Thursday, June 23, 2011

Noreen update

Many of you new to my blog may not have seen my post about Noreen, an amnesiac, rather clueless customer service rep that I must deal with frequently. I am happy to report that these days we enjoy a great relationship. She is now quick to go the extra mile, while before she was obstinate and unhelpful, sometimes downright rude, but mostly clueless. Noreen still has trouble following instructions, but she actually did a huge favor for me this morning, so things continue to improve. Graciousness goes a very long way in business and in your personal life. This little exercise completely changed my attitude not just toward Noreen, but others as well, and I have Noreen to thank! And to think at one point I wanted to throttle her with my bare hands. God is working in my life, for sure! Here is the repost from 12/23/2009:

I have a thorn in my side at work and her name is Noreen (not her real name). She is my main contact at one of our major suppliers, so when I am sending custom orders, she needs just enough acumen to read the instructions on my purchase orders and get the parts into production. You'd think this was a pretty simple task, but for Noreen, I might as well be asking her to map the human genome or balance the federal budget.

I don't want to come across as cruel, but facts are facts: Noreen is about as alert and intelligent as a box of rusty nails. When her stupidity surfaced during our first point of contact, I tried to be nice about it and not make her feel inferior by pointing out the obvious answers to her questions, typed neatly on our faxed purchase order. Right there in black and white.

Then there was a fleeting thought that I must not be communicating properly. Maybe it's me. But not having this problem with other suppliers, I quickly came to the conclusion that it's not me, IT'S HER. And that sort of realization wore my nerves down to a frazzled mass of tangled vessels, ready to explode at any given moment.

After months of dealing with Noreen I was through with being nice. I got to a point where I wanted her to feel my pain. I wanted to shove her idiocy right back down her own throat with force. My frustration levels were off the chart. In 21 years I have never encountered such daftness. So I stopped being nice and said things like:

"Just get it done, Noreen."

"I don't have time to explain every little detail to you, Noreen."

"Read the purchase order, Noreen."

"Look at the previous order, Noreen."

"It's right there on the order. Why are you asking me?" (after which I would read the answer to her inane question aloud from the PO)

"Whatever, Noreen. I'm tired of explaining this to you. We just talked about this yesterday. Do you not remember our conversation?" (she never remembered our previous conversations)

"Figure it out, Noreen."

These things were all said in very clipped, abrupt tones. Oh, and the curse words I wanted to spew were pushed way down into the depths of my belly. I'd pray they would stay buried there and not surface like projectile vomit or a sudden case of Turette's. I'd be damned if Noreen was going to do me in after 21 years in this job, using her mind-numbing ignorance like a machete, chopping feverishly on my frayed nerves.

One day something came over me. Perhaps it was the realization that being blunt and to the point wasn't getting through, or maybe the vein that was throbbing in the side of my neck started to become worrisome, ready to burst through and cause a fatal heart attack. No way was Noreen getting the best of me, nor would she claim responsibility for putting me in the grave. Dear God, no, don't let it be Noreen.

So I changed tactics. I decided to be exceptionally nice. Not fake nice, but out of a place of true compassion. Perhaps with genuine patience and understanding I could make the situation better. For both of us. I would no longer point out obvious inconsistencies in her statements or thrash her for overlooking crucial details. It was difficult beyond belief and my tongue was sore from biting it. I patiently walked her through orders, politely answering her questions. And I'm proud to say it wasn't in a condescending way.

Niceness toward Noreen felt foreign and forced at first, but over the weeks, surprisingly, it came more naturally. In turn she also became nicer and more accommodating. She actually did me a favor today, which saved my company $150. Score! I win!

Did my diplomacy make Noreen any smarter? No. Did it make her remember things she had just told me the day before, but can't remember today? No. Did she suddenly figure out how to read our orders and process them without incident? No. Did my nicety make that vein stop throbbing in my neck? It's easing. Baby steps.

I think I'm on to something here. Never give up on someone. Remember that everyone is not at the same place in life — intellectually, emotionally, physically — that you are. What I learned is that even when you don't feel like being gracious, if you try your best to put it into practice anyway, it makes life exceedingly more pleasant.

After 2 years of dealing with Noreen, it's doubtful that I will ever write her a recommendation letter or suggest to her superior that she receive a promotion, but I have created a little bubble of peace around us, fragile though it may be, and that's enough. I hope to carry this lesson into other areas of my life.

Peace and love,
Louisiana Belle


She Who Carries Camera said...

I always have to wonder, though, HOW in the world do incompetent employees keep their jobs??

I commend you for your patience, but how far should good employees have to bend over backwards for inept employees.

Reena said...

Always been a big believer in "kill 'em with kindness" ... not always easy but works out in the end! Enjoyed the post today!

TexWisGirl said...

oh, i think i need to remember this with my internet connection today. i'm just going to call my pc 'noreen'.. :)

Anonymous said...

Bless you for your patience! I've had to give my attitude adjustments like this with some people and you are so right! It works! Maybe it doesn't change them, but it changes my outlook and revs my happiness level up, instead of letting them drag me down. One of my favorite sayings, which can loosely apply here, and is essentially what you did, is "Where there is no love, put love, and there will be love" - St. John of the Cross. Wonderful post! Thanks for re-posting!

Nadine, Chewy and Lilibell said...

It's amazing how your life changes when you have God on your side. I remember this post about Noreen, and I also remember thinking what an empty head she was from your story! But as I read it again, I kinda felt bad for her, some people just are not that bright. I'm glad that your attitude has changed towards her, because if it didn't, you would still be at odds with her.

Our upstairs neighbor is just like Noreen, and I should take a lesson from you and learn to have patience and understanding with her.

Lisa Gordon said...

It sounds like you handled this beautifully Gail. Surely a lesson we could all do well to remember. This is a great post, and I truly enjoyed reading it.

Starla said...

Good for you! I admire your decision to take the higher road. Not a smoothe, paved road. But usually well worth the journey. I hope that I would chose the same path.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

Michelle said...

There's a good lesson in this. I'm glad things are working out. I have a Noreen in my life as can be very frustrating (especially since mine refuses to understand the language she's supposed to know in order to do her job).'re right. Being kind is the best way to improve things---along with taking lots of deep breaths. ;) Good post!

beth said...

"never give up on someone"

now that's an important message !!!

but oh my patience level is so low most days.....arrghhh

Charlotte Wilson said...

Does it make you wonder why people like that, get jobs while there are so many competent people out there?
I call these kind of people; sandpaper people. I think God puts a few(or more) in our lives to mold us to be more Christ-like.
Really good post, Gail.

Blunt Delivery said...

oh as a former customer service rep who worked in a call center and got yelled at 24.7 i can sympathize. not because i got yelled at, but because i had to listen to the idots around me who had no clue what they were doing.


Anonymous said...

You're a very patient person, to say the least, from what I gather by reading this post... I don't think I would have been able to be so calm, myself! You might have been reading or hearing about me on the evening news had it been me in your situation! =0

If your job or 'Noreen' doesn't work out & you have to quit, (I hope to GOD, for your sake, it doesn't come to that) I bet you'd make it as a writer... You kept me intrigued & on my toes the entire time! =)

Shug said...

I have a feeling that many of us have been in those exact shoes...I know for one that I have...STRESS isn't it? God has a way of changing those stressful situations in our life and making something much more joyful out of it...(Maybe God had a long talk with Noreen)...Really, I am thankful that this situation has turned out good for you....God is Good!
Have a fabulous weekend...

Juana Aragon said...

I loved this post! I had a Noreen once...she ended up stalking me to top it off!

Tricia said...

Oh boy, Noreen would really test my patience. I'm glad you've found a way to work through all the problems you've had with her.

Rosie Grey said...

I do admire you for this! I know it takes a lot of patience and it's not easy! Thanks so much for sharing this! I will keep it in my mind!

hootnonny said...

My mama always said you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But I've worked with people like that (like my manager's 84-year old secretary), and it's easy to forget the honey!

Hope you'll continue to be blessed with an ally!

Hula Girl at Heart said...

I'm getting better at the killing them with kindness technique, which does seem to work so much better than flying off the handle. It's just a shame, I can't seem to eliminate flying off the handle out of my life completely. Sigh. Live and learn.

And congratulations on being a finalist over at PW's. Awesome!

septembermom said...

You are a gracious lady through and through :)