy would work best. But he found an almost a 25% difference, just by switching a single word – from “your free trial” to “my free trial”.
Switching to “my” gives people ownership of the benefit they’re about to receive.

‘Free’
You’d think, on the surface, that “free” increases conversions. And it does in most cases. The last example a few seconds ago used a “free trial” to generate more interest (and clicks). But there are exceptions.
The first (albeit tiny) issue is that the word “free” can trip up spam filters in email messaging. The second, bigger problem though is a curious case of over-optimisation. The problem is that more conversions isn’t always better. A Totango study showed that 70% of the people who sign up for free trials are useless, with
only around 20% of those actively evaluating the product.
So while the word “free” can (and will) increase initial conversions, you should be optimising for sales and revenue — not vanity metrics like leads or impressive (but hollow) conversion rates.

‘Save time and money’
So far we’ve seen that vague, meaningless, overly generic phrases are bad for conversions. The culmination of them all — the cherry on top and the pièce de résistance — is “save time and money”.
This phrase breaks one of the very first rules of copywriting that says you should write to a particular audience.
Roll up your sleeves and dig a little deeper into who you’re speaking to, and what they value most.
The key is to ferret out those few ingredients that make your offering awesome & unique, which both audiences value. You want the stuff that overlaps, which will help you create a specific value proposition that reinforces your primary aim (of driving conversions), while avoiding the same generic message showing up on each of your competitor’s Web sites.

Souce: WordStream

Arbitration is not always final

Either party to an arbitration can take the arbitrator’s conduct on review to the Labour Court if they are able to prove that the arbitrator, in making his/her award, has materially broken a rule thereby committing ‘misconduct’.

Arbitrator ‘misconduct’ can and does occur in many different forms including, amongst others, bias, interrogation of witnesses, failure to keep records, ignoring of evidence, refusal to allow a party the right to question witnesses or bring evidence, failure to apply his/her mind, misconstruing of evidence, overstepping his/her authority and failure to consider statutory provisions.

An arbitrator cannot make a fair decision if he/she fails to take into account all of the material evidence placed before him/her. In the case of Crown Chickens (Pty) Ltd vs Kapp & others (2002, 6 BLLR 493 LAC) the arbitrator found that the employee had not called a colleague a “kaffer”. However, the Labour Appeal Court found that the arbitrator had, without good reason, rejected the evidence of two witnesses whose evidence indicated that the employee had called his colleague a “kaffer”. The Court therefore overturned the decision of the arbitrator, found the employee’s dismissal to have been fair and ordered the employee to pay the employer’s legal costs.

In the case of Prince vs CCMA and others (2005, 2 BLLR 159) the employee was fired for stealing money collected from the car park pay station. The CCMA arbitrator found that the employee had been involved in the theft and upheld the dismissal. The Labour Court found that the employer’s evidence had been sketchy and contradictory and that the CCMA commissioner’s award finding had not been based on the facts. The employer was required to reinstate the employee with 44 months’ back pay plus interest. The employer was also ordered to pay the employee’s legal costs.

In an unreported case (Number JR 1606/04) the employee was reprimanded by a manager for failing to phone in while absent from work. The employee left his employment, went to the CCMA and claimed that he had been dismissed. At the CCMA the employer denied that the employee had been dismissed and brought substantial evidence to show that the employee had been instructed to return to work.

During the arbitration hearing the commissioner frequently cross examined the employer’s witnesses and made remarks deriding the evidence of those witnesses. The arbitration award, which was in favour of the employee, failed to take into account the evidence brought by the employer.

The employer took the arbitrator on review to the Labour Court claiming that the award failed to take the facts into account and that the arbitrator was biased. The Court found in favour of the employer and found the dismissal to be both procedurally and substantively fair.

Parties therefore need not give up if they truly believe that, on the proven facts, they were short changed due to irregular conduct on the arbitrator’s behalf.

However, even if the aggrieved party has evidence of arbitrator ‘misconduct’ it is difficult to persuade a court judge that this evidence amounts to solid proof meriting the overturning of the award. In the unreported case described immediately above the employer used proper labour law expertise in order to prove its case. Failure to use such expertise would most likely to have resulted in the employer losing the case.

By Dr lvan lsraelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting.

Dealing with customers from hell – part 2

In part 1 last month, I wrote that poor self-esteem and self-confidence are the biggest barriers to being assertive and dealing with customers from hell.

In fact, many of the inappropriate behaviours that we see in others, and in ourselves, come from this one source. It is an unfortunate fact that people suffering from low self-esteem may display some or all of the following behaviours:

  1. Shooting from the hip. In other words speaking before thinking, saying things they will regret and have to apologise for later. People like this feel self-pity, are short-tempered, tend to overreact, and rationalise their behaviour.
  2. Gossiping. A gossiper has low self-esteem and by gossiping about others, their feeling of powerlessness decreases. Such a person may become the trouble-maker of the office or in their family.
  3. Attention-seeking. Attention elevates the person with low self-esteem, emotionally. They are “high maintenance” people who sap energy from others, often displaying inappropriate behaviours and almost always regretting it afterwards. They almost always end up feeling even worse about themselves.
  4. Withdrawal. Sometimes to the point of becoming anti-social. Unfortunately this exacerbates feelings of unworthiness. Other consequences include others seeing them as people who produce poor results, lack discipline, are introverted, even rude.
  5. Put themselves down. See obstacles and problems, not opportunities, turn down even small challenges and are very risk averse, sell themselves short, do things to please others, can’t say no even when it is greatly inconvenient, don’t express right choices, preoccupied with themselves, sometimes to the point of being selfish, resist change, and constantly speak negatively about themselves and their circumstances to others. They procrastinate a lot.
  6. Suffer from ill health, and even become hypochondriacs. They are overweight or anorexic, show signs of stress, nervousness and anxiety (like timidity and even open fear,) smoke, drink or take drugs excessively, are sexually promiscuous, seem to be excessively hyperactive or excessively tired/fatigued. Constantly focus on every twitch, ache or pain and letting people around them know that they are not well. Unfortunately people’s reactions and responses normally enable the hypochondriacs behaviour.
  7. Half empty cups. People suffering from low self-esteem and lack of confidence tend to be very negative and pessimistic about everything. They are risk averse and fearful, have a negative attitude, suffer from the “Yes, but….” Syndrome, appear indecisive, confused, or complacent, sometimes put on a show of bravado, but also seem withdrawn, disinterested, apathetic, or show a “Who cares” attitude.
  8. Unhappiness leads to other problems. They almost always feel unhappy, miserable and even depressed. They don’t take criticism easily, don’t want to take responsibility, sometimes aggressive, sometimes appear greedy, irresponsible, suspicious, reckless, impatient, emotional/tearful, obnoxious, and withdrawn. They give no positive strokes or recognition to others, but occasionally give excessive flattery which is rejected because it is so artificial and desperate.
  9. Hate-speech and foul language. Someone suffering from low self-esteem may speak ill of others to the point of hate-speech, and/or swear a lot. They are often excessively loud, and indulge in gossip, deceitfulness, jealousy and envy, criticism, blaming others, and looking for excuses. Insist on inappropriate jokes and comments, often resulting in inappropriate behaviour that others find offensive. Unfortunately their behaviour is often infectious in the workplace and they drag others down with them.

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it? All of the symptoms and characteristics described above are symptoms of a poor self-image, which affects almost everything in life, and leads to many negative consequences.

Here are some practical steps that you can follow to remain calm – and deal with matters for a more favourable result:

1. Remember that your choice is not limited to expressing anger or not expressing anger: Sometimes you can use a supportive approach. For example, someone yells at you and barks orders for you to do something you feel is completely unprofessional. Say something like, “Is there something wrong, Pat? I know there must be, or you would never speak to me that way.”

2. When appropriate, make the deliberate decision not to express anger: Initially, expressing anger may make you feel important. There are times, however, when you cannot express your anger, such as when a frail old customer or an innocent child angers you, or when a traffic cop threatens you with arrest. But the opposite may also be true. It is often very therapeutic for the other person to let off a little bit of steam, to express their own frustration and anger. Allow them to vent if you think it is necessary, and pay no attention to the hurtful things that they say. We usually don’t mean the things that we say when we are angry.

3. Get some insight into the nature of the difficulty: Do this by putting yourself in their shoes and analysing the situation, your own emotions, and your behaviour. Armed with this information, you can then take charge of your reactions rather than letting your instincts control you. (As the HBR article mentioned, perhaps there is some historical event in your life that is triggered by what just happened.) Ask yourself questions like, “What are they really trying to say? Why did they overreact? What is the problem behind the question? Why are they hurting?” Maybe you were just there at the wrong time, but if you keep repeating that you can help them, a positive outcome is more likely.

4. Learn to deal with your own feelings, especially your anger: Before anything else, you have to want to keep calm. Deal with your anger in a manner that helps rather than hinders your success. Most important: What are you saying to yourself about yourself? The moment you start doubting yourself, you’re dead in the water. Don’t take it personally.

5. Some other self-calming strategies include deep breathing and counting to ten, doing some physical exercises, as well as consciously relaxing your shoulders and stomach muscles, looking for positive things in the negative, thinking humorous thoughts, writing things down so that you break off the glaring at each other behaviour, taking time out and postponing the discussion until both of you are calmer, be aware of your own voice, and speak slower, lower and softer, vent your own frustration in a “safe” place, (but not your family,) or pass the angry customer onto someone else who is more objective and neutral.

6. Spend time with the person you are confronting trying to understand the nature of their difficulties, and using your skills to manage their anger: Skills like empathy, clarifying and confirming, and longer conversations will help. Ask the other person to do you a favour and talk about exactly what sparked off their rage, and take it in turns not only to speak, but to also tell each other what you just heard. Focus on the behaviours that spark off the problem, not on attacking their personality, and especially avoid using names and labels. It’s not about naming, blaming and shaming.

7. Ensure that your interaction(s) achieve desirable results: Set a goal up front so that the other person knows where to aim. You can say something like: “I know this is hard for you, but I also know we will resolve this together in a way that makes you happy and I can live with.”

I can’t remember where I saw this, but it really resonates: “Today is but a blink in the greater scheme of the universe”. Move gracefully through difficult moments. Don’t get stuck there. Allow yourself to move through it. You can do this without depleting your energy reserves – simply by having the intention to do it. Remember, life is short. Make each day count and stop wasting your energy on negative thoughts, unproductive thinking about who said what to whom 10 years ago.

By Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of Leadership Launchpad

(In the final part of this series next month we will examine more practical ideas with dealing with customers from hell.)

What you post can wreck your life

Harvard recently rescinded admission offers for some incoming freshmen who participated in a private Facebook group sharing offensive memes. The incident has sparked a lot of discussion: Was Harvard’s decision justified? What about the First Amendment? Do young people know the dangers of social media?

I’m a business school lecturer, career services counselor and former recruiter, and I’ve seen how social media becomes part of a person’s brand – a brand that can help you or hurt you.

College admissions staff, future employers and even potential dates are more and more likely to check your profile and make decisions or judgments about you.

Here’s what you should know so you don’t end up like those Harvard prospects.

1. Social media posts disappear, right?

Let’s be clear about one thing: You’ve been building your online reputation since your first Snapchat. Think the posts disappear? Think private pages are private? Think again.

You might feel like your life and opinions are no one’s business, but you can’t always control who sees what you post. Every photo, video, tweet, like and comment could be screenshotted by your friends (or frenemies). You might make a mistake with your privacy settings or post to the wrong account. And a determined online sleuth can sometimes find ways around privacy settings, viewing photos and posts you might think are well hidden.

2. Do employers and colleges actually look at this stuff?

Your profile will very likely be scrutinised by college admissions officers and employers. According to CareerBuilder’s 2017 social media recruitment survey, social media screening is through the roof:

  • 600% increase since 2006 in employers using social media to screen
  • 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates
  • 34% of employers found online content that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee

This trend is common with admissions as well. Kaplan Test Prep’s 2017 survey of over 350 college admissions officers found that 35 percent checked applicants’ social media profiles. Many who do said social media has influenced their admission decisions.

3. What are recruiters watching out for?

So what are the potential hazards to avoid? These are some of the types of posts that left a bad impression on me when I used to recruit:

  • References to illegal drugs, sexual posts
  • Incriminating or embarrassing photos or videos
  • Profanity, defamatory or racist comments
  • Politically charged attacks
  • Spelling and grammar issues
  • Complaining or bad-mouthing – what’s to say you wouldn’t do the same to a new school, company, boss, or peer?

4. What can I do to build a positive online reputation?

Remember, social media is not all bad; in many cases it helps recruiters get a good feel for your personality and potential fit. The CareerBuilder survey found 44 percent of employers who screened candidates via social networks found positive information that caused them to hire a candidate.

From my experience, the following information can support and confirm a candidate’s resume:

  • Your education and experiences match the recruiter’s requirements
  • Your profile picture and summary is professional
  • Your personality and interests align with the values of the company or university
  • Your involvement in community or social organizations shows character
  • Positive, supportive comments, responses, or testimonials

5. How do I clean things up?

Research. Both the college of your dreams and your future employer could Google you, so you should do the same thing. Also check all of your social media profiles – even the ones you haven’t used for a while – and get rid of anything that could send the wrong message. Remember, things can’t be unseen.

Bottom line: Would you want a future boss, admissions officer, or blind date to read or see it? If not, don’t post it. If you already have, delete it.

By Thao Nelson; published on MSN.com 

Witnesses are key in arbitration

Legal procedure makes it immensely difficult for a party at arbitration to win its case without witnesses.

For example, should an employer send, no witnesses to a CCMA arbitration the employer’s representative will find it extremely difficult to win the case because the testimony of witnesses normally forms the crucial core of the procedure at any arbitration hearing.

The procedural guidelines laid down require the arbitrator to start off by explaining the arbitration process and rules.

This entails explaining:

• that the employer is normally required to present its case first. This will be done via witnesses, documents and other evidence

• the right to cross examine that witness

• the arbitrator has the right to ask the witness questions for clarity and the employer is allowed to re-examine the witness, but only regarding the issues raised during cross examination

• once all the employer’s witnesses have been heard the employee presents his/her case according to the abovelisted steps.

Thereafter the arbitrator must:

• Hear closing statements

• Assess the evidence and make the award.

The evidence that the arbitrator assesses for purposes of deciding in favour of the employer or employee falls into three broad categories. Viz:

• Documents

• Sundry items such as video tapes, stolen goods, photos and other items relevant to the case at hand

• Witness testimony

While all three types of evidence are very important the testimony of witnesses is the most crucial of all. This is because it is difficult (and often impossible) to bring documentary or other evidence without using witnesses as a channel. For example, should the employer’s representative need to bring a letter or a video tape as evidence against the employee, the representative will need to validate the letter or video by bringing, as a witness, the author of the letter or the person who filmed the video. Thus, witnesses are normally the conduit for all other evidence.

In the case of NUMSA obo Buthelezi vs Falcon & another (2003, 10 BALR 1110) the employee was dismissed for attempting to steal paint as reported via a sworn statement from the security guard who had caught him. However, as the security guard did not give evidence at the arbitration hearing the arbitrator found the dismissal to be unfair and ordered the employer to reinstate the employee with full back pay.

Not only are witnesses the most crucial source of evidence they are also the most difficult source of evidence to utilise. There are many reasons for this:

• Unless properly managed witnesses can disappear or fail to turn up at the arbitration hearing

• Unless properly prepared witnesses forget important details

• Witnesses can be bribed or otherwise persuaded to lie

• Unless expertly handled witnesses may get nervous during the arbitration hearing. They may therefore get flustered and so make mistakes.

Due to the fact that witnesses are the most crucial means of winning a case at arbitration and, at the same time, the most difficult evidentiary element to control any party at arbitration should use the services of a labour law expert to:

• Identify well in advance all the witnesses that will be needed

• Prepare these witnesses to ensure that they will truthfully give the evidence relevant to the case of the party who calls them

• Work out which witnesses will be used to validate which documents and other evidence.

By Ivan Israelstam, CEO of Labour Law Management Consulting

It wasn’t long after smart phones, tablets and ubiquitous Wi-Fi that workplace experts predicted the end of the office. And while a telecommuting trend took root for a while, it is now beginning to reverse with large American companies like IBM, Honeywell and Yahoo leading the change.

But also thanks to offices that are now much more human friendly.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says:  “The thinking went along these lines: if technology allow people to work anywhere, then who needs the office?

“As it turns out, the vast majority of workers do—because work, at its essence, is a social process. Even people armed with the latest mobile device still come to the office to connect with other people and to access technology they can’t carry around.

“The office didn’t go away, but it’s now evolving into something fundamentally different.

“We are in the midst of an office renaissance.”

And the proof is evident in some of the world’s biggest companies.

After several decades of allowing employees to perform their jobs remotely, IBM recently announced that it wanted many of its remote workers back in the office.

Between 1995 and 2009, the company shrank its office workforce. Other companies soon followed suit: Work-from-home became a desirable perk of many white-collar jobs.

Yahoo has also reversed its stance on home workers and said that since calling back its staff, employee engagement was up, product launches increased significantly and teams were thriving.

American conglomerate Honeywell also joined the back to the office trend by banning telecommuting for most of its workers worldwide.

Says Andrews: “It’s not surprising there is a swing back to the office. The workplace has become a catalyst for energy and buzz.

“People are again looking for inspiration and creativity at work, as well as human-centered technology that makes life easier. These ideas are being embraced and adopted at a rapid pace thanks to new people friendly design and facilities.”

Traditionally, offices were focused on uniformity and standards. Much of the space was dedicated to individual workstations, separated into departments, where people spent the majority of their time working alone. A cafeteria provided a place to eat lunch and large meeting rooms were used mostly for collaboration.

But by reducing the number of dedicated individual workstations and creating an ecosystem of spaces, people now have the freedom to choose how and where to work.

“Appealing offices now have a social hub, previously just a cafeteria, which shifts away from supporting just nourishment to now also becoming a place for workers to connect and collaborate,” says Andrews.

“They also have a nomadic camp—purposely placed near the social hub— to support mobile behaviours. The additional settings offer mobile workers a place to work alone or with others. Workers can see and be seen by coworkers, or choose a private setting for focused work.”

The concept of a ‘resident neighbourhood’ is also proving popular and includes spaces for managers in the open plan to promote learning and quick problem solving. Resource centres offers workers a space to securely store coats and bags and access meeting tools.

“People want to feel a connection to the places where they work, where they can see themselves in the space, versus something that feels imposed upon them. Well designed offices and productivity gains from working closely with smart people is driving the office renaissance,“ Andrews concludes.

Employees intend on taking advantage of their sick leave to stay away from work when in truth they really just can’t face a day in the office.

Almost 40% of South Africans are planning on “pulling a sickie” in June or July, according to a survey released by Pharma Dynamics on Monday.

The generic pharmaceutical company polled 1 500 workers across the country to find out how people were gearing up for the colds and flu season. However, respondents also let slip the time of year they are most likely to ring in sick, said Pharma Dynamics.

Bad weather coupled with colds and flu
A combination of miserable weather and the expected spate of colds and flu in winter makes June and July the most popular months of the year to take a duvet day, said Pharma Dynamics spokesperson Nicole Jennings.

“Nearly a third of those polled admitted that they’ve pulled a sickie before – 45% of whom said they do so two to three times a year, while a few chancers (15% in fact) do so even more often. The 40% whose conscience probably gets the better of them, can only bring themselves to do so once annually.”

Jennings said what makes matters even worse is that those who pretend to be sick don’t do so on their own.

“More than a whopping 51% rope in their partners and/or children to take a duvet day with them – 20% either didn’t have a partner or a child, which implied that if they did, they’d probably get them to bunk with them too. The remaining 29% preferred to do so solo.”

The result of sickness-related absenteeism on the economy has been enormous, according to the most recently available Adcorp Holdings’ employment index.

Cumulatively, since 2000 the economy lost R55.2bn in real terms due to sickness, the report dated 2013 shows.

The index found that between 2009 and 2011, one-quarter of all workers claimed the maximum statutory allowance for sick leave, which is 36 days in a three-year cycle. It showed that the average output per worker in 2012 was R145 233 per year – or R586.19 per working day. In 2011 this loss of output due to sickness totalled R4.29bn

At the time Adcorp said it was alarming that sick leave in South Africa had been rising continuously.

More recently, South Africa was ranked last among 19 nations in a global survey that measured healthcare system efficiency – the ability to deliver maximum results at the lowest possible cost.

The Future Health Index, commissioned by Dutch tech company Philips, showed that South Africa’s efficiency ratio was the lowest out of the 19 countries in the study, which included countries such as France, the US, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, China and Brazil.

South Africa scored 4.4 compared to the group average of 10.5.

Source: Fin24

Dealing with customers from hell

No less a respected journal than The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published an article entitled, Stay Calm When Someone Is Getting on Your Nerves. “Come on, HBR,” I thought to myself, “Is this the best you can do? Nothing like stating something that is so blindingly obvious!”

The basic theme of the article was that we all have people – and customers – who irritate us. People who interrupt, people who are filled with arrogance or sheer stupidity, people who are unreasonable, irrational, and emotional and who blame us personally for everything that is wrong in the world. And that excludes the anonymous people who post nasty things in the social media, and the self-important bullies who can only feel good about themselves if they put you down.

Then the authors write: “To help yourself, remain calm in these situations, acknowledge your emotions and think through why you’re reacting the way you are. For example, you might get angry about being interrupted because it was a major problem at your last job or in a prior personal relationship. Don’t let those associations control you…”

And yet… if an esteemed publication like the HBR feels a need to publish such an article, maybe it’s because most people don’t get it. You are definitely going to occasionally get the “customer from hell.” You may have tried all of the best strategies in the world, maybe even used some of the hints for dealing with complaints, problems and anger covered in one of my previous columns.

There are probably only a handful of responses to people like this, but I have to completely agree that it all starts with you. Whenever I see bad behaviour, whenever I see people troubled in their lives, or whenever there is some conflict or event that challenges all of the things that glue society together, then the first place I look is at the self-esteem.

Why is it true that some people let the smallest thing spark off rage, while others seem to be able to remain calm, no matter what happens? When someone needs to behave in this obnoxious, aggressive and hurtful way, what are they saying about themselves? It’s because they feel weak and vulnerable and insecure. I know the times when I flash a fist at a taxi driver, or snap at someone, or slam a door, those are not the times when I feel good about myself, happy with who I am, and when I just know that the world is just a great, forgiving, generous abundant place. They are the times when I feel fearful, hurt, and out of control. (Under different circumstances when they aren’t attacking you, you may even feel sorry for the customers from hell.)

If we paint the opposite picture, it becomes even more obvious: people who feel optimistic, positive, and who like themselves don’t need to behave like this. They are generous, kind, sensitive, empathetic and helpful towards others.

So how should you deal with your own negative feelings? Many people believe – incorrectly – that bad emotions are always dangerous and powerful. If we express these feelings openly, then we’ll be less popular, lose someone’s love and admiration, or provoke someone’s anger, boredom or dislike. This – being liked by everybody all of the time – is unrealistic. People also believe – and also incorrectly – that it’s unhealthy or dishonest to try to control how they express their feelings. They believe that they have a right, indeed a responsibility, to let people aggressively know how they feel in any manner they choose, no matter what the circumstances or the consequences.

Therefore, there are only two ways we can deal with bad emotions: repress them or express them in the form in which we experience them, that is, negatively. Both of these can be pretty destructive. Repressing your negative feelings happens in one of two ways: denial, (“I can’t admit having these negative emotions,”) or suppression, (“I know how I feel, but I can’t think of a constructive way to express these feelings, so I won’t display them.”) If you do this, you know that you may be sparing others, but hurting yourself. But if you don’t deal with these feelings, they won’t go away. Instead, they show themselves in some of the following symptoms: depression, physical illness, (including headaches, stiff muscles, insomnia, eating disorders, ulcers and even heart attacks,) low self-esteem, emotional withdrawal, (we become apathetic, unenthusiastic, indifferent and uninvolved, just going through the motions,) and even recourse to drugs and alcohol, (we seek escape through substance abuse.)

Destructive expression, on the other hand, can also hurt the recipients and alienate people from you. Moody people thus become isolated from others, often lashing out at the nearest target, and feeling terrible afterwards. They show some of the following behaviours: temper tantrums, (childish, inappropriate, and uncontrolled anger that can be triggered by even trivial things – some of them going back years and years,) sulking and “the silent treatment,” (in which they refuse to explain why they are upset,) and sarcasm, (because they are reluctant to confront the cause of their bad mood directly.) In groups we sometimes call these “passive aggressive” behaviours.

Remember that we have already established the fact that defensive behaviour does not help. Yes, criticism is hard to accept especially when you work hard, when you are trying to please people, and when you feel it is unjustified. It is hurtful. But trying to justify your behaviour, or even trying to shift the blame or prove that the other person is wrong, is futile. They will all be rejected by the other person unless you have worked through all of the conflict and anger.

Of course you have a right to feel anger and express it sometimes. Anger doesn’t have to lead to violence or more anger. Your goal is to learn to deal with anger more constructively, not to ignore it or to repress it. Also, don’t rationalise your reluctance to express anger. Excuses like, “I won’t say anything because I’ll hurt the other person’s feelings,” are ways of explaining to yourself why you don’t do what you have never learned to do. Instead of dwelling on the reasons why you don’t express anger, concentrate on learning how to do it.

There’s a lovely legend I’d like to end off with: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Goodness – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

If you feel strong, confident, secure, and have good self-esteem, you will be able to deal with unhappy and abusive people, no matter what they throw at you. This is the big secret of keeping yourself calm.

In part 2 of this series we will look at some of the practical things you can do to calm down upset customers.

By Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of Leadership Launchpad

Ignore Labour Law at your peril

Employers constantly complain that labour law does not allow them to fire employees for breaking the rules. However, employers need to understand that:

• Labour law definitely does allow employers to dismiss employees.

• The CCMA has frequently upheld the dismissal of employees fired for misconduct. We have been directly involved in a great many cases where employees have been fired and, after appealing to the CCMA, have remained fired.

• It is not the firing of employees that the law has a problem with. Instead, it is unfair dismissals that result in the employer being forced to reinstate the employee and/or being forced to pay the employee exorbitant amounts of money in compensation.

• In order to be free to fire employees who deserve dismissal employers need to understand and accept the difference between fair and unfair dismissal. This is because, if the employer has an employee who is causing mayhem or is costing the employer money or is otherwise undesirable, the employer cannot afford for the employee to be reinstated. The reason for this is that it is exceptionally difficult later to dismiss or discipline an employee who has been reinstated by the CCMA or other tribunal.

So while the law does allow dismissals it also requires the employer to be able to prove that the dismissal was both procedurally and substantively fair.

“Procedurally fair” relates to whether the employee was given a fair hearing.

Whether a dismissal is “substantively fair” relates to the fairness of the dismissal decision itself rather than to the disciplinary procedures. Specifically the employer would have to show that:

• The employee really did break the rule

• The rule was a fair one

• The penalty of dismissal was a fitting one in the light of the severity of the offence. AND

• The employee knew or should have known the rule.

Properly trained CCMA arbitrators consider all the above factors together with the circumstances of each individual case in deciding if a dismissal was fair and whether the employee should stay dismissed or should be reinstated.

In the case of Mundell vs Caledon Casino, Hotel and Spa (Sunday Times 15 May 2005) the employee was dismissed for two reasons. Viz:

• She distributed a R15000 tip amongst her colleagues
• She allowed a colleague to take home five cans of cool drink

It was reported that:

• The rule requiring employees to hand in tips to management to go into a monthly kitty had not been given to Mundell
• Mundell had no way of knowing that she was not allowed to distribute the tip money herself
• The tip had been given by the client at an open gathering
• A number of managers were involved in sharing out the tip
• The cool drinks had been intended by the client for consumption by the staff
• Giving the cool drinks to the employee was not serious enough to merit dismissal
• The employer’s failure to prove that the employee knew of this rule rendered the dismissal unfair
• The employer was required to pay the employee six months remuneration in compensation.

The outcome of this case proves that the inability of employers to make dismissals stick is not primarily because of the law but rather because of the lack of labour law expertise of many employers.

By  lvan lsraelstam, Chief Executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

  • 1
  • 2
  • 7

Follow us on social media: 

               

View our magazine archives: 

                       


My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Top