When I was in the retail business, I once had an employee who went through a period…one that lasted several weeks, where she was rude to customers. Of course, in retail, the way. She had been a good employee, but something changed. Of course, in retail, the way you treat customers often determines whether or not they return. I wrote in THIS POST about when a business can give bad service or be inflexible, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Customer service can make or break a business’ success.
I was a young leader, but I knew I had to address it with her and did so on several occasions. She never made excuses, just apologized and said she would improve. She didn’t. As the problem continued, I felt the need to address it more seriously. As I was about to release her from employment, someone, in passing, shared with me something about this person that I didn’t know. She was struggling with some incredible pressures at home. I won’t share details here, but it was enough to make anyone stressed. Consequently, when she would deal with a difficult customer, her emotional state caused her to react in an equally difficult way. It wasn’t right. It still couldn’t continue, but at least I knew why it was happening. Instead of releasing her, I was actually able to help her. We saved a valued employee.
It taught me of an important principle in working with people.
Consider their heart before considering their actions.
It is not only the right thing to do, and a good leadership principle, it’s actually a God-like attribute. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Now, as a pastor, a leader, a customer, or a friend, I try to consider what could be going on in a person’s life before judging their behavior. It helps me lead. It helps me care. It helps me pray. It helps me respond in a loving way.
It works with employees, waitresses, family or friends. It changes my attitude even if it doesn’t change theirs. And, many times the way I respond determines the way they respond.
There are still times where people are simply rude. They simply under perform expectations. Those situations still need to be addressed. That’s part of leadership too. But, understanding a person’s heart helps you address the real issue, rather than simply addressing symptoms. Even when it’s determined there are deeper issues, there will be times the person simply isn’t a fit for the position, but at least you will have understood and had opportunity to address the real problem.
I try to remember, people have injuries. People have stories. People’s actions are often indicative of their stories.
Knowing the story behind their actions, will often alter your response to their actions.
Have your actions ever been misunderstood because people didn’t know your whole story?
Whose heart do you need to consider (or as) you are considering their actions?