If a visitor to your office becomes irate, you must do all you can to maintain good will. One of the best ways to avoid becoming defensive is to remember that unless you are the one whose actions created the problem, the visitor’s remarks are not about you. Be attentive; listen carefully until the visitor has finished talking. The problem may not appear significant to you, but to the visitor it is important; otherwise, he or she would not be upset. Remain noncommittal; do not tell the visitor you believe he or she has a right to be angry. Do not argue, emphasize the problem, or make caustic remarks, even though you may believe the visitor is wrong.
After you have listened to what the visitor has to say, you may know how the problem can be resolved. For example, you may suggest that the person talk with your supervisor or someone else, leave a message, or take some other action. If you know what the person simply wanted to express his or her views, you can usually placate the person by sincerely asking “What would you like for me to do?” In many instances, the visitor will respond with “Nothing this time, but…”
Occasionally, visitors may be inquisitive and ask personal questions. You may indicate you don’t know the answer, give a vague answer, counter with a question, or suggest that the questions be asked during the meeting with the executive or in some other department.
Some of the types of questions that may be asked and some possible responses are given in the following examples:
Question: “How many units (of some product) did you sell last month?”
Answers: “I have not seen the sales figures for April.”
Question: “Isn’t your company planning to lay off several employees?”
Answer: “Mr. O’Hern hasn’t discussed any reduction with me.”
The previous responses are not particularly subtle and even though the questions should not have been asked, the visitor may be offended or embarrassed. Thus, as suggested earlier in the chapter, you should continue with your work and not provide the opportunity for questions of these types to be asked.