Today I was at my neighbourhood Airtel office, queuing to pay my bill because I still don’t have the online payment system sorted. There was a sweet lady in her 50s in front of me who I had exchanged a few words with…woo hoo, only one person left in front of me. She walked up to the counter when it was finally her turn and the mild-mannered guy behind the counter looked over and saw that she had a credit card in her hand and informed her that the credit card machine wasn’t working at the moment. According to him it had just stopped working a few moments ago. Okay, not a tragedy, right? There is always a plan B. Nooo…wrong!!!
In less than a flash of a second, the sweet little lady in front of me suddenly morphed into some strange alter-ego of herself and started to terrorize the village – well, the Airtel Village that is. My gosh, the sweet voice that the woman had only 30 seconds before suddenly changed into a deep and LOUD voice as she started yelling and telling them exactly how she felt about the credit card machine being out of service (ehem, she wasn’t happy). She caused such a ruckus that not a single employee could work nor could a single customer concentrate on anything else but her rant. She repeated herself a few times, was completely insulting, and basically just abused the poor guy behind the counter.
I know that she wasn’t physically abusing the guy but in my book verbal abuse is still a form of viciousness that is unnecessary most of the time.
What the hell happened? Okay, their machine wasn’t working at the moment. Yes, that was inconvenient and it sucked. I think we can all agree with that. Where I disagree is with Ms. Airtel turning into a creature that bit the heads off of poor shop workers who had NO CONTROL personally over the credit card machine and if it linked to the bank or not. Man, it was a sight to see. Did she really think that her behaviour would fix the machine?
Obviously, not right or wrong but I have a pretty different communication style in these types of situations. My Step-Dad always said, “Angie, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with dog shit.” Not exactly eloquent but neither is Dad really and it’s certainly a visual enough statement that anyone can grasp the meaning of it quickly. Basically Dad was trying to say that being nice and charming gets the job done far quicker than being insulting or going off on someone and pissing them off! Plus, in my opinion, any half intelligent person can easily access a situation and figure out the easiest way to get what they want…so being nice seems like the quickest ‘means to an end’ to me in most any situation.
In the case of Ms. Airtel, I saw clearly that this lady was probably pitching a fit out of habit. In my opinion, had she just leaned in and smiled and suggested to give her card details to the manager with her mobile number that they would have happily just run her credit card through the machine later when it was working again so she could continue to enjoy her afternoon. In the end, that’s exactly what the manager suggested…eventually. But in the meantime, the entire shop looked on in fascination and had to endure her rath.
Well, now that’s what I thought anyway. But since I’ve been writing this post I sort of have to wonder…was EVERYONE fascinated by this attention-grabbing display of perceived power or was it just me? Is this type of behaviour so commonplace that everyone just looks away, takes a breath and waits for it to pass without a second thought? Kind of like when the lights go off in Bangalore for a few seconds and then magically come right back on?
I’ve seen it here time and again, with both men and women. There was a woman I worked with when I first moved here who used the same techniques as Ms. Airtel with her own staff throughout the day, every day. From what I saw, none of her team respected her, nor any of us on the management team except the person who hired her, because she would berate her staff and yell at people in front of others for the smallest thing. Hell, she even tried it with me but I called her on it. I don’t tolerate that management style. In the U.S. or Spain, I have never personally seen any manager do this…EVER! And as for me, I would never yell at anyone nor do I allow anyone to speak to me that way…but she used the same antics as Ms. Airtel to try to generate results from her team because (I assume) she didn’t know proper management techniques or wasn’t able to generate the desired results through motivation and positive management. I think this is also what Ms. Airtel was thinking…that this was her only recourse to achieve the result she wanted – to pay her bill with her credit card.
It’s funny how different cultures operate so differently and yet they likely still achieve the same results. I do things with a smile typically, so for me it always shocks the hell out of me when I see someone turn from – for example – a sweet middle-aged lady to a scary “Shopzilla”. I was born and grew up in southern California until I was 21 years old and my parents taught me that:
- It’s not WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it (yes, thanks for grinding that one into me, Mom!)
- Yelling and public displays of anger are unacceptable
- There is always a non-violent and diplomatic solution for every problem
So it’s interesting to me that Ms. Airtel resorts to pitching a fit to get her way when there are so many other peaceful approaches available. Did she see her parents or her husband use this technique time and again so she’s adopted it over the years? I have no idea. But I do know that I am the product of my upbringing and I am passing my ways on to my daughter. So is Ms. Airtel doing the same? Is she right and I’m wrong? I am right and she’s wrong? Who knows???
I adore the cultural differences that I discover daily here in India. With respect to the topic at hand, if I had to guess I would say that this “heated” approach to problem solving has been adopted by such a large percentage of the population because historically it’s worked. And who doesn’t “go with what you know” to get a job done quicker?
© Angela Carson 2011