May 20, 2009

An example of what to do when you don’t receive the customer service and communication you expect

I made the decision. I was the parent with two daughters and a son-in-law. We’d eat the free breakfast at the motel. They started serving at 6 a.m. Our flight was at 7:30. We were at the airport hotel. It was a small airport, smaller than the Des Moines airport.

We got to the Delta Airlines desk at 6:35. There was no electronic check in. There was no one behind the desk. Just the marquee listing the 7:30 flight to Atlanta.

One daughter inquired at the next airline’s desk. “Knock on the door behind the Delta counter,” she was told. A woman appeared, listened for a moment and said it was not possible to get on the flight. We all talked to her at once; she asked how many held tickets. She was insistent that no luggage could be checked and we were simply too late. We could see the security check-in; there were several attendants but no customers. It was definitely not the customer service culture we were accustomed to.

The attendent finally asked for the two passports and disappeared behind the door. Some minutes later, she appeared with two tickets but said we couldn’t check luggage. We cleared security quickly and stood in line to board. I confessed to the attendant we’d been too late to check luggage. He said that was not a problem. And in Atlanta, everyone had to take checked bags through security so we found extremely helpful airline folks that showed us which desk to use because we had no tags saying we wanted our luggage to end up in Minneapolis.

The difference in customer service and communication in Panama City and those in Atlanta and Minneapolis was striking. I decided Delta Airlines needed to know. I sent an email with the flight numbers. My point was I knew we were late checking in for an international flight, but it would have been helpful to tell everyone landing in Panama City that you’d better be on time when you fly out because these people love to enforce rules.

Perhaps you’re wondering how civility fits in the story. In ‘The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude’ P.M. Forni devotes about half the book to examples of how to respond to rudeness, to be assertive. My purpose was to help others who would probably have a similar experience.

Delta responds
“I am sorry that in this instance you did not receive the service you expected and should have received from our airport agents. Feedback like yours will help us improve our airport process and customer experience. Please know I will be sharing your comments with our Customer Service and Airport Operations leadership team for internal follow up….As a goodwill gesture, I have issued our $50.00 electronic Transportation Credits each for you and Ms. Clarissa Spicer.”

The response was more than I had hoped for.

Be assertive. It’s what to do when you don’t get the service or communication you expect.

November 04, 2008

Has this campaign been blighted by incivility?

To celebrate our national election today, I invite you to read the latest column by Michael Brannigan, Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at the College of Stain Rose in Albany, New York.

Michael asks the question I used for the headline of this post. I particularly like his point….
‘Civility reaches into the gut level of who we are and how we interact. It will always be tested through conflict and disagreement.’

Rather than discussing politics at work today (it would be better to do that tomorrow), treat yourself to Brannigan’s column ‘Civility should be the core issue of each political campaign’ from the Oct. 26 Times Union:

October 15, 2008

2008 Blog Action Day: Focus on Poverty

More than 10,000 bloggers are focusing on one issue of global importance: poverty.

Poverty can be defined as the lack of the necessities that determine quality of life—safe food and water, shelter and clothing plus opportunities including education and health care.

How does poverty relate to civility in the workplace?
Certainly it relates to civility, respect for all humankind. But the workplace? That’s a bit more difficult.

What if at a conference, we posted a sign at break time that said “This break of refreshments and food would have cost $238. There are no drinks or treats here because we donated that $238 to the local food pantry.” I think most people would be startled, but they would applaud the effort.

What if instead of a going-away gift or birthday gift, we gave a card with an alternative gift? (

Those would be acts of social responsibility
Here are more:

Push for fair trade coffee in your workplace.
Buy company clothing from a firm that doesn’t use sweatshops.
Give your time, talents and money to local charities endorsed by your workplace. (See last week’s post: The reliable way to buy happiness)
(June 12 post: Social responsibility in an organization)

Consider the clients
In my workplace, it’s first of all the people of Iowa.
Are we tolerant and accepting of people who have less money, less education, mental or physical problems? Do we show biases in our expressions, words and actions?
Do we work on programs to help lift people out of poverty rather than simply meeting poverty’s pressing and immediate need?
Do we provide access to our services for those who don’t have the money to purchase program materials, who don’t have computers at home or work, who can’t afford gas to attend?

If you don’t know TED, today would be a good day to visit.
TED on Rethinking Poverty
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has broadened. TED’s mission: Spreading ideas.

What do you think?
How can we address poverty in our workplaces?

May 14, 2008

Choose Civility in Howard County

From the Baltimore Sun--
People have taken more than 35,000 of the green magnetic reminders to "Choose Civility," and displayed them throughout the county on automobiles, refrigerators and file cabinets.

Now campaign leaders are planning to expand the effort with a free public symposium that will focus on the need for civility in all aspects of life.

"It is the notion that we are a human family...
The quality of our lives is determined to a great extent by the quality of our relationships,"
said Valerie Gross, executive director of the Howard County Library, which is the lead partner for the campaign.

The symposium has four sessions
Promoting Civility in Your Neighborhood
Why Looking Out for No. 1 Doesn't Work
Being Safe and Sensible in Cyberspace
Civility in the Workplace

Symposium organizers plan to highlight a message, as outlined in the book Seasons of Life by author Jeffrey Marx: "At the end of our life, we ought to be able to look back and know that somehow the world was a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered, other-focused."

May 9, 2008 Baltimore Sun
Civility: More than a bumper sticker,0,5578944.story

April 22, 2008 Washington Post
Civil Obedience: Local Book Inspires Seminars, Classes (background on the Choose Civility campaign)

December 27, 2007

Reflection and gratitude at the close of 2007

Thanks to those who commented during 2007—

I know most of you but it’s exciting to have comments from people I don’t know. And there are more of you who tell me you enjoyed a post or it made you think about a topic.

Thanks to Charles and Dennis for guest posts. Thanks to Bill for suggesting topics, helping shape and reviewing occasional posts.

Thanks to Giovinella Gonthier whose speech in 2003 awakened my passion for civility in the workplace. And to Gary and Ruth Namie who were so gracious to answer my questions and talk about bullying over lunch in Sioux City. And to Fiona Valentine from Western Iowa Tech who arranged that meeting. To Alan Zimmerman for his Tuesday Tips newsletter.

The free lectures and seminars at Iowa State and in Ames are a true inspiration. There are Ames ministers from two churches who have no idea I take notes on Sunday bulletins. Thanks Steve, David and Mary Jane. Sometimes just a phrase comes from a sermon or lecture, sometimes a title and sometimes entire posts.

Thanks to all for the inspiration, the suggested topics, the forwarded stories and newsletters, the quotes and the loan of books (honest, I’ll get to them and return them).

The last three months have been very rewarding. Visits are running between 4,000 and 5,000 per month. Search engine referral visits are running more than 1,000 in each of the last two months. During Nov. visitors came from 47 countries. That month 41 percent of the hits came from commercial domains; 34 percent from network domains and 18 percent from education.

I’m looking forward to a new year with more comments, suggestions and assistance…..and I really hope, additional guest posts.

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October 03, 2007

Not making this up: Civility in the cow-calf herd

Imagine my delight when I found a news release about civil heifers and bulls. It’s a news column out of North Dakota State University Extension. A beef specialist is writing about weaning calves.

“Although much of the focus on calf preparation for weaning is focused on vaccination protocols, stress is the big culprit. The absolute need to eliminate stress is critical.

“The key to eliminating stress begins with the selection of replacement heifers. That’s done by allowing only civil, well-behaved heifers into the cow herd. Then cows are bred only to bulls that have a similar, acceptable attitude, which means no rodeo bulls allowed.”

And then the writer turns to humans and all their paraphernalia
“As the calving season gives way to summer grazing, are the cattle monitored and allowed to work with humans, horses or other equipment producers haul around? Is the herd allowed to be relaxed as calves and cows are checked? Is there an occasional treat that brings the cows up to the feeder and has them looking forward to a visit from the producer?”

“Are the previous and upcoming fall work sessions planned to allow appropriate time for all the work to be done? Are breaks and lunch scheduled so co-workers maintain healthy attitudes about the day’s work load? Has management accounted for the thoughts and suggestions from those helping for the day? Is the day a serious cattle day or a fun day for outside riders at the expense of the cattle?”

My thoughts on the correlations are endless, but here’s a beginning…..

Select only civil, well-behaved people when filling positions.
Be kind.
Treats are good.
Think of coworkers’ stress and workloads when planning tasks.
Listen to the suggestions of others.
Don’t have fun at the expense of others.

I didn’t even include his line, “Have the hot shots, whips and sticks long ago been cast over the cliff and allowed to rust and rot in the refuse pile?”

If you wonder why I read a North Dakota beef column…I post news releases from across the United States for eXtension, an educational partnership of more than 70 land-grant universities helping Americans with access to timely, objective, research-based information and educational opportunities.

This BeefTalk column in full

(I do have fun reading news releases.) Let me know your thoughts on more correlations.

September 20, 2007

44 simple pleasures at work

"I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, Irish dramatist, novelist, poet (1854 - 1900)
1. A coworker loaning you a book you’ve wanted to read
2. Dark chocolate
3. An empty inbox
4. A new, special journal for notes
5. An uncluttered desktop
6. Fresh brewed coffee
7. A really good laugh
8. Helping someone solve a problem
9. Iced green tea
10. Crossing something off your to-do list
11. A canceled meeting
12. A root beer float break
13. The first snow
14. Good ‘hold’ music
15. Watching a red-tailed hawk out the window
16. A printer at arm’s reach
17. Silence
18. Taking Friday off
19. A potluck
20. A short productive meeting
21. Dilbert comic strips
22. Finishing a project
23. Inspiration from a mentor
24. Discovering a coworker is trustworthy
25. Unexpected flowers
26. Resolving a silly conflict
27. The right temperature in your cubicle
28. Brainstorming
29. Lunch with former coworkers
30. An IT student moving into your quad
31. A thank-you note
32. Learning
33. Empathetic listening
34. Finding your name badge
35. A productive phone conversation
36. An agenda
37. Being prepared for a meeting
38. No spam
39. Getting to know someone you really click with
40. Participating in a community project on work time
41. An easy button
42. Creating a ‘good as it gets’ mailbox
43. Comments posted on your blog
44. Driving home with good music playing

What would you add?

August 27, 2007

Revisiting VPL (Visible Panty Lines)—a 2007 style show update


Two months ago I introduced you to a clothing fit problem. The judges for the 2006 state 4-H clothing style show declared underwear lines showing through clothing a problem. Not a professional appearance. Not a proper ‘fit’. The state 4-H staff took action. The 2007 entry form alerted 4-Her’s that there should be “No visible undergarment lines”.

How did the 2007 style show go? Only one young woman had points taken off for VPL.

But there’s more (actually less)
The very creative youth who worked during the clothing event gave each of the seven state staff and their volunteers (including one who is 70+ years old) a pair of Victoria's Secret thong underwear.

And one other note from the lead person on this event: “During my people-watching at the fair and mall, I decided there are many who could benefit from our underwear guidelines.”

A bit about thongs ala Wickipedia
"Thongs are believed to be descended from the earliest form of clothing, the loincloth, which were generally a male's clothing item, the reverse of modern western culture where the thong has more acceptance among women. In modern clothing, thongs first became popular as a swimsuit style in Brazil."

I suspect those young women, who probably spent a considerable amount of money for those gifts, got the point -- not much fabric to create VPL with thong underwear.

Remember (this is the condensed version)
Civility is showing respect, including self-respect. Does our clothing reflect favorably upon ourselves, our department, our colleagues and clients? That means garments have a proper ‘fit’ including no VPL.

The original post:

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August 21, 2007

Coming Oct. 15: Blog Action Day


Thousands of voices will converge on one issue-- the environment.

I will write on environmental responsibility in the workplace and the grounds around the workplace. Do you have suggestions on ways to increase respect for the environment in and around our workplaces? Post a comment on this entry. I’m sure some of you will come up with ideas I won’t.
The home page for the effort is

P.S. This is not a stretch including the environment in a civility blog. Rule 24 in ‘Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct’ by P. M. Forni: Respect the Environment and Be Gentle to Animals.

June 22, 2007

The civility and not of business travel

We boarded the airport shuttle at 8 a.m. in Albuquerque. It was the beginning of an adventure.

Those in service positions
Our airport shuttle driver and his coworker were certain someone among us didn’t have a reservation, pretty much accused us. We all had reservations. The ride to the airport was filled with foul language between the two.

Nine Iowa State employees were booked on the same flights: Albuquerque to Denver, Denver to Des Moines. The United Airlines computer system was down so flights were delayed. We were lead to believe all United flights were delayed so we should make our connecting flights.

Several times, the flight attendants asked us to allow those with connecting flights to disembark first in Denver.

Fellow travelers
Almost immediately a woman several rows behind me announced in a loud voice, “You should let us off first because we need to get to our next plane.” She was starting another sentence when my assertiveness kicked in. “Ma’am, we’re all trying to make connecting flights.” Just as we left the plane in Denver, we learned our connecting plane was gone.

Two of our group got the last two seats to Des Moines that day. Three took flights to Minneapolis, two took flights to Kansas City and that left Dustin and I. We thought we would rent a car and drive. But we couldn’t get a car unless we would bring it back to Denver or pay $1 per mile. We became Greyhound passengers, leaving Denver at 6:30 p.m.

I was thinking the people on the bus were quite civil until somewhere in Nebraska. One woman yelled from the back of the bus at the driver, “What? We get no movies on this trip?” Surely there was a better way to ask. I don’t know if he didn’t hear her or chose to ignore her, but the driver didn’t start movies for quite some time.

Long after midnight a guy in a sport coat moved to the back of the bus where Dustin and I were. He declared in lots of bad language that a fellow traveler up front was bothering him. He started a conversation with a woman that sounded like we were going to get a condensed version of his life. Another man asked him to please stop because people were trying to sleep. The autobiography ended.

I had a nice man insist I wear his jacket when he noticed I appeared to be cold. Dustin and I hadn’t dressed for 13 hours on a bus overnight. We’d left our luggage in Denver to wing its way to Des Moines.

We got into Omaha about 5 a.m., where everyone had to get off the bus. Dustin helped a young lady find a connecting bus and move her large suitcase. There was one empty seat when we got back on the bus. Dustin was across the aisle from a woman who was sure everyone was bothering her including stepping on her toes which were in the aisle.

Journey’s end
I didn’t know Dustin other than as an IT coworker when we made our decision in Denver. I couldn’t have picked a nicer, more considerate and enjoyable companion. He’s my kids’ age and through our 24 hours together, we got to know each other pretty well.

We’re all given some trying situations among strangers. That doesn’t mean civility should be abandoned. Many people rise to the occasion; some don’t.

If you’re wondering about our coworkers, the Minneapolis travelers rented a car and drove to Ames. One Kansas City traveler stayed there with her daughter because she and her husband had planned to go to Kansas City on Friday. The husband of the other Kansas City traveler drove down to pick her up. I suspect we’ll all try to deal with the customer service people at United in a civil way to let them know we don’t think we were treated very well.

ABC News:
Travelers Wait as United Scrambles
Airline Still Unsure Why Computers Failed, Grounding Flights

May 03, 2007

If a dog was your teacher

From Alan Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip newsletter May 1 on managing stress, preventing burnout and keeping a healthy work-life balance.

He says to remind yourself you’ll never be finished with all your work. And you have to be okay with that.

Change your pace. Refrain from going full speed 24/7. And refrain from taking it too easy for too long. Either one of them will give you additional stress. But pace yourself as well. If a dog was your teacher, you would know how to keep things in balance. You would learn the following.

* You would run to greet your loved ones when they came home.
* You would accept every chance you get to go for a joyride.
* You would allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
* You would let others know when they've invaded your territory.
* You would take naps.
* You would run, romp, and play daily.
* You would avoid biting when a simple growl would do.
* You would lie in the grass on warm days.
* You would drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree on hot days.
* You would dance around and wag your entire body when you were happy.
* You would delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
* You would eat with gusto and enthusiasm... and stop when you've had enough.
* You would be loyal, never pretending to be something you weren't. And
* You would dig until you found whatever it is you wanted.

Training for Peak Performance, motivational keynotes and seminars by Alan Zimmerman of Prior Lake, Minnesota,