open thread – August 16-17, 2019

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,965 comments… read them below }

  1. Bee's Knees*

    Oh my word. Friends.

    I have joked about this before on the AAM open thread, but I’ve decided it’s true. The Hellmouth has moved, and it’s moved here.

    My work is like a circus. But not a normal, fun, accredited one. No. It’s a shady, fly by night kind of circus. Where they still have tigers and stuff, and all the clowns look like criminals, and the people manning the rides look like they could disappear in a puff of smoke at any moment.

    Everyone is so stressed, and I’m trying to manage it with snacks, but we’ve got people working weekends, and they are not happy about it. They’ve worked every Saturday since the week after the 4th of July, and have only had the last two Sundays off. They’re working this Sunday though. Our corporate overlords are trying to make some greatly unwelcome changes.

    It’s not good. And if this one little pompus upstart VP doesn’t come swanning into my office with all these “great ideas” to improve moral, I’m going to hammer him through the concrete floor and into the dirt. Yesterday he comes in at 10:30 and wants lunch for 25 people. At 11. We are in a small town. Most of the places I get us lunch from I give at least 24 hr notice to. Sometimes more. We had lunch at 12. I headed him off today, I just went ahead and called yesterday on the off chance he’d want food today. Bless his heart, he thinks I was able to get a full course Italian meal here in like an hour.

    I still have to tell y’all about when I worked the overnight a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a teaser for you, it involves a creepy marriage proposal. Yay.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ooooooooooh you had me at criminal clowns.

      I’m so sorry that this is your life! They used to call one of my former jobs a “zoo”, a lot of the passwords were even zoo related, no joke. But it was a fun filled one in my opinion, limited stress, just a lot of temperamental snarkbeasts, where you just didn’t want to stick your hands in the lions mouth, but the lions were clearly marked at least :(

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Why do companies always try to “Improve Morale and Engagement” when all they really need to do is treat their employees better? Give employees fair pay, decent work/life balance, flexibility and respect. It really is that simple.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        Indeed. If you feel the need to resort to gimmicks to improve morale, you’ve got a morale problem that won’t be addressed with said gimmicks. You’re better off figuring out what’s causing the morale problem and addressing *that* directly. Of course, if management *is* the problem, good luck getting it addressed.

      2. Nonny Maus*

        Way back a few years ago, when I still worked food service–we had our CEO show up, doing the ‘tour’ of the local stores. We were in the middle of our lunch-rush when he arrived, so we were all understandably stressed as usual in addition to his visit.

        Apparently we weren’t friendly or smiley enough, so he said something to a manager.

        He stays through tail end of lunch rush. Our manager of course, had passed on that we all weren’t seeming happy enough, to those of us working. CEO spoke to him again right before he left, and asked the manager “why we all seemed even more unhappy?”

        ….Gee, I wonder why?

        I was usually one who did my best to keep morale up of my coworkers, but even I was questioning the idiocy that day.

      3. Bee's Knees*

        This is the same VP who has a knee jerk reaction to everything, and a couple of weeks ago, suggested that we hand out food and drinks on the line. Where food and drinks are not allowed. Well, water is, but not the stuff he was thinking. I thought our quality manager was going to lose his mind.

        1. richard*

          lunch? in 1/2 hour? even just stupid sandwiches and chips wasn’t possible, even in a dense downtown like SF with a place on almost every corner. if we had a house account and they knew how much we spent there, maybe an hour or hour and a half. I could have ordered a stack of pizzas and they’d be hot but even then the timeframe would be similar.

          1. Kat in VA*

            Lunch for 12, sure, if you can handle Panera. Lunch for 25? Yeah, no – 24 hours notice. And I live in the DC metro area.

      4. Antilles*

        I mean, sure it’s simple enough. But stuff like “paying employees better” and “hire more employees to keep work/life balance”, and so on? All that stuff costs money, energy, bureaucratic effort, etc.
        So you end up with ridiculous window dressing solutions like “branded coffee mugs” or “pizza on the last Friday!” or “award certificates” because they’re basically a way to show you’re Doing Something in a very low cost/low effort manner.

          1. Life is Good*

            Yep. We let you wear jeans on Friday……except you have to pay $5 for the privilege so we can make a company “donation” to a charity the big whigs choose.

    3. Dame Judi Brunch*

      You had me at your descriptions of the circuses!
      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! It does sound like hell!
      What is it with employers thinking free food will fix all? It does not.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        It really doesn’t. For my part though, that’s the easiest thing that I can do to make the best of a terrible situation. I can’t give them a day off, or make the machines run any better. I can make several grocery store runs (leaving soon for my third of the week, actually) and make sure everyone is at least fed.

        1. Dame Judi Brunch*

          You’re doing your best with what you’re able to do.
          I was referring to employers with the power to grant days off, and make work better in general, instead of just providing food.
          I hope everything gets better for you all soon!

        1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

          Well, every shady circus needs a special flair, so that will be our treat next Friday.

    4. PlatypusOo*

      I’ve had a lot of crazy jobs working with boundaryless loons. I have a lot of funny stories from over the years but the problem is that Crazy becomes the new Normal. That part is way, way not funny.

    5. Emily S.*

      I’m so sorry about this. Obviously, this was not you expected at this job when you started!

      The stress sounds overwhelming.
      Sending positive vibes your way!

    6. gsa*

      Please keep the people on the line safe. I don’t know what y’all do, but it’s top priority in my mind.

    7. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

      It sounds like you’re doing your best, and I am so sorry a Hellmouth has opened. If you need a list of new coping strategies just let me know–this is one thing I have legit expertise in.

      1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

        Did you ever start a special blog or something that chronicles all yours? I really wanted to know the rest of the story.

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Well, I have a page set up through Blogger, and also a few posts/retellings saved on my laptop, but haven’t posted them yet. I’m trying to get a decent stockpile built up so there’s plenty to read before I start publishing them.

    8. Pam*

      It’s beginning to feeel like we’re on Oprah.

      YOU get to work in a hellmouth!
      YOU get to work in A hellmouth!

      EVERYONE GETS TO WORK IN A HELLMOUTH!!!

          1. Kat in VA*

            Nor I!

            I work in a cat herding palace, except half the floor is covered in sticky tape and the other half has unpredictable rain showers…

            And my boss is the big scary Newfoundland who comes in joyfully barking and slobbering and doesn’t understand why all the cats scatter when they see him!

    9. Midge Maisel*

      This doesn’t sound anything like the Hellmouth. It sounds like a disorganized, stressful place, but the Hellmouth was just beyond comprehension.

  2. Sharkie*

    What are your office traditions when someone is moving on to a new role? It is the last day for one of my coworker’s and my boss doesn’t want to do anything.

      1. Sharkie*

        That’s how it was at my old job, usually a card from the team. There are 6 of us in the office so it just seems weird not to acknowledge it

        1. Nott the Brave*

          In my old office, we didn’t do anything, but the person who was leaving usually sent out a goodbye/keep in touch email on their last day.

    1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      We’re getting ready to have a potluck as we speak, and have gotten a card we all signed. Too many of these lately. New management = mass exodus.

    2. Ashley*

      It depends on if people liked them. I would go with offering to buy them lunch if you can afford it and want to keep a professional relationship with them.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Same company, new role? Usually just congratulating the person. At my last workplace, we had people moving into new roles all the time. No parties or lunches. Just a lot of “Congrats!” and well-wishing sentiments.

    4. NYCRedhead*

      Usually nothing. My feeling has always been that your reward is the fact you have a new job. Retirement is different, though.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      I’ve been taken to lunch when leaving a company, and my last employer also gave me a Starbucks gift card. Nothing fancy.

    6. Alex in Marketing*

      It depends on the office and the relationship you have with your co-workers. When I left my previous job, my boss and our (shared) assistant pretty much said nothing to me and let me leave without saying good bye. One of the other people on my team took me out to lunch during my last week.

      I was a little disappointed in my boss because I thought we were the close, “family-knit” team he branded us as.

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Depended why they were leaving…

      Emigrating or otherwise moving away? Total career change? Retirement? Family career break? – collection with card signed by everyone presented rather excruciatingly in front of everyone, go out for lunch together (everyone buys their own) and possibly drinks after work (ditto).

      Pay rise or promotion at a competitor? – no collection, no card, lunch (buy your own, management noticeably absent), very awkward speech, slink out of building when IT login cuts out.

      Either way, inexpensive lunch (e.g. Chinese buffet or pub).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I agree, it’s a weird thing to do for most job changes, but where it’s culturally ingrained and you can afford it then it’s harmless to throw in the cost of a coffee or similar.

    8. CB*

      We’ve recently gotten into a groove where the whole department (~25 employees) is invited to have breakfast tacos at a local shop on the employee’s last day (our university has a requirement that employees must report to work on their last day). The department pays for everyone’s tacos and coffee and everyone spends about an hour having fun and casual conversation. It’s optional and happens at the very beginning of the workday to allow the greatest number of people to attend. We also do a card and small gift/token of appreciation.

    9. Mama Bear*

      Last job we took the team out for lunch or we might do a Happy Hour, depending on the person. If you like this coworker, I’d suggest lunch for the person, even if everyone buys their own and chips in for the honoree.

    10. Mediamaven*

      I think there are a lot of variables. If we have someone who made great contributions to our business we’ll have a great send off. But if someone has been there a short time then we do nothing. We had an employee depart after less than 5 months with us and the team wanted to have a celebration. After all the expense that goes into hiring and the hardships it puts on the company, I had to shut that idea straight down. And I could tell that I was enemy number one for that. So I’m actually going to address it in a staff meeting. So, long story short, it depends on what the person’s contributions are. Anything less and two years doesn’t really deserve anything in my opinion.

    11. kittymommy*

      If they’re leaving the organization as a whole: lunch one day, cake & card on their last day in the office.
      If they’re moving departments: nothing.

    12. Ammonite*

      At my old job, the department went out to lunch with the departing person (department head paid, or close friend of person fought them for the check). At the lunch, the person would be presented with a card signed by everyone and a small gift (something like a coffee mug and chocolate, or a Starbucks card).
      At current job, it depends on the person, how long they’ve been here, and what they want to do. We recently had someone leave after 10 years and held a large, catered, drop-in gathering in the mid-afternoon. She requested this because she worked with people in a lot of different departments so wanted to say goodbye to everyone but didn’t want to impose on their time for a lunch gathering. Another person left after 3 years and we did a small happy hour after work with just our department. The office paid for food, we paid for our drinks and made sure that the departing person didn’t pay for anything. We gave her a card with our well-wishes and a piece of framed artwork for her new office.

      My advice is to take the lead of the departing coworker. If they seem at loose ends, try to do something to help tie things up in a bow- grab lunch with them and a few of their office friends, invite them to coffee in the afternoon, see if they’re interested in an impromptu after work drink. If they seem happy to work and leave as usual their last day without fanfare, let them do that.
      Since they’re leaving today, it’s too late to organize a big gift or anything (and that’s really unnecessary if it’s not your office’s culture), but a card signed by everyone is always a simple but appreciated touch.

        1. Ann Onimous*

          That seems weirdly adversarial… unless of course, the colleague in question is being let go for some awful behavior or something.

    13. Nicki Name*

      To a new role in the same company? None at any job I’ve held.

      To a new job at a completely different company? At some jobs there’s been a farewell lunch, at some not.

    14. Justme, The OG*

      My team is six people. When one of my coworkers left last month we had lunch out and cake.

    15. theletter*

      From a business perspective, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to celebrate attrition. I’ve seen a few retirement parties, or farewell parties for people who’ve been at the company for a significant amount of time, but other than that, it’s almost always up to the coworker’s friends to organize something, usually after work hours.

      1. Not A Morning Person*

        I get that from one perspective it is attrition, but from another perspective it is how people are treated by an organization whether they are coming in or going out. I think it leaves a bad impression when an employee leaves and no one says anything or offers even a congratulations or some kind of small acknowledgement that a person was a valued colleague (assuming they were) and that they and their contribution will be missed. I agree that there doesn’t necessarily need to be a big fanfare, but ignoring it completely would tell me that is not a place that values its people and I’d notice how my colleagues were treated when they left and factor that into my engagement and whether I’d want to continue to work there.

      2. Anon for this*

        Haha, no, at old-old job “natural wastage” (as ‘attrition’ was termed) was celebrated internally by HR as people we don’t need to push out on spurious reasons and pay severance for, and certainly not given any recognition to the actual person at that point.

    16. Jan*

      Depending on the person, something or nothing! Attorneys get a grand going-away farewell lunch or dinner. Staff is usually taken out by their friends (which I would prefer)

    17. Kathleen_A*

      We usually take people out to lunch, and there’s usually a card, and there’s always an email (though, mysteriously, the email doesn’t always say where they’re going, which always seems so odd to me).

      Unless they’re fired, of course – though that’s technically “moving on to a new role,” too, right? :-)

    18. Bagpuss*

      Normally someone who works with the person (not a manager ) will organise a card for anyone who wants to to sign, and may arrange lunch-where everyone pays for themself. Where I work now it’s not normal to have a collection but in a previous workplace there would be a an envelope go round with the card, you would contribute a little and the money would be used to buy a gift and / or flowers
      The employer wouldn’t normally do anything.
      Where someone is retiring, then there will usually be a card and collection, but management would typically give a separate card, flowers and gift.

    19. Kiwiii*

      At the job I just left, we made sure to all get lunch together one time in my notice period (and my sup paid for me) and then my last day someone brought me cupcakes and we had them with chips and salsa. But we were a small all lady human services team and I was 7+ years younger than everyone else and made significantly less than them (associate role while everyone else was coordinator or senior) so they all doted on me a bit and were glad I was moving on.

      At the job before that, I got a card signed by the team, my cube decorated a bit, and a plant and balloon from my sup. Also human services.

      At the job before that, I was mostly given dirty looks besides a couple well-wishes and was scheduled all the way through the weekend before the Monday I went to the new job. They also shorted my last paycheck, but that was retail.

    20. LurkerVA*

      Nada. Departments do stuff sometimes, but most of the time I don’t even know someone’s leaving until they’re gone. There’s never a company announcement.

    21. The curator*

      Last day the person leaving (usually an intern) gets to choose what lunch will be for the whole gang. So far we have had ice cream sundaes, a Japanese feast of sushi and ramen, and pizza and salad. I usually give a book. Ask a manager is my go-to and/or something related to their interests. These are on my dime as the University has no fund for presents and we are not allowed to buy food.

      1. richard*

        lunch? in 1/2 hour? even just stupid sandwiches and chips wasn’t possible, even in a dense downtown like SF with a place on almost every corner. if we had a house account and they knew how much we spent there, maybe an hour or hour and a half. I could have ordered a stack of pizzas and they’d be hot but even then the timeframe would be similar.

    22. Drago Cucina*

      Depends on the reason for leaving, length of time with our organization, etc. Today was someone’s last day. I brought in tacos for everyone. Not fancy, but this person had previously left for another job and came back after three months. Now 18 months later he’s accepted a better paying job with better benefits.

    23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Has this just never come up before so boss has no idea what to do or as I suspect… is your boss resentful on some level of the person leaving?

    24. Ann Onimous*

      In the vast majority of companies I worked at, the person who was moving on would bring in some snacks and sweets, and then send a thank-you e-mail.

      I had always found the thank-you emails very cheesy, at my first job, so I resolved not to send one. Just said a quick bye to 5 people, literally 10 minutes before leaving on my last day. I later found out that other people had also asked for me, and not been aware I had left. So ever since, I made sure to send an e-mail and bring snacks.

      The only exception I can think of, was at one place where we also bought some small going-away gifts. I’m not entirely sure about other people, but my own gift was very thoughtful. Which actually surprised me, since I was feeling incredibly alone, depressed and all-around burned out, when I left.

  3. Jessen*

    So I officially have ADHD (as opposed to unofficially “I’m pretty sure I have ADHD”).

    Small question here. Names. I have zero memory for names. It usually takes me about 6 weeks of regular contact with a person to remember their name. I’m worried about this being an issue for networking and future stuff, because you can’t say “I talked to, uh, some guy at the event.” How do you remember names of people you’ve only met once or twice? And how do you cover for when you should know someone’s name but don’t?

    1. Nott the Brave*

      I have this issue! One great tool for networking is a spreadsheet listing a person’s name, their contact info, and where/why you met them. I’d also include a date that you last contacted them, so you can remember to reach out occasionally.

      I’m also pretty good at working around using people’s names – and making it clear to people I know that they should introduce themselves.

      1. Jessen*

        Could that be put on your phone somehow maybe? Because I guarantee I won’t remember the names long enough to get to a laptop! That honestly sounds really useful though.

        Now I wonder if I could put together a little thing on my phone that would let me enter that info into an app and then stick it in a spreadsheet elsewhere.

        1. Nott the Brave*

          There is a google sheets app! Or you can stick it in your notes section and try to update it once a week or so.

          1. Jessen*

            Now I really want to try to see if I can make myself a little app or something though. No idea if I actually can or not, but I can’t do anything worse than break my phone trying (and I don’t think I can do that either). And I need a new phone anyway.

        2. Matilda Jefferies*

          Evernote, or a similar note-taking app. You can take a picture of a person’s business card, then add whatever other notes you need about their appearance, where you met them, etc.

          1. Jessen*

            That sounds really handy! I don’t want to rely too much on business cards either, because “business card” translates to “small, easily loseable piece of paper” in my brain. It’s much more reliable for me to not lose my phone.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              Can you get a phone case that has the ability to store a few business cards? I have one that has a slide-open compartment on the backside that fits either my ID and credit card or a few business cards. It’s a bit bulkier but very useful. Or forgo the BCs and keep a small list in there. I realize that sounds like a hassle over just entering the info on your phone, but IMO, it’s way faster to open the little compartment for a quick peek rather than navigate through apps on my phone.

              1. Jessen*

                Unfortunately, probably not without replacing my phone. I don’t have one of the major flagship phones, so cases are very limited (I can barely even find them on amazon). I do typically carry and keep track of a purse, so it would probably be better to keep something small in there. I’m not in the habit of wearing business attire that contains pockets, so everything has to go in some form of bag.

                1. GG*

                  You could just take a photo of the business card until such later time that you have a few minutes to enter it into whatever system you wind up using.

                  Also, I am awful at names of real people I meet, but for some reason the names of actors and fictional characters stick in my mind. So a trick I sometimes use is that when I meet someone new I think of an actor/character with the same name… “Nice to meet you Adrienne,” she says as she shakes her hand and looks at her face, meanwhile inside voice is going, “Adrienne, Adrienne.. Oh, Adrienne Barbeau!” Ding! Suddenly my brain does a lot better job remembering that person’s name.

                2. Jessen*

                  Ah, unfortunately actors and fictional characters are bad for me too. Even my own fictional characters.

                  I’m a DM/Storyteller/Gamemaster (whatever system you’re using) and I joke that my players can’t use the classic “find out if an NPC is important by checking if they have a name” strategy on me. Because I can’t remember the names of any of my NPC’s, even the absolutely plot-central ones. In campaigns I wrote.

            2. Married to ADHD*

              Google Keep will allow you to photograph the business card and keep it in your notes. You can set an alarm for follow up to remind you to add it to your spreadsheet at a later date. I recently attended a workshop for how to use Keep to organize my little ADHDlets and Mr. ADHD has benefitted as well.

              1. Sophie Hatter*

                I LOVE keep. I have ADHD. It’s like internet post-it notes! You can’t lose them unless you lose the internet!

        3. 8DaysAWeek*

          I use my Notes app all the time for my neighbors, their kids, and pet’s names. I have the same problem you do but I rarely see certain neighbors so this is helpful big time. Sadly I always remember their pet’s name but never the people….I don’t know what that says :P

        4. BTDT*

          If your phone has a voice assistant you can also speak your note. Sometimes I find that easier than typing. I’ll just duck into a corner real fast, act like I’m on the phone, and say “hey google, make a note that says I met Joe from ABC who blah blah blah”. Of course, this only works if I pay attention to the name in the first place, which sometimes doesn’t happen. But if it’s the first time meeting a person it’s still ok to say at the end “remind me again what your name was”.

        5. LSC*

          If your contacts are giving you business cards, you can try an app such as CamCard, which scans them and adds them to your contacts – there is a “notes” section where you can put the info of when and where you met the person.

    2. Sharkie*

      Hi! I have adhd as well and I make a game out of names. Beth in blue, Tom with the Tie stuff like that. To cover myself when I don’t remember their name is to ask common questions that might jog my memory “how’s work been” ect.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      In terms of recalling people you met at an event, can you ask people for their business cards and then once you’ve left the conversation, write something on the card that will help you remember this person? Like “wore an orange bowtie, we talked about soccer.”

      You can do something similar with people you encounter at your office, where as soon as you done with the conversation, you write a note on your phone or somewhere. “James. Accounting. Helped with expense report.” Just something you can look back at and review to start building some kinda of mental recall about people you meet.

      1. Public Health Nerd*

        This is what I do. A coworker shared that she would dash off to the restroom at networking events and make notes. I was just at a conference and a lot of people were doing it as part of the interaction- but I’ll bet that depends on your field.

        1. Jessen*

          I’m kind of intro level IT right now, but I kind of feel like the more you’re adjacent to tech fields the more being attached to your phone is about expected.

      1. Alice*

        And write on them something to jog your memory. I do that in front of people. They love it — it shows that I actually do care about following up on our chat.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          This is culturally-dependent, though. Writing on business cards in front of the people who gave them to you works really well in American office culture, but will offend people from Japanese office culture.

          That being said, it’s a great method if it works for your networking needs. Writing things down rather than relying on keeping auditory information in my head is key to me remembering stuff generally.

          In a different setting, the thing that got me to regularly remember the names of people I saw once or twice a year at conventions was to start taking really detailed notes of who said what with either names or descriptions attached, then flagging the ones with descriptions as “people I need to learn the names of so I can write them down where I wrote this description in my notes”. It basically gave me a specific list of people to learn names of, and also helped my brain see it as important because I had a specific “reason” to learn the names. In a few years I went from being one of the people who was particularly clueless about names to one of the people more likely to know someone’s name, but it was certainly obvious that I was taking all of those detailed notes so this would come across as weird in some situations. (Due to the type of convention, the general reaction I got was more along the lines of wanting to know if they could have a copy of the notes and various people looking over my shoulder to see if they could help me fill in blanks rather than people being weirded out.)

          If you are going to write yourself any kind of notes about people’s appearance/conversation topics to help jog your memory later, either on business cards or in other notes, make sure that whatever you write down is something that will be flattering or neutral if they happen to see it.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      For what it’s worth, some of us don’t have ADHD, and we’re also terrible with names. Maybe it’s worse for you, but it’s certainly not uniquely an ADHD problem. I usually just try to say “I’m sorry. This is so embarrassing, but tell me your name again.” It’s always a little awkward, but it’s way more awkward to just pretend as if you remembered that person’s name. Don’t be shouting Mulva after someone in the street.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I have Asperger and have a hard time recognizing faces, so there isn’t anything to attach a name to. But I recognize voices, oddly enough. I’ve learned to take lots of notes, and to just ask. I’ve never been offended when someone has asked my name, so I figure no one else is wounded when I ask their name.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Aphantasic and terrible with faces here, but yeah, voices are fine :) I’ve learned to embrace the power of “I know I know you, but I’m drawing a blank on your name, so sorry!”

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            I have found that it’s helpful if you can give them some detail. “I know that we met at X event. You work with teapot design for Llama wranglers. I’m sorry I’ve forgotten your name.” I find I can remember a lot about who people are, what they do, what their plans are, pets, etc. from a conversation but names are really hard.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          ADHD, but same. I have trouble recognizing faces, and if someone changes their hair it’s likely that I won’t recognize them anymore unless I see them very regularly. Voices and mannerisms are what I pick up on.

      2. Jan*

        True – I don’t have ADHD and am sh*tty at remembering names. Even 10 seconds after they walk away!

      3. Memyselfandi*

        Yes, I have a had time remembering names, especially people out of the context with which I have associated them in my mind. I may recognize them, but not know why nor can I recall the name. I act as if it is a given that no one remembers names, so I always remind people of my name, even if they seem to recognize me. That often prompts them to say their name, or I will tell them they will have to remind me of theirs. Also, at conferences, wear your name tag on your right shoulder. That way, as people go in for a handshake they can scan your information. I hate name tags that require you to look at someone’s midriff in order to see who they are .

        1. Jessen*

          My problem is usually getting the name tag high enough. I’m short and well endowed. It’s hard to position a nametag so it’s not at that awkward “stare at my boob” height. Especially if I’m wearing any sort of sweater or jacket that’s liable to come off during the day (more of a problem if they’re sticker name tags rather than pins).

          That’s all a little irrelevant, but I swear these things were all designed by guys!

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      Working Memory is often a struggle for people with ADHD and you may find some help by researching that.
      Here is how I help my students:

      Make notes in your phone whenever possible.
      Visualization can help.
      Mnemonic devices.
      In a pinch, “It’s so great to see you again!” and find someone who does know their name to help you. Also, I teach my students to be great at introducing people with, “Hey – do you know each other? You should!” and then get the name when they introduce themselves to another person.
      Be nice. People won’t remember that you forgot their name but they will remember if you were friendly and kind.

      Nobody is good at everything and lots of people struggle with remembering names. Don’t be too hard on yourself and do the best you can. Good luck!

    6. AndersonDarling*

      When I have a discussion with someone, I take notes just so I can write the person’s name down. If its the first or second time meeting the person, it’s still acceptable to ask them their name. Then I can go back to the notes and connect the name with the conversation.
      Internally, I will use the hierarchy in Outlook to root out people. If I know the nameless person works in Jane’s department, then I’ll look up Jane, navigate to Jane’s manager, and then see who is on that team. I can usually find the nameless person or at least narrow it down to 2 or 3 names.
      And finally, I’ve come to terms with not remembering names and will suck it up and ask. It’s better to be embarrassed for a minute than be panicked for a week because I can’t figure out who to send an email to.
      This doesn’t help too much when networking and the person disappears after you met them, but it helps for in your office names.

    7. Alice*

      I used to be really embarrassed about this. Now I’ve realized — hey, I forget things sometimes. As long as you’re not forgetting only the women’s names, or only the Hispanic people’s names, I don’t think it’s a big thing. Anyone who glares at me and say, “WE’VE ALREADY MET!!!!!” when I accidentally reintroduce myself is clearly not a person I really want to develop a stronger relationship with. I still say “please forgive me, thanks for reminding me” when someone says “actually, we’ve already met” — but I don’t feel guilty about it.

      1. Jessen*

        That’s fair. I think I’m less concerned about the awkwardness and more about being able to follow up. For example, if I want to email Janice Downing who works in the Pokemon Teapot department and who I talked to at the Little Monsters Convention, I’m going to have a very hard time of it if I can’t remember her name.

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        Yes! And you can almost always say “I’m so sorry, I’ve forgotten your name,” and re-introduce yourself. I say “almost” because there’s a limit to how many times you can say that to the same person! But you can usually get away with it at least a couple of times, especially if you only see them once a year or so.

        This is a totally normal thing that happens to lots of people, so try not to worry too much about it. As long as you’re pleasant and polite, most people won’t even notice or care.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Especially if you obviously remember everything but the name – “I’m horrible with names, I’m so sorry, but you remember we met at the United Teapots event in St Louis in April where you told me about your double spout idea – how’s that progressing?”

        2. Teresa*

          I had someone that was working on a project with me introduce himself 12 times! I broke down and got a “Hi, my name is” name tag sticker. It worked.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            My husband has joked that he wants to have a name tag for events that says “Hi, my name is Mr. SeedStitch. I forgot yours again.”

      3. Newington*

        Yeah, I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry, I’m bad with names. What’s your name?” in a friendly tone without showing embarrassment. Nobody’s been offended yet, as far as I can tell.

    8. JanetM*

      I don’t have ADHD, but I’m awful with names. I’ve become very good at, “Hi, I’m sure we’ve met but I’ve lost your name. I’m Janet!” while putting out my hand to shake. Or hoping for name tags; I remember names better when I see them.

    9. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think this is slightly culture dependent – I’ve found Americans much more assertive about giving, asking for and correcting names than British people.

      I am terrible with names but I’m open about it and will ask to be reminded at the end of a conversation, jot it down, yes business cards, etc. I sometimes fall back on the fact that I have to read lips, as people are happier to repeat a name you might reasonably have missed!

      I find it much easier to remember a name written with a face, so a quick check of their website or LinkedIn (or Facebook if social) reinforces the name with the face for me afterwards.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          In that case I think you can be proactive/assertive about asking again. Keep the underlying attitude obviously “names are important so I want to get yours right and am working hard to manage that even though I find it difficult” rather than “I wasn’t listening because I don’t care” and I think you’ll be great.

          1. Jessen*

            Thanks – I think I’ve been doing this subconsciously a bit.

            Incidentally, after I posted this, I went to get some coffee and was talking to a coworker who said something like “I keep talking to you but I don’t recall your name?” I’ve been here for 10 months, although we don’t actually work together directly, but we’re in pretty much the same room.

      1. Newington*

        oh heck yeah, every British person knows at least one person who calls them Robert because they misheard their name when they were introduced six years ago and it’s never seemed like a good moment to correct them

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          “At this point honestly it’s easier to change my name to Robert by deed poll rather than tell the accountant it’s actually Robin.”

        2. Windchime*

          Not a work situation but I have a somewhat spacey sister who called her neighbors Trish and Jim for nearly a year before “Trish” corrected her and said that their names were actually Stacy and Roger.

    10. OnlySortaOrgd*

      to expand on collecting business cards — take a photo of the card with your phone. There are some business card apps out there even (I honestly cant think of one off hand, but I know they at used used to be A Thing. There are some good scanning apps too if you want to convert to a PDF). Keep a google doc or spread sheet with them. If you don’t have a card, a photo of a flyer or quickly writing their name in said doc helps.

      I’m honestly also pretty open about taking photos of cards/flyers. “Can I snap a photo of your contact info really quick so I have it for later! It’s been great talking with you and I’d love to follow up”, etc.

      1. Jessen*

        I was just thinking this! I have a generic scanner app already (works well for receipts). One of the other ADHD things is trying to minimize the amount of paper, because paper is easy to lose.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, no issue using this. Either right there with the person (really, who will be offended at you carefully storing their info?) or just after the conversation. I also use linkedin or company websites as I am much better with faces than names to find people if I can’t remember their name, but do remember their company.

          I tend to just write on business cards myself, this is very common in the States. Maybe get a special container for your collected business cards? I have one in my purse so that I don’t use them and tend to go through it the next day and add contacts to either outlook or spreadsheets as appropriate.

    11. Newington*

      Congratulations on getting it made official! I’m still at the “pretty sure” stage.
      I sometimes draw people and write their names down on a bit of paper on my desk, but it’s not infallible and could be a bit embarrassing if seen. I spent my first two months in this job convinced that two of my colleagues had names completely different from what they actually are, and after another six months their names still fall out of my head regularly.

      1. Jessen*

        There will be a rant about the process of making it official in the weekend thread. It’s a bit off topic for this one.

    12. NicoleK*

      I will ask for their business card and write the date and place I met the individual on the back of the card.

    13. EH*

      I’m bad with names, and have gotten more and more proactive about it as I age. There’s nothing as embarrassing as knowing someone for a couple years and not remembering their name (which I did a lot whenI was taking martial arts and only saw people in class). When I meet someone for the first time, I try to call them by name at least a couple times during the conversation, and definitely near the end of the conversation. Sometimes I even hold my fingers up like a picture frame centered on their face and say their name. If I keep my tone light, people tend to find it amusing, as far as I can tell. :)

      That helps me a lot, but I’ve also found that people are rarely offended by me forgetting their name, especially if I just say early on, “I am so sorry, I can’t for the life of me remember your name,” then I use the first-time tricks. I also listen sharply for when other people call folks by name and repeat it silently to myself a few times.

    14. Llellayena*

      Most people respond well to “I’m sorry, I’m bad with names.” It’s a common enough problem not to be weird. And some people are exceptionally bad: my mom had to make an ultimatum to my dad that “If you don’t use my name at the altar, I won’t marry you!”

    15. Kiwiii*

      I’m in the same boat! Even if I can’t remember a name, I try and remember ONE THING about each person I meet, so that if I meet them again I will already have the one thing to connect to them. It’s not usually their name, sometimes it’s their company or what they’re doing that weekend or a project upcoming, but sometimes it’s their name, and after meeting them a couple times it gets easier to add their name to the pile of stuff I know about them.

      Side note, at the job I just started there’s a guy who is technically on a different team but he comes to our meetings sometimes since he Used to be on my supervisor’s team and has kept a couple duties until I can be trained into them (small businesses, man). Definitely called him Jeff the first several days (not to him, but to other people) and was corrected to much amusement by a senior coworker yesterday, letting me know his name was, in fact, Ben.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, there is a woman on my floor that I always thought of in my head as Rita but her name is actually Laura. Not sure how I got that wrong for so long! (There is a Rita, but she looks nothing like Laura and she works in a different building).

    16. Daisy Avalin*

      I have this same problem as does my dad, with names of things as well as people. We call it the ‘if it’s not relevant right now, it’s not remembered syndrome’!

      Most commonly I find it with my sister’s kids who I see once a year on average. The problem is that my sister has a step-daughter with kids a year younger than each of my nieblings, and keeping track of which child belongs to each family (since I see them all at the same time) is difficult for me. I get round it by calling them all ‘Child’ including my daughter when she’s with them, and otherwise treating them all like they’re my favourite niebling! They don’t seem to mind, they seem to see it as my quirk!

      1. Lilysparrow*

        I also have the thing where I can “know” something perfectly well, but it can’t get from storage to my mouth in time.

        Which is why all children, including my own, are “sweetie”, “honey,” “babe,” “buddy,” “bunny,” or “noodle.” Or occasionally, “You there,” “that one,” or “the other one.”

        It’s at least partially genetic, as my grandfather apparently had an aunt called “Aunt Sister.” Her actual name was lost to oral history two generations ago. It’s written down somewhere.

    17. Coverage Associate*

      At a lot of the networking events I attend, people send LinkedIn connection requests from their phones while still talking to each other.

      Comforting story: I had a meeting Monday. I thought it was the first time meeting this woman. On Monday, so did she. But I guess when she entered her notes, she found we had actually met a couple of years ago. So we both forgot having met.

    18. Mayflower*

      What you want is a “personal CRM”. Beside names, a good CRM system can help you set reminders to follow up, track email history, integrate with your calendar, and so on. If you live on your Gmail get one that integrates with it, otherwise get one that has the best mobile app.

      As far as covering for when you forgot someone’s name – don’t! Just re-introduce yourself and wait for them to reciprocate, which they always do. Something like: “Hi, I am Jessen. We’ve met at event X!”, then wait for them to say their name so the two of you can laugh about how both your heads are a sieve. Human memory is tied to places – hence the Memory Palace technique – so this works for literally everybody, ADHD or not.

    19. OhBehave*

      Always ask for a business card. You can jot details on it once they’ve walked away. Or a quick note in your phone.

    20. Lilysparrow*

      99 times out of 100, it’s perfectly fine to say, “You’ll have to bear with me, I’m terrible with names. We met at the (thing), I’m (my name)”

      In some contexts I’ll even say, “Please bear with me, I have a brain thing and have trouble with names.” Most people will accept that, and not get wierd about it as long as you aren’t weird.

      One really good thing about getting into your 40’s is that more and more people have either dealt with, or worked closely with someone who has “a brain thing” of one kind or another – whether that’s chemo, or an injury, or a neurological something. It’s far more common than you realize until you start being transparent about your own.

      You’ll be surprised how many people are in the same boat with names, even neurotypicals. As long as you’re nice about it, it’s okay.

      In situations where I know that wouldn’t fly, I just don’t say it. “Oh, hey, good to see you! What have you been up to since (thing)?”

      And then the best luck is when someone walks up whose name you do remember, and you can say, “Oh, do you know Betsey Smitherton?”

      And then the mystery person will introduce themselves to Betsey, and you can add some detail that you do know about the mystery person whose name you now have. “Emmanuel did a wonderful presentation on colored glazes at the Stoneware Symposium.”

  4. Sunflower*

    Can someone recommend a tablet/surface for job searching/applying for jobs?

    Not sure if any tablets have the capability to edit word docs/PDF’s(it’s been a while since I looked for one) and drag and drop files. I can get a refurbished basic laptop if need be but it would be great to find a tablet that does this!

    1. Colette*

      There is a Word app that you can put on tablets – I have it on my iPad – and it works fine. I use OneDrive for external storage, and can attach files to email from there. If I were doing a lot of typing I’d use my external keyboard, though.

    2. wingmaster*

      I recently got the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. I use it primarily to draw, but I do have the the Microsoft Apps (Word, Excel, Skype, PowerPoint). I also have a portable keyboard that I can connect via Bluetooth.

    3. Ranon*

      A chrome book might do the trick if you’re open to using Google docs (or office online)- you can find deals on swappa and they’re generally pretty inexpensive.

      1. lemon*

        Second this. Love Chromebooks. You can get a convertible one (I have the Acer R11) that flips into a tablet. Battery life is excellent, and it’s lightweight and easy to carry around in a backpack or purse. You can also run Android apps, so you can download the MS Word app if Google Docs isn’t your thing.

      2. hamburke*

        I was also coming here to say this – my kids use them for school and they are pretty powerful and durable (if they’re giving them to middle and high school kids, they need to be!). There’s some good ones out there new for $150ish and refurbished for under $100.

      1. noahwynn*

        +1, my last company had these and they were great. They were nice and portable but could also run all the Windows apps.

    4. Keener*

      I have a Microsoft Surface (about 4 years old now). It runs full Windows 10 so there is no issue with installing the full Office suite, or editing PDF’s etc. I got it since majority of the time I want a tablet like device for using on the sofa but I also need the capabilities of a laptop.

      1. LunaLena*

        Same here, I have a Surface Pro 3 with Windows 10 and have not only MS Office on it, but the full Adobe Creative Suite (not the Cloud, though, since I refuse to pay for a subscription). I got it because I prefer a laptop over a tablet, but also wanted to be able to draw directly on it with the stylus. The keyboard and kickstand work great, and it’s much more portable than my old Apple laptop. It only has one USB port, though, so I have a little multi-pronged USB plug-in for when I need to plug in an external hard drive, external DVD-rom, USB drive, and/or mouse at the same time.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      My work gave us 2-in-1 Dell laptops with detachable keyboards that work as Windows 10 tablets as well as laptops. They run Windows 10, so definitely work to edit work docs and such.

      I admit that I’m not thrilled with them, but I’m a grumpy “give me the command line, a pile of keyboard shortcuts, and a million configuration options” Linux user by choice so I’m not really the target market for a tablet.

      At my desk at work, I have it hooked up to a docking station with a real keyboard and multiple monitors, so the form factor doesn’t really matter (I’d still rather be using Linux, but that’s not the hill to die on for my job). On the go, I am not a fan of the little kickstand flap that comes out of the back of the top/tablet part of the device to hold it open while typing, because it’s harder to use it as a laptop on your actual lap than it was with a more traditional laptop. (It needs a flat surface for stability to type on the keyboard since you can’t just hang on to the free-hinged keyboard part while typing to keep it open.) People who actually appreciate non-typing ways of input (there is an on-screen keyboard similar to a phone keyboard available in tablet mode) probably would be less annoyed by this and just use it as a tablet in those situations, though. (I’m trying to get used to it, but typing is so very much faster, and I use keyboard shortcuts all the time.)

    6. ManageHer*

      I use an iPad Pro 12 inch as my main machine at home, and it was great for my recent job search. The Word and Excel apps are about as robust as their online versions, and I used Google Docs to save files. There’s a software update coming this fall that will make iPad Pro even more laptop-like.

      If your job searching in a field that uses encrypted email or requires NDAs as part of the search, though, you’ll want to stick to a laptop – document signature programs and email encryption often don’t work on tablets.

    7. Nesprin*

      Surface Pro! I love mine as its a laptop pretending to be a tablet and has a keyboard that can be detached.

    8. yeine*

      i have a surface go that i love a lot! it’s a 10″ touchpad screen and the keyboard is suprisingly nice at a pretty reasonable cost. just make sure you commit to the keyboard – the onscreen keyboard is awful.

  5. Mimmy*

    Quick question: How do you answer “How do you like your job” when you don’t really like it but can’t really justify your reasons for not liking it? Especially when the question is asked by coworkers or is asked by someone else in front of coworkers?

    I don’t *hate* my job but I don’t love it either and I am taking steps to move on. I’m an instructor for people with a certain disability; my students love my class and I enjoy interacting with them. However, it can be a little boring and I’m ready for something more substantial. Also, there’s just a lot of BS that make me (and my fellow instructors) want to tear our hair out sometimes. But from reading here, I know there are people with worse job environments than me. So it’s hard to justify why I have days when I want to quit right then and there.

    Yesterday, my supervisor and I were chatting with a third person and the third person asked if we liked our jobs. My supervisor said yes; me…. well…. I focused on the positive aspects but I couldn’t come right out and say that I wanted to move on in front of my supervisor (although she knows of my careers goals).

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This is one of those times where it’s perfectly fine to lie.

      3rd Person: Oh.. you guys are paperclip sorters? How do you like it?
      Sup: Yes, it’s the only job I’ve ever wanted to do
      Mimmy: Oh yes it’s exciting when I get to sort the big ones, it’s the challenge that I like the best

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      I used to say “eh, it pays the bills” (back when I had a job I was meh about).

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        I once heard “It pays the mortgage” referred to as “the Yuppie Nuremberg defense.”

        That said, my current job pays the mortgage.

    3. Catsaber*

      Focusing on positive aspects is a perfectly good way to answer that question. And you don’t need to have a “justifiable” reason for not liking it…sometimes a job is just no longer a good fit for your life or priorities, and it’s totally fine to move on, even if it sounds like there’s nothing really that bad about it. When people ask me this question, I’ll say something chipper like, “I love the students!” and then get them to talk about their jobs, so the focus isn’t on me.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        + 1

        This doesn’t have to be an emotionally fraught question. Just say what you do like about the job when you get asked this question, and then you don’t have to say you love the job overall.

      2. MarsJenkar*

        Indeed. I’ve seen a few responses in the thread that suggest outright lying, but some people (myself included) are actually wired in such a way that such a bald-faced lie cannot be delivered effectively (or in my case, *at all*). Focusing on positive aspects of a job, then redirecting to the other person, is a much better solution.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I think if your supervisor is present, it’s perfectly okay (almost necessary for survival) to lie and say you like it. But if it’s just in a social situation outside of work, you can just say “There are things I like, and things I don’t like—you know, like in most jobs.”

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      I’m a teacher and when people ask me if I like my job I usually reply with, “I love my kids! They’re great!” No one wants to hear that bureaucracy sucks, parents can be annoying and I’m frustrated by the aging building in which I work. I try to be positive when I can be. Good luck!

      1. Quill*

        I wish you good luck in teaching and a complete lack of classroom squirrels. (My mom also taught in an aging building, and…. yeah. Wildlife likes where children are, because children have snacks.)

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          Teachers have snacks too :) I like to shake my grade 8s down for Halloween candy haha

          1. Quill*

            Oh yes, but there’s nothing like discovering that a fifth grader left a bannana in their desk over a long weekend and that the squirrel that fell out of the attic wants it. :)

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              Fair enough! We’ve only been plagued by mice so far but our building is over 60 years old now so I figure it’s only a matter of time!

              1. Quill*

                My mom got shanghaied to squirrel wrangle by the extremely desperate facilities manager to deal with said squirrel.

                “You teach science – I need you to chase it so I can drop a basket over it.”

                I think they both would have preferred mice, which my high school had in abundant supply.

                1. Nonny Maus*

                  Your poor mom! And that reasoning…just. “here you do this vaguely adjacent thing?”

                  If it was a chase, wouldn’t Phys Ed be more appropriate? :D

                2. Quill*

                  Unfortunately, Nonny Maus, they were short a PE teacher at the time and their choices really did narrow down to “the two people most likely to have had their tetanus shots”

                  Fortunately my mom and the facilities manager are great friends, so post squirrel this has become a favorite story of theirs. :)

        2. Anono-me*

          When it comes to deteriorating and antiquated infrastructure issues, the best solution is a VIP volunteer who asks questions.

          Friend of mine taught in smaller town public school that had been built in the forties and never properly updated (except for the administrative offices of course). Then one of the VIP mothers started volunteering and asking questions. (What is this black stuff coming out of the heat vent? Why is the ceiling in the art room always wet? What are you doing about the asbestos when you fix the art room ceiling? Etc.) There is now a new school building.

    6. College Career Counselor*

      I think you handled it well. Assuming you’re not in an environment where you can speak freely (ie, in public or with your boss/someone else that you’d rather not complain in front of), you focus on the parts of the job that give you satisfaction or joy or that align with your skills/passion. It may not feel as complete or authentic to YOU, but if it’s accurate (as far as it goes), then I think it’s fine. If someone asks you to discuss something you don’t like, then you can either deflect (“nothing comes to mind at the moment”) or couch your response in generalities (“well, bureaucracy can be challenging at times in any organization!”).

      I don’t think you owe random/general 3rd party interlocutors complete transparency about your thoughts regarding the workplace and/or your future plans, especially if it’s not to your advantage to disclose that information.

    7. NJBi*

      I’m in a similar boat in terms of like, there’s nothing particularly wrong with my job, but I’m ready to move on. I usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, can’t complain, [insert specific thing I’m excited about/like a lot, even if it’s only 20% of my whole job/day-to-day].” No global/360 analysis at all. Keeps the tone light and gives me something I can genuinely enthuse about (since I’m not going to genuinely enthuse about my whole job).

      It works a little differently in my situation since I’m in an academic setting where we’re all kind of expected to leave to go to grad school after 1-3 years of service, and everyone knows each other’s timelines for how quickly we expect to move on (like, everyone knows Coworker and I are applying this cycle and so expect to be gone in a year).

    8. Gidget*

      Such a good question. I got asked this so many times in the past few weeks by my big boss. I just answered by being like, “I really enjoy X.” But I literally hate every other aspect of this job. It feels strangely dishonest to answer with a positive when the percentage of what you like in your job is so far outweighed by the percentage of things you dislike and you are trying to figure out how to get out.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      “I appreciate the chance to X.”

      As Somebody Else says, it doesn’t even need to be true, just something people might generically like. But often there’s something–in your case, you can use X = work with students.

    10. QCI*

      Just because other people have it worse doesn’t mean you have to be grateful or should suffer through your own situation. Just because someone else is starving doesn’t mean I’m going to eat peas.
      Depends how honest you want to be, but I wouldn’t pretend to like it.

    11. London Calling*

      ‘Do you enjoy your job?’ is a question in our appraisals. I have a mid year one coming up and haven’t yet come up with a diplomatic way of saying what’s to enjoy in a job where colleagues treat you like an admin there to do their jobs for them and the department seems to be made up of women with the emotional maturity of 12 year olds squabbling over who is who’s bestie for ever and ever.

    12. Kes*

      I would just say it has its pluses and minuses, like any job (and if they ask or you want you can touch on some of these). I feel like this is pretty universally true so as long as your supervisor is reasonable it’s hardly a controversial thing to say.

    13. Kiwiii*

      I pick a thing I do that interests me in particular about the work I do (even if I hate that thing sometimes or hate the rest of it) and focus on telling them about that thing. People tend not to notice if you don’t actually answer your question and usually want to know that you like some part of it.

    14. hamburke*

      Justifying staying b/c “it could be worse” is marginalizing your feelings and current situation.

      I currently like my job but I didn’t like my last job. However, when asked directly, I always said that there were aspects that I really enjoy but like every other job, there are parts of it that I don’t really enjoy, but on the whole there’s more good than bad.

  6. CMart*

    Any small business owners (or general managers of small businesses) here?

    How do you deal with difficult customers or clients? Partly on a practical level, but I’m asking more on a personal/existential level.

    My husband and I own (and he runs) a qualitative service based business, let’s say Kitten Training. Business is good, lots of happy kitten owners and well-trained kittens but there always seems to be someone popping up with unreasonable expectations who then threatens to Go To The Internet if they are in any way dissatisfied.

    But, you know, while it’s certainly possible that your kitten could learn to ride a wee tricycle while balancing a goldfish on their nose on command, and we’ve had one Tabby and one Calico in the past do so successfully! we certainly don’t guarantee that and those were truly exceptional kittens who put in a lot of work. And yet there is chronically one kitten owner who signs up for training who very aggressively expresses their disappointment when their kitten has “merely” mastered tap dancing (which is still quite extraordinary).

    We’re only in our first year of ownership (bought the business pre-established from the prior owner after working there for several years) and it’s just terrifying to worry if this is the irrational kitten owner who will somehow bring the whole thing crashing down if they’re persistent enough. We rely on word of mouth and people being happy about how their kittens act after they leave us so the “I will RUIN you if you fail me” customers are so stressful, now that it’s our livelihood and reputation on the line.

    1. MOAS*

      Ok the image of kittens tap dancing is amazing.

      Not a small biz but my company that I work for does have a social media presence. One thing we do is encourage happy clients to leave good reviews. and of course internally, train staff to make sure there are less and less chances of unhappy clients.

      1. Heat's Kitchen*

        I was coming to recommend the social media presence as well. Maybe do a FB contest or give a free gift (like a keychain) if they leave a review and show it to you. Super happy customers and super upset customers are going to be the ones to leave reviews without you prompting. And you’re never going to have only happy customers. People get upset. Sometimes they’re unreasonable. Try to learn from why they’re unhappy, but otherwise don’t dwell on it and don’t engage.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      In your advertising, can you spell out what ‘typical’ training results are? And then put in a handy disclaimer that all kittens are unique and results may vary?

      Then if they pull the ‘I’ll tell the internet’ you could at least point to that information on your website or materials.

      Honestly though I wouldn’t give it too much thought. If anything I read 1 star reviews to see what reasons were given for that review. Most often it’s your trike riding fish juggling kitten person who has unrealistic expectations.

    3. merp*

      This sounds tough, but I think if you encourage those who are happy with their kitten training (I love this metaphor, the mental images are amazing) to be vocal to others/online, it might ease the impact of anyone with unrealistic expectations. And in the past I also have relied on the truism that unreasonable people will appear unreasonable to others most of the time – they are making themselves look bad, not you. Anyone who buys into what they’re saying temporarily will have a chance to see them being ridiculous if they do it that often.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. When I see two one-star reviews and fifty 4s and 5s, I chalk the one-star up to a bad customer. I would encourage happy folks to review your services to counterbalance. When I was in Customer Service, there was always someone screaming about reporting us and half the time my bad reviews were because they didn’t like a non-negotiable rule. Or they tried to scam us and I caught them. Last time I checked the old company is doing well, so… I also agree that you might have to “fire” them in a way that makes it sound like they are just too darn special and need different services than you provide. And occasionally you may have to respond to a public post – be factual and calm and most people will see that you did try to help resolve the situation and will view the screamer as an outlier.

      2. CMart*

        I do also try to remind myself that any time I see some negative review (“Applebee’s did not have filet mignon nor the 1976 Bordeaux I asked for! What business do they even have calling themselves a restaurant, then??”) that it’s usually obvious if it was a legitimate concern or not. But I do also, you know, see people online who share poorly photoshopped images of a baby wearing a coal miner’s outfit and express genuine outrage that people are forcing babies to work in mines.

        It’s so hard to get happy customers to leave reviews! I wish bribing people wasn’t unethical (and probably against review sites’ TOS) because at this point it feels like we gotta slip someone $10 to go say something nice even when they’re genuinely happy.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, I usually dismiss 1 star reviews that have no details, and also 1 star reviews that sound like the ravings of an irrational loon.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s technically against the TOS but believe me, most places do it on some level. They will often filter out things if someone is only setting up an account and leaving their first review that’s super short anyways, for that reason.

          You can certainly still encourage people to leave a review though, even the nudge to do so works at times. Put the links on an invoice or put that Yelp sticker they sent you on your front door if you can, etc. Sometimes people just need that little “Oh shoot yeah I love this place, I’ll leave them a review.”

          [This depends drastically on the size of your town though, smaller ones not so much but the bigger it is, the more likely people will think to review.]

        3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          crud! this reminds me – I need to leave a reasonably positive review for the engineer who fixed my washing machine today; arrived on time and finished quickly and neatly. Even if he spent the entire visit singing *just two lines* of “Fly Me To The Moon” on repeat every time he needed to unscrew/re-screw something…
          And then he gave me a card with the job number and name and the website to leave feedback on – rather annoyingly it says “If you’re pleased with my service, score me between 9-10”.
          Don’t do this – I will score you as I see fit, and if your scale goes to 10, don’t *tell* me to score you 10!

          (I’ve just realised why it’s so hard to get happy customers to leave reviews!)

          1. Another worker bee*

            So, the guy is probably working with NPS (net promoter score), which has a super broken scaling system, where ONLY a rating of 9-10 is actually considered positive. 7/8 are neutral and anything 6 or below is negative. Your net promoter score is an aggregate of these those things, so the only thing that gives him a positive score will be that 9 or 10.

            Before I learned about this, I just gave everything 7s and 8s all the time because that means “good, would probably use again, slight room for improvement” to me, but now I think twice after working for a place where we used that NPS system!

            1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

              Ooh, interesting!
              I’m like you – 7’s and 8’s all the way, so I’m going to have to revise my thinking.
              It still grates to be forced into a 10 – I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced “perfection” (that s*dding earworm song is still there and I’ve been listening to an 80’s radio station for ten minutes!)

              1. CMart*

                Yes – in general if you’re doing a survey if you were generally happy with the experience give the top rating!

                I used to work for TGI Friday’s and their receipt surveys were on a scale from 1-7, and ONLY the 7’s counted as “people were happy to be there”. Anything less than a 7 was a ding against the restaurant.

                Seemed like a bad metric to me, but I was just a bartender and no one asked me.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  And then there are the people who have a different internal rating system and don’t read the rules: “This is my all-time favorite restaurant so I’m going to rank them as #1!”
                  On a scale where 1 means “I already called the health inspector.”

      3. writelhd*

        Hi, I work in an insanely complex industry in which the product is a huge and very personal investment, clients have incredibly low trust of industry practitioners (sometimes not without good cause) and success depends on coordinating quite a lot of different people (who could all make mistakes) and moving parts on any given day. And this was definitely true for us. We had one really upset and irrational customer totally blow up our social media with how awful we were. But he was so clearly unreasonable that many of our happy customers actually rushed to our defense for us. We didn’t have to do anything in particular but maintain the same level of professionalism we always do, and just not be afraid while doing it. (and it fact it is better in situations like that to just not respond directly, except perhaps to make a public statement about your general policy or some such thing, if it’s appropriate, and if that general policy is in fact reasonable)

        It probably did help to create that situation, though, that we were strategic about cultivating social media connections with happy customers, by regularly posting content, responding to people’s inquires through social media, etc during the normal times. So that when the unexpected happened we had the framework in place.

        However you also asked about how to deal with it “existentially”, to which I think you might mean how to not take it home and think about it and let the anxiety and upset wear at your soul. And I don’t have a perfect answer for that. I altered my expectations over time about what to expect from the customer experience based on how complex our particular industry is–there’s so many moving parts that they really are unlikely to have a perfect experience and if so that is actually unlikely to be directly my fault or in my control, so accepting that up front makes each one that comes up less of the existential panic attack that it once was. I have trained my brain to realize that a client in need of mollifying about something legitimate, as well as things that aren’t legitimate, is part of the journey that will happen every time. And thinking that all I can control is how I react, express empathy with the customer, and at least explore my available options to solve their problem within the boundaries of what is fair, right, and available.

        Surprisingly that mindset makes the people with obnoxious, entitled, and totally unrealistic and illegitimate gripes easier to deal with too, somehow.

        1. ILikeMeJustFine*

          I’m going to guess you’re making a custom product for people or delivering a custom service, the success of which is entirely subjective but is also deeply personal. Something like wedding planning, home remodeling, or record producing. Am I warm?

    4. JJs Diner*

      Can you do some sort of orientation to better set expectations? Like, here is a tour of our facility, look- we have a kitten class happening now, here are all of the little details… and then slide in there that each kitten is different and while some may get to the end of training, some may not, but that the experience is important anyway for socializing/future training etc. I own my own business and I frequently get questions like this. I preface everything with “I can’t guarantee anything but…”

      1. CMart*

        We’ve spent some time fine tuning the first meetings/sign ups, as well as the mid-training program updates wondering if maybe we weren’t being clear enough with expectations and such. My husband is pretty content with his “spiel” now.

        I try to assure him that at a certain point there are always going to be unreasonable people. You can say “we absolutely cannot teach them to ride a tricycle” and you will still have someone who, midway through the program, burst into the training facility furious that their kitten cannot work the pedals on the trike they bought them.

        He’s just really struggling with how to deal with that. Being calm and clear and apologetic is about the best he can do, but the stress and worry and guilt consume him.

        1. JJs Diner*

          I deal with that too. I’ve had to turn off notifications and make sure not to look at my phone too much after work because reviews and critical feedback just KILLS me until I calm down and figure it out. You’re totally right- you’ll still get negative feedback or people who don’t understand what to expect. It’s just a part of doing business! But if you look at all of the other businesses around you, they all have negative reviews too- no one is perfect- and they’re still in business you know? It’s not going to kill your business unless it’s valuable feedback that you don’t learn to incorporate.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sliding in here like a baseball player.

      It’s usually worth placating these people and save yourself the bad reviews if at all possible. This is sadly the cost of doing business and when you’re this size of setup, word of mouth and reviews can really hurt you in many ways. Sure you’ll always get a few quacks who will complain and take it to the internet, most people browsing Yelp or other review sites already know that those people are out there and roll their eyes at those reviews. So it’s not a ‘never a bad review ever’ but yeah, it’s kind of like they hold us hostage in ways.

      The thing is also to remember no one is single handedly going to topple the business unless it’s on the ledge [if you’re struggling for business and capital is dried up kind of thing, long term stuff not just a bit of a slow period.]

      This is owning a business. You find a delicate balance of bending over for customers and finding ways to “fire” them when possible. I would do a “I’m sorry that we can’t reach your expectations for Fluffy! I’ll be refunding your money immediately and I wish you the best with your kitten training!”

      Everyone is going to have unsatisfied customers. It’s all about treating everyone with dignity and respect, being the bigger person and letting them get away with some nonsense at times because it’s good for business. Do not let people take you for a ride, cut your losses as soon as you realize you cannot reach their expectations! And do not dig your heels in unless you’re really out a lot of money, losing money on some sales will always be a thing. This is why your margins need to be on point and high enough!!!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Seriously, if you’re nice to people, even if they’re cooky and out to lunch all day long, asking you to build their cat a spaceship and teach that cat to go to the moon, you smile and go “Awww I wish I could do that, it’s in the plans for later if the technology catches up! But at this time, it’s not possible. Can I interest you in some basic cat training sessions?”

        They may go away unsatisfied that you can’t send Fluffy Butt to the moon tomorrow but they aren’t mad at you because they know you “tried” or you at least treated them nicely. Really, just don’t let them see you judging them or get snarky with them. Tone tone tone tone.

        Real story, I was brought on as a young woman with very little actual customer service background. I was 22, what do you expect, right? My background was in accounting. Within about a year I was running the place for the owner who’s health was in rapid decline and I did so for over a decade.

        I had a lot of people notice and speak about how my customer service made things so much better. They were still experiencing the same issues and angry third party customers [wholesaler, talking to retailers, who were dealing with the consumers]. And even when I had to say no, I still bent enough that they weren’t left with an enraged person. It helped their reviews and also our own in the end. All it took was treating them kindly, listening and giving them that little bit more of wiggle room.

        Lots of things that cost relatively little to fix were done. They were upset that there was a ding on the backside of something [most don’t care, it’s facing the wall], I went ahead and gave them a small discount and they were thrilled by it. So much can be done by just saying “Oh man, here’s a credit for your pain and suffering!” kind of stuff. This was the years before free-shipping so free-shipping was huge to most if you offered it or if I offered $25, they at least thought “well now I can treat myself to dinner with this new dining room table.” and they went away happy. Lots of “They fixed it, we love them, they make it right!” from the ones who come out of the gate swinging all “you have wronged meeeeee.”

        1. CMart*

          Thank you so much for your detailed replies, they’re really helpful (my regular job is also manufacturing accounting and I often find myself nodding along to your comments on other posts).

          I think my husband does a good job with being warm and kind and setting realistic expectations – exactly what you said up at the top, “ah, we can all wish for that eh? Here’s the great programs we DO offer and a realistic range of outcomes. Here are the things your kitten needs to do in order to get the most out of our program…”. I don’t see him in action so I can’t know for sure, but he’s reenacted things for me.

          Your other point about cutting losses might actually be the best tactic here. It stinks to lose that sale, but it’s probably worse to take an unreasonable person’s money and then (naturally) fail to live up to their unreasonable expectations.

          So when a kitten owner says “I want you to send Mr. Chuckles to the moon”, we say “aw, wouldn’t that be fun? We can sign him up for jazz dance, and if he’s really talented perhaps he can tap dance too” and their response is to sign Mr. Chuckles up for jazz and then complain he didn’t go to the moon after the 2nd lesson… it’s probably just time to refund the money and apologize, eh?

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Are they just doing the “Aw shucks, I wanted him to be an astronaut not a jazz dancer.” or are they doing a “Argh, I can’t believe that you turned my cat into a jazz dancer, I said astronaut!!!!”?

            I have to wonder if they’re just kind of like “Darn, not the exact thing I wanted but this is still good enough but shucks I wanted Mr Whiskers Armstrong to follow his true dreams of space travel!”

            I have people who are not truly satisfied by just about anything. “This isn’t the best ice cream EVER, it’s not coconut flavored just vanilla.” but then they are at your ice cream truck eating up that “just vanilla” stuff.

            Then they’re just a quirky person who likes to complain and don’t need to be fired.

            If they are actually complaining and acting like they’re going to leave you bad reviews until you teach their cat to fly that spaceship, then it’s time to cut them loose! I would at least approach it first with “Would you prefer a refund and to cancel your future sessions?” instead of making that decision, since sometimes when you say “We can’t do that. We can however refund you and send you on your merry way” then they go “oh no no no, Neil LOVES his cat training classes, I couldn’t do that but you know, just bummed he’s not going to the mooooooooon. *sad stank face*”

            I wish I could come and be a fly on the wall to give you more detailed advice but really, try to remember to treat everyone as an individual and don’t stick with an automatic ejection option. Just keep it in mind for when things are really breaking your mind over why this person will not just leave you alone. Sometimes they thrive on just being difficult and you can use judgement to say if they’re “worth” the risk involved.

            It’s like accounting. Think about the accounts you let have more rope than others. I let Big AF Corp name their terms and if they pay me in 120 days, fine it’s whatever, I know I’m getting paid because I know that it’s just their cycle. HOWEVER if Podunk one pony company is paying me past terms, bye bye bye bye byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee gurl bye. It’s all about the risk analysis you’re doing at any given time. No two are created equal, there are things to look for and debate if that client is going to make you more money in the end by giving them slack or if they’re going to cost you money and grey hairs.

            1. CMart*

              The ones giving us ulcers are ones who are saying “I know you said cats can’t go to the moon, but I don’t even understand why you’re even in the kitten training business if you can’t promise that Mr. Chuckles will be landing there next week. That’s where cats belong, and I’m paying you to get him there. I have a lot of friends who will be asking about my experience here, you know.”

              I bartended at a chain restaurant for years and years before getting into accounting and feel pretty good about “reading a table” as they say – knowing if someone’s complaining just to hear their own voice or if they’ll actually be a problem.

              It’s just hard, because we care about the kittens themselves, you know? We might not be able to get them to the moon like their unreasonable owner wants, but we could still totally get them litterbox trained and not shredding curtains at the very least, if not helping them realizing their mousing potential or yes, maybe even tap dancing.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Ah yeah those nitwits need to just be cut loose.

                Remind yourself that their “experience and network” is actually really small most likely. Unless you know for a fact they’re an important face in the community, they’re rarely important outside of their own headspace.

                Once you detach from their threats of “Great Importance” and “Knowledge is Greater Than Thou!” it’s easier.

                If they were So Great they would own their own GD kitten training school, lbr. Nah, they’re just boring basic annoyances. Refund their money and tell them to bounce to the astronaut training school wherever that is. You wouldn’t want them to “waste” their money! Word it like you’re looking out for their best interest as much as possible. “Sorry the drink wasn’t to your standards, we’ll comp that. Yeah that’s our only option, I’m sorry about that. We won’t be able to give do anything but give your money back and save you from !*more disappointment!*”

          2. writelhd*

            Totally agreed that, if you can get yourself to that place of stability, it IS worse to take an unreasonable person’s money and then fail to live up to their reputation than it is to just say “sorry, I don’t think we’re the right fit.” But that is still a balancing act, and an act of just reinforcing up front the boundaries of what you do and don’t do.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              “I’d rather have no business than bad business.”

              This is something that I heard from a lecturer I went to see about collecting debts. And I need it stitched on a pillow for my fainting couch that I need to put in my office one day.

            2. On Hold*

              Yeah, a big part of customer service is knowing when you can’t do something well and not trying to sell the customer on it. I was recently a supervisor at a complex, kitten-training call center, and we had plenty of people who escalated because “oh but can’t you even try getting Muffins on the moon? Just this once? How hard can it be, you just have to pick up the phone!”

              My answer was often some variation of “I really can’t – we used to do that/we’ve tried before/we’ve looked into it and it’s just not something we’re good at. I would rather tell you up front that I can’t do it, so you can find an alternate solution, than to tell you ‘ya sure, no problem’ and then screw it up and make everyone unhappy.” You can throw in “I know it sounds really simple, but… ” plus some (complicated, vague!) details of logistics if that will strengthen your case.

              Script if there are viable alternatives: “I totally understand how frustrated you are. How would you like to proceed from here? The moon really isn’t an option for this situation, but I could do tap dancing, juggling, or fire-hoop-leaping.”

              Script if there aren’t, or if they’ve already shot down everything else: “Sure, I totally understand. At this point, I’m not sure we’re the right supplier for your needs. I want to make this right for you, and I’m happy to offer a full refund* so you can find someone else who fits your needs better.” – This will show you really quick if the customer was just power tripping, or if they actually want out. LOTS of customers will come back with “oh no no no, you know what, the tap dancing will be just fine, thank you.”

              * “Full refund” = whatever makes sense in the situation and to the business: if they’ve already received something, or their order includes stuff that they definitely want to keep, it makes sense that they would need to pay for that. So you might be waiving penalties on canceling the rest of the order, or a minimum purchase requirement, or something else.

        2. Mimi*

          I worked for several employers administering employee benefits and handled a lot of issues involving health insurance. (You think cat owners get cranky when the cat can’t tapdance? It’s nothing compared to rage from someone whose doctor is billing them for services they thought would be paid by an insurance company!) It’s a tightrope you walk between the employee’s issue and the responsibility to the employer. I got a lot of fedback that I was was nice and helpful. As much as possible, I would be empathetic to the customer’s problem – as in “Oh no! your claim hasn’t been paid (yet or at all). Well, let’s look into this.” in my friendliest voice. Next, understand what the customer wants and then research the issue. Much of the time the answer would be simple and the issue easily resolved. If there was something that the customer could do, I would educate them: “Lab services were coded as A when they were actually for B, so it was paid differently. Here’s how you can get it fixed.” or “Yes, that prescription was costly but here’s a way to lower your costs next time.” Coming across as non-adversarial and knowledgeable while cultivating strong working relationships with the insurance company were the keys to my success. I’m retired now but I miss the satsfaction from resolving and issue and makingthe employee, if not happier, then understanding what is going on.

    6. Kenzi Wood*

      DUMP. THEM!

      I’ve been a biz owner for a year and that’s the best advice I’ve ever taken in my business. You’re allowed to “fire” bad clients, especially if they “threaten” you with a bad review.

      Even if you meet all of their expectations, they will STILL never be happy. That’s because they’re a crappy client and they aren’t someone you want to work with.

      And even when they do go public with a bad review (you’re gonna get one eventually, that’s how it is), respond politely and rationally to the comment with reasonable expectations. If the rest of your reviews are 4-5 stars, this random 1-star is going to reflect more on the reviewer than your business.

      Good luck!

      1. CMart*

        Yeah, reading through these replies I think “politely issuing a refund and apologizing about being unable to meet expectations” (aka DUMP THEM) early on is the way to go. They’ll probably be grumpy jerks about it but at least they won’t be righteously indignant that we took their money and wasted their time and then failed to send their kitten to the moon.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This! Be clear about what you can and cannot do for them, and if they really insist that they need someone who can get their kitten riding a tricycle in a week, well, your business is not a good fit for their needs and they should look elsewhere. Try to phrase it as helping them along in their journey toward kitten-on-a-tricycle greatness by getting out of the way and letting them find the person who can help them. (This other, more helpful trainer may not exist, but the key is to make that the unreasonable client’s problem rather than yours. Just because they’re looking for a unicorn does not obligate you to tape a horn to your head and try to gallop around to make them happy. They still won’t be happy and you’ll have burned up a lot of time and energy.)

        Basically, not every potential client is an actual client, and not every current client is a future client. The key is to do well enough that you have enough reasonable clients (new and ongoing) coming in, not to keep every possible person happy.

      3. A Consultant*

        One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was “Never be afraid of turning down work if it’s bad work / a bad client; even if you think you’re desperate for work, it won’t have value for you in the long run.” Now, I’m a business-to-business operation, so the Yelp review thing isn’t an issue to me. But word of mouth is still important.

        So, I’ve tried to get better at assessing at the INTAKE stage if the client has reasonable expectations for what I can do/provide. If they have unreasonable expectations, I’ll first try to mitigate them (i.e., I don’t think tricycles are possible; but we might be able to get to tapdancing. Would that be an ok outcome?). If they still don’t seem to get that, I tell them I think somewhere else will be better for them. I try to avoid getting to the complaining stage by not taking on their work in the first place. I’m not sure how feasible that is with “kitten training”, but it’ll save you a lot of headaches to send them packing before they turn irate after the fact.

        Good luck!

    7. Bananatiel*

      When I’m looking at businesses online I ignore one-star reviews if the owner responds calmly and respectfully. You really don’t have to explain your whole side of the story either, if anything that just makes it worse. If they refunded the customer and they’re still wildly angry, I can tell that was on the customer and not the owner most of the time. A simple “We worked with this customer to try and resolve the issue, refunded their money, and wish them the best finding kitten training elsewhere” says a lot to me. Offsetting those bad reviews with lots of positive helps a lot too.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is true as well!

        Just don’t be the owners who dig their grave so much deeper who respond hotly “This person is a total nincompoop who cannot be trusted!” [AKA don’t be that Amy’s Bakery lady or the weird mechanic’s shop that was right around the corner from my house but wow no I’ll take it to a major dealership and pay that money considering their outrageous responses from their company GM]

        I’ll even gloss over a few bad reviews that aren’t even responded to because most people aren’t relying on reviews alone and have their own ability to see through the nonsense. I’ve seen so many reviews for places I love, that I know are great and have great people who are all “Argh, they wouldn’t let me go into the kitchen and watch them prepare my meal and they refused to serve me on fine china.” and I’m like “Gurl, it’s a bar, yeah they served your corndogs and chicken wings in fry baskets, no you can’t watch them dunk your food in hot grease, sit down and drink another beer please.”

        1. Robbenmel*

          I am still amazed all these years later that an Amy’s Bakery actually existed. If someone had just described such an experience I would have been all, yeah, right, that didn’t happen. But it did, people. It did.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’ve known enough hysterically bad business owners over the years that Amy’s Bakery nonsense wasn’t that much of a shock to the system. She was like a cartoon villain, they do exist but usually not given a big stage like Ramsey gave her.

            I come from an area that was notorious originally for it’s cruddy business and thorny personalities, it made me really anxious as a kid needless to say and why I took forever to really get comfortable calling a customer service line or going into a new business as an adult. Thankfully that tide turned and review sites along with just the uptick in really good competition creamed the bad attitudes.

            It’s usually when you’re in a place where you don’t “have” to be nice, so you just let your stink hang out there and the customers take it or leave it but they’re not going to find another baker in this town, so whadda gonna do, man? [Small towns, hard sigh. Competition is beautiful for an equalizer.]

      2. CMart*

        Luckily (?) we’re a franchise of Kitten Training Co and the corporate arm manages all online responses – probably to keep hothead owners at bay from popping off in response to a negative review, haha. They’ll discuss what happened with us and then leave a very bland “thank you for taking the time to share your experience, all feedback is valuable. We spoke with you about this matter and hope it was resolved to your satisfaction, don’t hesitate to call XXX-XXXX again for anything” message.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Be able to clearly articulate the services that you do NOT offer.

      My friend does contracting work. He does not do high roofs, big plumbing jobs nor furnaces. See how short this is but it gets the point across as to what to expect. I have given friends this short list and they have said, “OH! That is all fine with me, I will call him!” People are great, you can tell them what you can’t/won’t do and they still will be interested in doing business.

      You CAN turn down business. You can say, “I don’t think we are able to provide you with the level of service your setting calls for.”

      You CAN have them sign something that says, “I do understand that my kitten will probably not [or “will not”] ride a trike while balancing a good fish. By signing below I am agreeing and accepting training X, Y and Z and nothing further.

      Never underestimate the power of asking your happy customers to tell a friend or two.

      Work well with people in your arena, this means suppliers, competitors, complimentary businesses. Build a good name in the business community. If you are in a smaller area (rural-ish), these folks will warn you about Blackmailing Barbara or Rumor-mongering Robert. I have seen a community pull together about Nasty Nancy or Entitled Edward, as one by one business owners have told the person to take their business elsewhere. (The community I am talking about is around 30K people.) They warn each other about the behavior. Each customer gets a chance to have good behavior. When the poor behavior becomes apparent, the continued business relationship is ended right there.

      There is also nothing wrong with preemptively recapping your offering before they pay you. “I want to make sure we are on the same page here, we are doing X , Y and Z for little Sheba for $250. Is that satisfactory to you?” This works when you sense the person may be argumentative later. It really dials things back and gives you a foundation that you can refer back to. “Well, Entitled Edward, if you will recall, just before you paid me I went over exactly what it was you were paying for and you said you would be satisfied with that.”

    9. NotMyRealName*

      Be too busy to fit them in. Seriously, I have a list of people that we would only service if every other job were done (which will never happen). Small business is stressful enough. Spend your time and energy on the good people.

    10. Cows go moo*

      Every single business has bad reviews.

      When you get a negative online review, respond calmly and professionally. People understand there is always that angry idiot who whinges over dumb things. Your calm response and other positive reviews will counterbalance the bad ones. Ask happy customers to post a review for your business.

      Also, don’t be afraid to dump crappy customers. “Bob, we heard you on your complaints about X and we’ve done Z to try to address them. It seems like we haven’t been able to resolve your concerns so it seems like a bad fit here. We won’t continue with your project so you can work with someone who’s better matched to your requirements.”

      Don’t let 5% of angry customers take up 95% of your time. I had a customer who demanded an unreasonable refund for months, bullying our customer service staff and dropping by or emailing us to threaten that we lost a “loyal and dedicated champion of your brand.” You know what? That was just fine. I didnt want him buying stuff from us if it meant risking my staff being harrassed repeatedly and losing money from his demands for refund.

    11. Marika*

      In terms of the stress issue, I’m going to suggest something my aunt and uncle (who owned businesses for 45-odd years) always did: get something (a shirt, am apron, a hat, even just a name badge) with the company name/logo on it, and wear it at work. That item NEVER goes home with you — my aunt used to drop stuff off to be washed when it was clothing — and IT’S the object that’s taking the criticism. It’s a symbol, a stand in for the company, and a reminder that they’re not actually mad at ‘you’ the person, they’re mad at ‘you’ the company.

      Yes, you’re both, but it’s not actually ‘personal’, and having something that stays at work, that you literally TAKE OFF AND LEAVE BEHIND can be a really powerful mental trigger for letting go. My uncle is fond of saying ‘running a business is hard enough; I don’t need to carry other people’s s#!t home with me’.

      1. CMart*

        I love this!

        I used to work in the restaurant industry and the act of taking off the apron/uniform shirt was always very freeing. Never would have occurred to me to transfer that to a different kind of work life.

    12. Memyselfandi*

      I think it is important to understand what the individual really wants is to be heard and that the source of their frustration may not be related to your service at all. I am unhappiest with customer service when they spend their time justifying their position. I am happiest when they listen and they maybe ask – what do you suggest we could do to prevent that from happening again? At which point I often recognize that there probably isn’t anything they could do…;)

    13. Old Millenial*

      I recommend you read service excellence is easy as P.I.E.

      It’s healthcare focused but the examples help you think about how routine actions can set you up for failure by shifting the patients, or customer in your case, perspective.

    14. Kotow*

      In my profession (I own a law practice), I handle a lot of divorce and custody matters, which means a combination of people who already come to you devastated and are more likely to come to you with unrealistic expectations (i.e., no, you can’t require that dad have supervised visits if you live a mile apart and there are no problems with dad’s behavior, or no, you don’t want to go to court arguing about how dad lets your child eat at McDonald’s when there are no special dietary needs). A lot of times people come in with an idea of things “should” be because they google, hear things from friends, watch too much t.v. showing highly truncated custody processes, and become extremely upset when they realize the court’s default in many cases is to view the situation in much more mutual terms than either parent thinks is fair (at least in my state, not sure about anywhere else). All this is to say, I have a lot of people who come to me with extremely unrealistic expectations and a lot of time is spent repeating the same things about how it’s unrealistic. Then, when the unrealistic request is shot down by a a judge, they get angry and leave.

      I’ve learned over the years to get a sense of who is most likely to be unrealistic and I’m extremely honest up front that I think they’re going to lose and lose badly. Most times people self-select out and go to a different attorney. I think one of the hardest things in having your own business is learning that it’s okay to turn away business if you know it’s not going to be a productive relationship. Learning to say no from the beginning has been the single most helpful thing in solving those types of issues. Also when the relationship is starting to break down: I tell clients that it’s okay to move on to someone who may be a better fit and I provide referrals. “Better fit” doesn’t necessarily mean a different result, but it may mean someone who the client can speak with more effectively.

      I do have an online presence though and I have negative reviews on there, primarily from people who came in with unrealistic expectations. I’m sure I’ve lost business over it, but in general I’m not hurting for business. I don’t know what actually brings people in; I know some clients have specifically said they like seeing a few negative reviews because it means they know the positive ones are genuine. I think in general the fear of one person ruining your reputation is greater than the reality.

      Hope some of this helps!

    15. Zapthrottle*

      I help small businesses with the marketing and strategic ops and my two top tactics are
      1- Control the narrative. Not in a negative, “No-one-can-talk-about-us” manner but work to have the TRUTH about your company dominate. If you are very, very good and have a happy circle of clients, make sure that is what is out there. Claim your social media spaces, your search engine listings, and get on the top review sites (general ones like Yelp but also industry specific ones like Dealer Rater if you are in automotive). Make sure that you have the right facts and also reviews and commentary that reflect what your business truly accomplishes 99.99% of the time. If you have anyone threaten to harm you online, you will have enough strength and depth of factual information and reviews from multiple customers to show anyone checking you out that it’s the negative review that is unlikely to be reliable.

      2- Have strong communication (see a pattern here?)…i.e. have enough material and content to explain how your business works, menu of services, and explain what customers can expect. Putting this information out there where it is easily accessible helps control lies and misleading information. I had a gym (client) stressing over a scathing review – the person said they “hounded” him to buy a month’s pass when he was only in town for 3 weeks (Christmas Holidays) and he wanted to do day passes. Well, the day passes cost $20 each and would cost him $300 while a 1 month pass was $200. Do the math there … they were saving him money. By having their full price list and a recommendation of memberships based on need (casual, elite athlete, visitor, family, single, etc), they were easily able to show their side of things and flip a negative review into an opportunity to show that they were a decent group.

    16. pony tailed wonder*

      I think for the most part, customers can see when other reviewers are being unfair. I am looking around for a place to have a brunch with friends and there are about 5 or 6 reviews on one place that all say about the same thing – a large group of a dozen people showed up at the place an hour before it closed without a reservation to hold a bridal shower. The restaurant tried to accommodate them and the shower hostess complained that they were not seated immediately, the place had run out of two or three popular items, and felt rushed when they stayed an hour after the place closed. When the shower hostess spoke to the staff to try to get a discount because of the problems, she didn’t get a discount. All of these reviews were posted the next day within minutes of each other, some from accounts that had been created that day. Bad customers give themselves away.

    17. BigRedGum*

      when i see a company respond honestly to a really bad review, i appreciate it. i like it even more when the company gently but firmly puts the bad reviewer in their place. that makes me want to use their services.

    18. i forget the name i usually use*

      You could refuse service (nicely). Like, tell them that your schedule is full, etc. It sounds like you have plenty of business without this person, and they are taking up more than their fair share of your mental energy, to the point where you think they could sink your business! Don’t deal with them then. There are definitely industries where “firing” a nightmare client is a thing!

      1. CMart*

        I was getting more excited by the minute as I continued with the analogy, haha. Maybe if the not-kitten business takes off I can start a genuine kitten tapdancing buiness on the side.

    19. OhBehave*

      There is no disclaimer that will reach these people because their kitty, kid, self is brilliant. You can bet the people they will complain to know they are a PITA.

      If they complain/review on social media, you have the opportunity to respond in public. Kindly, succinctly stating what they already know. These people threaten because they think they have all the power. Do not bow to them. Stick to reasonable concessions and move along. Often they will back down and go to the next unsuspecting business.

      Use social media if it makes sense for your company.
      Ask happy customers for reviews. Sit with them to get sound bites in order to use in marketing.

    20. Small Biz Manager*

      Most of the time you ignore them. In my head I say “Do your worst.” The reality is that