Creative commentary plus crafty composition

A couple of interesting juxtapositions this time of year involve, on the one hand the desire to be gracious in communicating holiday season greetings, and on the other the desire not to have to ‘turn the other cheek’ to people who have really annoyed or disappointed us.

This is a tricky situation for many in business. There are times where the benefit of dealing with a PITA (Pain in the ___) client, supplier, etc., means having to hold one’s nose and treat that party as though they were not a pain to deal with, at least until the ‘enough’ meter is reached.

When I was a financial consultant, this was invariably an issue those of us in the field had to face. Indeed, there were times when consultants would trade, or even just give away, certain clients they didn’t like, even if otherwise profitable. I can recall cases of somewhat dreading contact from certain clients, especially with specific issues like Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), wherein it was often difficulties with processing withdrawals which accentuated the PITA factor, the problem caused by third party issues (with the only recourse after-the-fact until resolved).

Of course, from the corporate perspective client changes of servicing were to be handled with professionalism – however, whatever precipitated the situation could make keeping a stiff upper lip challenging. This could be exacerbated by the odd occasion where another consultant would have their feathers ruffled, the cue for another tap dancing episode.

During the holiday season one is supposed to make an extra effort to ‘make nice’. Hopefully, any response will be one of reciprocation, or at least appreciation. Sometimes this is overt. Sometimes it is turned around, unexpectedly, catching one off-guard.

I can still recall, uncomfortably, an instance several years ago, which was the epitome of a not nice year-end experience. I was meeting with a friend socially, on December 30th, late in the afternoon. At one point I checked my voice mail, discovering a message from a very unhappy client (already in the PITA category) concerning a mistake that had been made in a retirement income payment. This was due to a head office screw-up, but of course I paid the verbal price. (Ironically, when later on I left the business he gave me a nice parting gift.)

There was seldom time in this, or frankly in just about any serious, service career, when you could let your guard down. One suspects that, with the all-intrusiveness of social media nowadays, such vulnerability has not improved, and the time-frame for resolving is likely even less.

Thus, it becomes easy to understand how the temptation is there with certain business contacts to slip in an underlying message in otherwise happy, seasonal blandishment. There would seem to be at least two manipulatable approaches:

  • Hide the message in otherwise appropriate language: such as, “Here’s wishing you and yours the best of the holiday feasts with family and friends, may you be on the menu”
  • Use the double entendre, especially with those likely to only pick up the overt one: such as, “I’m checking my Christmas bulbs to see those which light; wish you could see!”

O.K., perhaps the wording can be tinkered with, but you get the idea.


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