Something happened at work today that made me really angry.
I’m a Team Lead in the Customer Service department for a health insurance company, so I spend a lot of my day having phone conversations with angry people. I also try to help my team know how to handle “difficult callers.” As you might imagine, it’s been pretty tense around the office this year, what with all the changes in health care. With that in mind, I sent out an email to our whole department reminding them how talented and important they are and included a list of ten tips for handling difficult callers. Shortly afterward, I noticed a coworker speaking with my supervisor and she looked pretty shaken-up.
It turned out she had a difficult call, so I listened to it to see what happened. Let me say here that in the nearly nine years I’ve been in this call center, I’ve heard a lot of bad calls. And this one still shocked me. The woman was rude the entire time and then put her boyfriend on at the end only to have him say, “I want to speak to somebody who has a clue what they’re doing.” My co-worker rightly said that she did know what she was doing and he then demanded a supervisor. He had a few more disparaging remarks before he emphatically stated, “You must be black.” As she is a black woman, she calmly said she was ending the call to which he yelled, “F*** YOU, B****!”
To say I wanted to form a search party and go find this clown is an understatement.
They ended-up calling back and got my supervisor, who also happens to be black, and flipped out on him, too.
First of all, let me say that I don’t know these people and I don’t know what’s going on in their lives. That said, there’s no excuse for treating another human being that way. Whether it’s through a phone or a computer, people now have this ability to be insanely rude without any repercussions, it seems.
The main thing for me, though, was making sure my co-worker was ok. Anyone who works (or has worked) in customer service, especially in a call center, knows how demoralizing it can be. We know all the strategies and tips and techniques, but it still sucks when somebody calls you a maggot. Having your intelligence questioned on a daily basis takes it’s toll. It’s just a rough job, ya know? You do your best and most people are civil, but the bad apples are just rotten.
I asked how she was and reminded her that those people do not determine her value as an employee or as a person. Absolutely no way. She’s good at what she does and is worthy of respect.
And so are you.
I don’t know who has made you feel unworthy of love or respect, but they have no right to do so. You are valuable just as you are. You are lovable. You are wonderful. You are beautiful. And trust me, I can hear you saying, “Oh, sure, you can just sit at your computer and type out these generic phrases, but you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m going through. You don’t know what I look like.”
And you’re right.
Maybe you have one hand, like me. Or one leg. Or you’ve red hair or you’re really tall or you have braces or you’re old or you’re a color other than white… Maybe you’ve been abused. Maybe you get made fun of all the time. You’re right, I don’t know your situation, but that doesn’t change the fact that I believe every word of what I just wrote. And I’ll keep saying it until I’m dead because I’m convinced, 100% convinced, that we all need to hear it as often as we can. We need to be convinced that we’re valuable and that we’re worthy of love and respect constantly. You’ll never get me to change my mind on that.
So, hear me saying to you today: You are valuable. You are worthy of love and respect. You are important.
And we need you.
P.S. Don’t mess with people I care about. Just don’t. Trust me.