Volume 48, Issue 1 - January/February 2009

A Manager's View

by Keith Castleman,manager of 84 Lumber in Blue Springs, Mo. Mr. Castlemanís opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.

Unwarranted Behavior
How to React When Your Are Treated Unfairly 

ďGet out of my office, and I am not paying you the money I owe you.Ē At this instant, I realized that I had just been kicked out of a customerís office for the first time in my career. Iím usually the peacekeeper; the one who is willing to do just about anything to accommodate our customersí specific needs. 

What went wrong, you ask? Iím still not quite sure. As far as I can tell, there were only two items on his agenda: first, complain about how his salesman takes up to an hour to return his calls, and second, to ask me to give him a prompt payment discount when he was paying 60 days past due. Even still, his outburst was completely unfair and inappropriate.

In our current building market, we canít afford to let any customer get away. As I drove away, I couldnít believe that a customer had gotten so angry because I asked him to pay his bill within terms. Unfairness is everywhere in our industry right now. 

Hard-working people are losing their jobs due to sales decreases; companies who have always treated their customers fairly and honestly are going out of business; and successful mid-level managers are being demoted or laid off to cut costs. 

A Funny Story
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that our family dog, Jack, was itching and scratching constantly and on no particular part of his body. Jack, as readers of my blog know (go to www.sheltermagazine.com to read it), is a 20-pound Lhasa Apso who doesnít particularly like me. One evening after I got home from work, I noticed Jack was scratching himself and I looked down and noticed a dark brown spot on his stomach.

ďItís a tick!Ē I shouted. In less than a second, I had Jack on the ground and was surrounded by my two daughters and my wife. ďGet it!Ē my wife screamed. My daughters stood anxiously over Jack as I tried to hold him down and remove the tick. I noticed another tick at roughly the same position on the opposite side of his belly and then another one and another one Ö all symmetrical along his stomach. I paused for a minute and then my daughter started screaming, ďThatís his man part! Thatís his man part!Ē I realized that what I had been trying to remove was not a tick at all, it was a nipple! (Iím not really sure what my daughter meant by Ďman part,í but either my wife is a liar or my daughter needs a counselor.

Jack had every right to never be nice to me again. Iím quite sure that if someone tried to hold me down and forcibly remove one of my nipples (or man parts) that I would never attempt to be nice to that person again. However, on further consideration, if Jack doesnít at least pretend to be nice to me, I could withhold food, water or take him to the pound. 

Some Key Advice
When situations occur that are unfair beyond our control, itís important that we react rationally and not emotionally. Virtually everyone has had something bad happen to him or her as our economy has weakened. The key to our sanity is in our reaction to the unfairness. 

As managers and leaders, we have a responsibility to our employees and customers to remain strong and positive even though we might not get treated fairly. We have to ensure that as things get worse, we get better. This isnít fun; Iím sure weíd rather run screaming from our facility when unfair things happen, but unfortunately our position doesnít allow it.

Oh, and the customer that kicked me out of his office, he probably did so more because heís sitting on several spec houses and has seen his income take a nose dive in the past year than because of anything I said. I didnít take it personally and he is still a customer today (after all, I donít want to end up in the pound). 

© Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.