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Ask Lisi: Role play could help receptionist refine her people skills

Front-of-house person is a good worker who just needs help to be more congenial both in person and on the phone
Advice columnist Lisi Tesher.

Dear Lisi: I work in an environment where we’re all independent, but work under the same roof. We have a boss who’s also the office manager. And we have a front of house/receptionist person.

She’s the problem. She has terrible people skills and an off-putting bedside manner. I keep my head down and do my job. My clients are my clients, but many have complained to me about this woman. I’ve mentioned it to my boss, and she knows. But she doesn’t know what to say or do to help her.

She’s a nice person and a good worker. None of us want her fired. We just want her to be softer, kinder, more congenial and more personable both in person and on the phone.

How can we help our boss help her?

Poor first impression

I really appreciate that you all want to help her as opposed to finding someone else. Depending on her last job, personableness may not have been an asset or an issue.

In order to keep it as professional as possible, I suggest the boss/manager ask her to come in early, or stay late one day. Then do some role play. You want to keep it to an in-office issue so she doesn’t feel that her personality is being targeted. Truth is, you don’t know what she’s like with her friends. She may be very outgoing but shy at work.

Using role play, show her how you’d like her to respond on the phone and to clients when they walk in. Practice a few times. Then watch her and make constructive suggestions. Hopefully she just needs this guidance and push.

FEEDBACK regarding the pesky Pomeranian (Dec. 21):

Reader – “The girlfriend’s best friend comes to the apartment. She is loud, obnoxious and brings her yappy miniature Pomeranian that jumps on everything, chews everything and pees on their house plant.

“As a solution, you suggested they say that the landlord has told him that the dog can’t visit.

“I would have suggested that you tell all of the roommates to get together when this obnoxious person is visiting and together, advise her that they don’t appreciate her bringing the dog. They should be honest and learn a lesson how to become an adult, and be truthful in all of their relationships. People should learn how to face their problems head-on in an honest and diplomatic fashion. Otherwise, these young people will not learn any life lessons going forward.”

Lisi – By nature, I myself do not shy away from confrontation. But it’s not always the best method. Having all the roommates and this woman’s friend gang up on her doesn’t sound like a very nice way to say the dog is no longer welcome.

Yes, they could just tell her that they don’t want her dog around, but someone’s going to have to be the Bad Guy in that scenario.

My suggestion was not fully truthful, you are correct, but it was soft, non-negotiable and not personal.

FEEDBACK regarding the woman dealing with a dying mother-in-law (Dec. 29):

Reader – “I always recommend that people take the “high road.” Never stoop to their level. Your conscience will be clear.

“But there is potentially another issue about to occur. Narcissistic implies entitled, from my personal experience with my narcissistic ex. I would expect a battle regarding the will. I suggest seeking legal support and assistance now.

“I expect the sister-in-law’s family to present arguments from their perspective, to the point of outright lying. Make sure the sister-in-law doesn’t have access to her mother’s finances before the will has been read. Prepare for a legal battle over whatever inheritance there may be.”

FEEDBACK regarding the feedback (Dec. 28) to the column about the widower with a new relationship (Nov. 25):

Reader – “I cannot say with 100 per cent certainty that the daughter didn’t care for or feed him after his wife died. However, based on decades of experience with similar situations in our family and social circles, I feel confident that I’m correct.

“The daughter is rude, and so are her children. This is a clear indication that she is selfish and uncaring toward her father’s situation.”

Lisi – I’m sorry that you have had decades of experience with situations like this in your family and amongst your friends. But honestly, I think you’re projecting. Neither you nor I should bet the farm on anything here. There’s just too little information.

I suggest holding back on your harsh judgments before you know all the facts. And since we never will, better to just not judge. It’s not helpful.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Toronto Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected] or [email protected]