False Allegation.

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about customer criticism:

A member of the public alleged that I was rude to her. Which is not true; what I did say was sorry. But the music system playing was so loud, she did not hear that and so she made up a comment. And now my Manager is trying to set up, either a verbal or written warning for me. Is there anything I can do? Signed,

Not True 

Dear Not True:

It is deeply insulting to have someone say you did or did not do something that is untrue. In your particular case, the person who complained said you were rude and she did not hear that you had said you were sorry. Can you prevent your manager from giving you a verbal or written warning? No, you can’t.

Can you refute the accusation that you were not rude? Yes. The important thing for you, if you want to re-establish your good standing, is how you have and will respond to the complaint and warning if one is given. Of course from here, I cannot know what is your record of performance?

One would hope that you have proven you are dependable, competent, and a person of good character. Does your communication with the public overflow with empathy? Do you have examples, written or oral, from people who praise your performance? Have you previous positive performance evaluations? I mention the matter because if you have earned a record of good job performance, one complaint of rudeness will not seriously damage you. If you are given a warning, should you defend your self? It is natural to not want a complaint in your file to go undefended, especially one you think is false.

So you can spell out orally and in writing that you said “sorry” but I would not make too much of this because the fact is that the person who complained thought you were. Should you point to the many good things you have done and declare that this complaining individual does not know you and simply didn’t hear you’re “sorry”? Rather than argue that “I said “sorry” but the complaining individual could not hear it because the music was too loud,” I suggest there probably is another way to respond to a complaint and warning. Even assuming that you were not rude and that this complaint is unjust, how might you confront your manager? Here are several possibilities that might help: · See this as a learning experience, one in which the customer’s perception is what matters, and therefore if that is true, what are you willing to do to help the one who complained to know that you regret his/her hurt?

Are you willing to apologize? Is there something that you personally might do to demonstrate that you want to make his/her experience with your work organization a pleasant one? Have you reflected on what you did or didn’t do that caused this individual to see you are rude? Maybe you did nothing deserving of a complaint, but might you make your future communication in word and tone to be empathic and concerned? · Rather than protest you have been wronged and obsessively defend yourself, can you express your sadness that you have unknowingly communicated rudely?

The fact is that even if the individual didn’t hear your “sorry”, whatever else you did or didn’t do conveyed an impression that you were rude? Is it not the duty of your manager to do his/her best to prevent and correct an impression of rudeness? Can tell your manager that that is his/her duty, and that you are taking his warning as a learning experience; learning that in the future you will go over and beyond in your effort to make the public know your work organization is courteous and values their business?· Might you encourage your manager to share with you suggestions and ideas that will help your performance?

People are inclined to help when asked to do such things that do not cost more than giving some helpful suggestions. This then might transform your manager from a watchdog to a partner in your performance. If these thoughts make sense, please keep us posted on how your working life is going. You can get though this. You will not allow it to sour your attitude in dealing with your public or your manager. Right? Right! You will know what is the larger meaning in my closing signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden