Friday, September 17, 2010

KeFactors Fridays: Please Specify the Rage of Your Choice

Pulled from the recent news headlines....

I’m not saying flight attendant Steve Slater isn’t a nice guy. When your mom’s terminally ill and you’ve been a well-respected employee in an industry that’s endured many declines since 9/11/01, and you routinely deal with customers who are rude, self-centered, and demanding…well, you’re bound to hit a snapping point.

The same week that Slater grabbed his beers and slid into folk-hero status, there was a news story about a woman in Toledo, Ohio, who pitched a tantrum at a fast-food drive-through window, punching the employee in the mouth before hurling a bottle through the window and driving away.

And you can Google “sideline rage” to get a complete listing of the parents who freaked out at their children’s sports events, attacking coaches, umpires, and other parents because they disagreed with a call. My home city of Atlanta measures 4.15 on the “road rage” Richter scale (with 5 being extreme rage) for having the most incidents, and of course we also have “workplace rage”—after all, what other nation originated the expression “going postal”?

So what’s my point? The air lines are still a branch of the hospitality business. Sports were intended to challenge our kids, and prepare them for healthy competition. Traffic can be infuriating, but it’s a fact of life for many cities; and work enables us to make money and have our lives and careers. And most Americans readily acknowledge that in a world filled with ethnic cleansing, starvation, poverty, and terrible natural disasters, we’re still the fat, educated, well-spoiled kids with the better schools and toys.

So…praise Mr. Slater as you will, but don’t emulate him. When it comes to customer service and your own mental health, cooler heads have to prevail. And if you’re finding it difficult to cool down, then you need to get help—from a sympathetic spouse, colleague, or manager, a professional therapist, a career coach, and/or a longer walk in the evenings. We have to be more strategic than merely pitching a fit.

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