by THE RAMBLER 26/07/02
AT the weekend, a heading 'The Secret Life Of The Office' caught my eye in a newspaper preview of BBC2 TV programmes.
It is scheduled to follow the bedding-in of new staff, and suggests that the ideal way to deal with complaints is to disarm the caller with empathy, viz: "Thank you for taking the time to complain. I realise it takes time and effort."
Allegedly, "that cuts them off by the knees." How are ye!
I would love to have seen the advocate of that, softly, softly, line comfort an irate client in a buroo office in the pre-computer age.
I am afraid the interviewer would have interpreted the salutation as sarcasm and become more incensed - but then I am not a psychologist. Maybe it would have worked. Just maybe.
For example, there was Billy Wilson, that's not a real name. Billy had 'sojered' as he put it, for x years, suffered some disability, and made up his mind on discharge that he had done his bit, boasting that he would never do 'a hand's turn' again.
That was all right for, maybe, ten years then an edict went out. He had to face the medical referee.
That was where the fun started. He was found 'fit for light work, not entailing excessive stooping or standing, etc, etc.'
The whole town soon knew about it when Billy gbt a few drinks and made a round of local pubs.
On Monday morning he went to the 'buroo' as ordered, to sign on. No queuing for Billy, be-medalled veteran of Dunkirk and various other battle fronts.
He marched. right up to the counter and bellowed. "Can any of you fellas tell me what kind of 'light work not entailing, blah, blah, blah'." (He had it all off).
The clerks ignored him, so he moved over to where Joe Boyce was seated. "Mr Boyce, he shouted. You know me, Mr Boyce, we sojered together at X... Y... Z. Can you name one job not entailing... " (the whole rigmarole again). Joe kept silent. Then slowly, very slowly his head came up.
"Dammit, I don't know Billy. What about a job with Weston's, sorting feathers? (Westons were leading fowl-exporters in the town). Billy nearly went over the counter and the cheers of his neighbours in the queue didn't cool him!
Nobody even thought of thanking the poor devil for taking time to complain - a pity!
It might have worked. Just maybe!
Then there was 'the unexpected mother' who claimed assistance for her illegitimate child, only to be told that she would have to name the liable relative (putative father).
"Holy so-and-so," she growled, "Haven't I explained that he was a sojer I met at a dance. You don't ask every fella you meet at a dance his name, do ye!" (Fact).
In a speel as departmental staff training officer, some forty years ago, we used colleagues who had acting experience, or at least ability, to take the part of thrown, evasive interviewees.
We used reel-to-reel tape recorders and some right comedies emerged.
Now it is all computers and National Insurance numbers. Live people have been phased out. Which makes interviews not worth reporting.