Don’t tolerate angry people

Last weekend while shopping for some office supplies, I overheard an angry customer blast an obscenity at a very young female clerk.  She apparently did not have the information he was looking for – and he screamed that he wanted to see the manager.  As the next customer I assured the frightened clerk that the behavior she had just seen was not acceptable and should not be tolerated – but she said they are told the customer is always right.  I know that’s the old adage; but personally, I think it’s nonsense.

Bad behavior, unreasonable demands, and disrespect do not have to be tolerated in business.  Trying to please every customer will drive anyone crazy.  Angry businessmanCompanies are finding that doing business with certain big box retailers may not be a good idea.  Impossible turnaround times, unrealistic profit margins and underpaying employees are not good business practices.  Many companies have decided to “fire” big clients in order to maintain a healthy workplace.  Businesses that try to accommodate every customer wish or demand will realize a diminished overall effectiveness.

If you can be the leader of the most powerful country in the world with 51% of the people’s support, I’m convinced you can run a very successful business without having 100% of the people’s support.  Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series says that to be a successful author you need to have 1/3 of the people love you, 1/3 who hate you, and 1/3 who don’t really care.  Pleasing everyone likely means you have not said anything really new or significant.

Even here at 48 Days we have the occasional belligerent customer who demands a magic solution, expects results with no work invested, or questions my Christianity because we run a for-profit business rather than a charity.  Our immediate choice is to delete that person from our database, stopping all further communication.  We have decided to do business with happy, positive, optimistic people.  People who are excited about the future they are creating and who see the many possibilities.  There will always be whiners, small thinkers, and complainers. 

“Keep away from angry, short-tempered men, lest you learn to be like them and endanger your soul.”  Proverbs 22: 24-25

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  • We’ve known about firing a service provider or vendor … it can go the other way too. The notion of firing a client or customer if necessary is liberating. Just last evening I was having a discussion with my wife about anger in her office setting, manifesting as passive-aggressiveness and censoring people. It’s all rooted in selfishness, pride, and anger. This is in the realm of employee relations, but when it’s somewhat chronic (it regularly rears its head), it should not be tolerated. There are ways to carry yourself, remaining professional, and yet laying down some markers and boundaries. We live in a broken world. But I agree that tolerating ugly behavior in business, and our personal lives, will drain us of energy. There’s an intangible about it that is a real negative for us. Thanks for the post!

    • Brian – oh that can be so painful. But to allow it to continue deepens the negative impact. Changes must be made. The “drain of energy” will lead to more severe physical symptoms.

      • Allan McNutt

        I have found that establishing clear boundaries from the start is vital! My Dad always said “You teach people how to treat you”.

        The most stressful conflicts I have had with people could have been avoided, or at least lessened if I would have spoken up the first time they crossed the line.

        I have observed that the angry, rude and pushy type people only get bolder the more they are allowed to get away with bad behaviour!

  • Good tie in to the story.
    This reminds me of Dave Ramsey talking about firing someone and the other employees breathe a sigh of relief. There is a chance of winning people over, but after some time (or in a case like you mentioned, immediately) that it is time to let go so the energy of the business/people can be invested into others who are more open the business. Someone can only be dragged so long without them becoming an unwanted anchor to a business.

    Thank you Sir.

    • Christopher,
      So very true! An angry customer or co-worker will drain the energy from everyone around them. Purge the problem and move on.

  • John D

    I agree that a lower-wage hourly employee should not have to be subjected to enraged and destructively rude patrons. A well run company should have managers trained in diffusing such situations and when necessary able to safely deal with those who refuse to calm down. I also understand Dan’s intolerance and impatience with those who wrongly assert he needs to donate his services as a charitable organization might. However, I am very troubled by the line: “Our immediate choice is to delete that person from our database, stopping all further communication” followed by one reference from Proverbs used as a sort of proof-text. I would hope there is at least some effort put forth to respond graciously to someone’s anger and realize that such outbursts are often projections of fear or helplessness. What about numerous other passages in Proverbs that talk about a gentle answer squelching or turning away wrath. I am not talking about woo-woo. I get that Jesus fashioned a whip with his own hands and used it. I understand he did not act in an milquetoast way toward haughty pharisees and other difficult people. I would just invite people to consider a different initial approach — one that at least attempts to win critics over. I love the story in Ken Blanchard’s “Raving Fans” where a tire store manager gave a refund on a fishing pole to an angry and confused customer, mounted the fishing pole on the wall, and won multiple customer fans for life. Sometimes the delete key may be prudent and necessary. Respectfully, I just hope more people would try something before that drastic step.

    • John,
      Point well taken. We want to give and serve far beyond what is expected. Just this week we promoted my Mastermind course which is hosted on Udemy for $10. What we did not know is that they were going to raise the price $1 every day. So we were still sending people there for the $10 price. The promo ended but we have quite a few people contact us who had not purchased but thought it was misrepresented. It was an instant decision for me – we would not try to get them the $10 deal – rather, we would simply give it for free to anyone who had gotten caught in that discrepancy. Now if someone had screamed and ranted at us I would revert to my above mentioned policy. But the people who just related to us what happened – we are happy to give beyond what was expected.

  • Dan P.

    May as well share this as it seems appropriate: Am writing a book for young people, inspired by Aesop’s Fables and character education films from the 50’s. One of my “truths” is, One of the best things you can do for someone is give him a chance. One of the noblest things you can do is give him a second chance. Somewhere between the second chance and seventeenth chance you give him is one of the stupidest things you can give. Good discussion on customer relations. And Dan, another stupid thing for a person to do is miss the (up to?) 75% off of the “Write to the Bank”, offer. I courageously disclose this as I hang my head in unequivocal shame and disgrace.

  • Clark Gaither

    I can identify with the example of the belligerent customer. In my office, you can say a lot to me before I get upset enough to fire a patient. But, when they come to the window in my waiting room angry and cursing at my staff, that gets them a letter of dismissal every time. There is a certain decorum that should be maintained when dealing with the public and, as far as I’m concerned, it extends in both directions.

  • Scott Beebe

    Love the simplicity of the Proverbs…straight forward; “Keep away…lest you learn to be like them.” An irony I have found is that a short-tempered person generates enemies pretty easily; as a “Relator” or “Influencer” sometimes I find it my “duty” to protect the short-tempered person from his/her enemies in hopes that others will see the hidden treasure underneath. I am learning practically that this is almost impossible, and that it genuinely helps neither side. Tough lesson to be learning right now, but your insight through Proverbs gives good clarity. Thanks Dan.