Offering Thanks

I am aware that the internet has opened up a whole new world in offering critiques of the services we receive. If you receive service you consider sub-par there is any number of ways to register your displeasure. Whether it’s online ratings, feedback forms, or email addresses that are provided with our bills we certainly know how to say, “I was shocked and appalled” by…(a nod to Monty Python here). Managers use this information to evaluate staff, give them feedback on job performance, know whether the employee is suited for a promotion or raise.

I’ve only once gone the extra mile to file a complaint, my mother had just died and I was attempting to change my flight plans. The service person told me I was disrupting her day and then proceeded to remind me that the recent merger had diminished her seniority, that she found herself in a position she had occupied years before. At first I was in shock, later I was angry. Friends and family encouraged me to write a letter and I did. I never heard anything back. From conversations with others my experience was not an outlier, sad to say. There was another occasion when I should have written a critical letter and didn’t. I am ashamed to say I did not write because I was concerned about the power that person had over a very important decision that was pending.

Friends of mine who are managers tell me the ratio of negative letters/emails/signed forms they receive to positive ones is quite large. Negativity comes more easily to us than positive experiences. My theory is this, the internet has given all of us a false sense of control over what we want and when we want it. We are accustomed to getting each and every thing we want in the manner we want it, when things don’t turn out as planned we get frustrated, someone must be to blame! On the bus I take every morning the common conversation is about the service they received and how subpar it was. The person speaking has an easy solution to remedy the matter. I often wonder if it is as easy as that.

I have attempted to discipline myself to look for the positive and not the negative. Whenever I receive service over and above what is expected I make a point to say thank you. If that kind of service is repeated on an ongoing basis, I write a letter to a manager or supervisor. In every case but one, a grocery store manager, I got a call or email back from the supervisor/manager telling me what s/he did with my letter. Usually the practice is to gather staff in a room and read the letter aloud. The employee usually turns red with embarrassment and beams with pride, all at the same time. I am always pleased to hear how it worked out.

This practice of mine is not an easy one to maintain, the negative is always easier and more immediate emotionally than the positive. For one thing the negative is about us and the positive is about the other. That does not mean we ought to stop providing negative feedback, the fact is in doing so we are protecting others from experiencing what we did. But we should be careful not to allow ourselves to get into an aggrieved mentality, where we are looking for reasons to feel “hard done by”, an expression my mother taught me.

This thanksgiving let’s try to be more thankful.