Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poor Parenting in Action: When People Need to Shut Up

  Last night, I witnessed some really poor parent behavior in action. The story is worth sharing because if you are a parent and your kid plays football or other team sports, you might run into a similar situation if you already haven’t. It took place at the close of a practice scrimmage for my son’s varsity football team. Here’s how it went down:

  With only a few days left before the start of the season, the coaches decided to have a practice scrimmage against the JV (Junior Varsity) team. The goal is to give everyone a chance to play and see how they fare. All the coaches are volunteers and they don’t get paid for their time and effort, which can be considerable when you factor in the after work commute and all the preparation that goes into planning a practice.

  Every few downs, the coaches ask the kids who hasn’t been in the game yet. The players are supposed to stay close to the coaches on the sideline and raise their hand to let the coaches know if they haven’t been given any playing time. Usually this system works OK, but the starters still seem to get more action than some of the other kids. Unfortunately, one kid got passed up last night. I don’t know whether or not he didn’t raise his hand when prompted, or maybe he was just shy. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention, I don’t really know. But I can tell you that the exchange between the father and the coach after practice was not a very pretty sight. The father was obviously very irritated that his son was not included, and he let the coach know in no uncertain terms how he felt. Specifically, he called the coach a “ f***ing a-hole” and a “motherf***r” in front of the whole team as well as the other parents. The coach responded by getting equally pissed off and letting everyone know that he drives an hour each way to give his time every night, and that he doesn’t “need this s**t”.

  While the kid in question is somewhat overweight, I don’t think his being overlooked was intentional by any means. It gets dark earlier now and there are no lights on the field, so sometimes it’s hard to tell who is who. Also, there are four different coaches, and for some reason, the parent singled out the offensive coordinator as the perpetrator of the perceived injustice. Although he is not the head coach, he is probably the most vocal coach and as football coaches often do, they yell. I’m not saying that this is a good thing, but it seems to be part of the game.

  I know that the kid probably felt bad because as a youngster, I was short and heavy and not particularly athletic. Usually, I was one of the last kids to be picked whenever teams were chosen, so I can understand the parent’s desire to be an advocate for his son. However, the ugliness that ensued cast a dark cloud over the whole situation and left the whole team feeling bad.

  Aside from the obvious bad example that the parent set, the situation points to a more pervasive problem that exists with a lot of parents in general. In an effort to make sure that their children are given fair treatment, some parents will do anything, even if it means embarrassing themselves in public. As role models for our youth, this is simply unacceptable. Kids today are constantly being reminded to not bully others and to report bullying by their peers to adults. Through their contradictory words and actions, parents expose their hypocritical nature for all to see. The result is to further erode our youth’s confidence in adults at a time in their lives when they may desperately need to make sense of an often confusing world.

  The really sad thing about this incident is that the kid who was overlooked will probably experience some backlash from the coach and possibly from his teammates. I hope I am wrong. In the end, the father did no favor for his kid by verbally attacking the coach and putting on a public display of anger for everyone assembled. We may even be without an offensive coordinator for our opening game this weekend, and that would indeed be a real shame.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Problem with “No Problem”

If you are a twenty something working in the retail or foodservice industry, then you would do well to take a piece of friendly advice from someone who was once standing in your shoes.

Lately, (actually for several years now) the response I have been getting from store associates and restaurant servers is “no problem”. Notice how I didn’t say clerks or waitresses, it’s about respect. Whether I have asked for a glass of water or asked where something was in the store, I am a still getting the standard, “no problem”. While this is often delivered in a courteous manner, it still falls short of respecting the customer on at least two levels.

First, when you reply with a “no problem”, it suggests to the customer that you are willing to overlook their interruption to your work. The mere inclusion of the word “no” automatically places a negative connotation on the exchange and suggests that you are going above and beyond the call of duty when in fact, you are actually just doing your job.  Second, it is a poor choice of words that sounds canned and impersonal, especially to those of us over 40. If the customer takes the time and effort to say “thank you” for your assistance, a much warmer and more effective response is “Your Welcome”. A nice alternative that also rolls off the tongue is “My Pleasure”.

I am well aware of the huge communication gap that exists between the younger and older generations, and I’m not saying that this is necessary all the time. To be sure, people can be extremely difficult, but when the situation warrants it and you’ve got no better reason not to, why not try smiling as you invoke these time tested winners ? I guarantee that your customers will notice. It may mean a bigger tip for you, a better performance review, or it just may make you feel better knowing that it really doesn’t take much to offer the respect that we all could use a little more of .