It’s a common sight in doctors’ surgeries, banks and similar places to see signs saying that offensive language and aggression towards employees will not be tolerated and that anyone doing so will be required to leave.
Recently, I’ve also heard individuals complain about the way they have been treated by both public services and private companies.
Customers and employers need to be treated courteously: it works both ways.
How do we achieve this?
Sometimes employees who meet the public every day do become cynical. They can feel they are not being treated with courtesy or frustrated at having to answer the same questions again and again. But in many cases the customer is there because they need help. Just because other people have been annoying or discourteous must not make us judge everyone on first sight. Whatever job we’re doing, whatever level we’re at, it costs nothing to be courteous to customers.
In the same way, as customers we must not assume that any employee is going to be unhelpful. Even if we’ve had a bad experience with an organisation, we must treat the person we come to see courteously.
Everyone deserves to be greeted politely and to be treated with courtesy. If we start in this way, very often our dealings will proceed smoothly.
But what if they don’t? What if an employee is surly and unhelpful? What if a customer is aggressive and even violent? Then it is right for an individual or organisation to take appropriate action, whether to complain or require a person causing offence to leave.
Institutional or habitual discourtesy causes headaches not only for businesses and organisations, but for employees and individuals too. On the other hand, courtesy embedded in our everyday lives encourages things to go more smoothly and is beneficial to both sides.
What’s more, courtesy is free and available to us all at any time.