By Huw Martin
We all know the song, in fact 20 years ago my band played this song at a gig and it very quickly became apparent that I didn’t have the required Aretha-skills to sing it well… at all!
It amazes me on a daily basis how varied the level of respect that exists between us human beings, across society but especially in the business world. The vast differences between the way people talk to others (in all organisations and within our own company). Now I’m not saying it’s always negative by any means but it does make me think that there must be some mystical unspoken industrial caste system that shapes our interactions.
Why do we communicate differently to different groups of people? What is it that makes people either deferential or disrespectful based on a role, level or company.
Some examples you ask;
A few years ago I remember a client (who shall remain nameless) discussing terms with its supply chain and in that discussion the phrase “let the suppliers feel some pain” was used. It made me think how the internal view and the external perception of businesses are vastly different and whilst they are, they will always be sub-optimal!
Imagine if the conscientious customers heard of this attitude, imagine if they felt that this was the values of the organisation and that in fact the external view of this company was not representative of its actions. In fact, wasn’t this part of the problem for some of the organisations in the financial crash? The mis-selling scandals, the targets driving negative behaviours, the disrespect for customers/suppliers which hopefully is a thing of the past.
Thankfully, it doesn’t happen too often but there are numerous other examples of this mystic caste system at work;
- A shopper talking down to a checkout person in a supermarket – I see this all the time and passively aggressively roll my eyes or laugh sarcastically (without doing anything tangible to help)
- The HR director I met in a lift years ago who found out my line of work and literally scoffed during our brief chat, she was a lovely person… (let it go Huw, let it go)!
- The ex-recruiter who goes on the other side of the fence and becomes the client and who emulates the behaviours of the old school master servant clients of years gone by finally getting to treat suppliers like they were treated – maybe its cathartic
It doesn’t have to be this way!
My old granddad (who I’ve mentioned in previous posts) was the wisest man I’ve ever known. Two of his favourite proverbs were;
- Moss doesn’t grow on a busy street
- A rolling stone gathers no gravy
But lastly, his main lesson to me while sitting on his knee serving customers in our little hardware shop in Aberdare was; “always treat people as you want to be treated…..or I’ll kick your a$se!” – There’s something in that….