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Should people in public facing roles be sensitive?

(79 Posts)
FedUpParent Tue 19-Mar-19 11:32:24

Title’s vague sorry I didn’t know how to word it.

Basically I’m an autistic adult with other mental health problems, today I was trying to travel alone on a train and missed my connection. I was very upset as my ticket had a specific time on it and said it couldn’t be used for another train (to buy another one would be £30-40).

A staff member approached me in the station as I was crying and abruptly asked what the matter was. I tried to explain that the train drove off as I was at the doors of it and I didn’t have another ticket and I was scared.

He said “well for gods sake you can use that one” I mentioned the exact time on the ticket, he says “it doesn’t matter that it’s for a different train just use it”. He didn’t say it in like a jokey tone but quite snappy (and loud) it appeared like he thought I was wasting his time. I made sure to thank him anyway and he stormed off without a word.

I’m quite self aware (when I calm down) and understand it probably did look ridiculous that I was crying. And maybe if he knew I was autistic he’d have been more understanding. I know some people haven’t got the patience for when someone seems overdramatic but I’ve now been hiding in a toilet for almost an hour wishing I’d never tried to do this sad

Do you think someone who’s job is to interact with such a wide variety of people should be a bit more sensitive or AIBU coz obviously everyone has the right to get annoyed sometimes?

Piffle11 Tue 19-Mar-19 12:33:49

Hopefully he's just having a bad day … it infuriates me that people react in the way he did: just because he understands how the system works, doesn't mean everyone does! Yes I think he should have been calmer. I used to be in a public facing role and I would always make sure that people were never made to feel 'less than' for not knowing how the system worked. This may be his personality: MIL's DH is very much like this. If I have needed help with certain things he can be rude, grumpy, and even occasionally almost aggressive. What pisses me off is that whenever he or MIL want help from me or DH, we're meant to do it with smiles and affection. I don't ask him for help with anything anymore - not worth the aggro. Please don't let this experience put you off. It's not personal - no doubt he would have been an arsehole to anyone who asked the same question.

Piffle11 Tue 19-Mar-19 12:36:40

Also - like in the case of MIL's DH - some people don't seem to know how to be pleasant. This may be his way of coping with being asked for help: as in, you're putting him on the spot and he's uncomfortable with it. His attitude is still not right, though. Maybe I'm overthinking this now!!

bellinisurge Tue 19-Mar-19 12:42:44

I'm in such a role. It's always better to just be polite and helpful. But you cannot expect me to know if you have a mental health condition unless you tell me. While it is stressful for you, it is also stressful for me to deal with someone crying and in distress. Whenever I see that a colleague has had to deal with something difficult or someone in distress, I try to make sure they have a moment to process it or even vent if they have to.

InnerCircle Tue 19-Mar-19 12:43:31

I think you're being unreasonable. I think you're being unreasonable because of your autism but that isn't his "problem".

His job isn't to hold your hand or calm you down.

Hope you're feeling better.

NannyRed Tue 19-Mar-19 12:50:12

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Barrenfieldoffucks Tue 19-Mar-19 12:53:19

Some people are naturally brusque. Sometimes something like he said could be meant in a good natured yet frustrated fashion.

I think he was sensitive in many respects, be approached you and offered help.

Polarbearflavour Tue 19-Mar-19 12:55:14

It’s a shame that not everybody can be empathetic and a little kinder.

I’ve cried on trains a couple of times blush and the train staff have always been lovely to me.

I used to be airline cabin crew and occasionally I would deal with passengers in tears. I would always try to be kind and see if I could help them. I would rather have dealt with an upset passenger than an angry one!

Babykoala1 Tue 19-Mar-19 12:58:26

In that line of work they should have dealt with a distressed person better. May sound dramatic but how does he know you weren't planning on jumping infront of a train and thats why you were there crying?

FriarTuck Tue 19-Mar-19 13:00:16

Sorry but if someone is upset then surely your reaction would be to try and help, even if you think they're being unreasonable / pathetic / inferior to you in every possible way? OP was crying. It doesn't matter that he didn't know she was autistic, she was standing there fucking crying. It's not beyond the wit of man (or woman) to comprehend that she might be struggling a bit and just need a bit of reassurance.
What is it with you lot? The first few posters seem to be trying to knock OP's confidence still further.
OP, yes people should be kinder. Maybe he was having a bad day too, but if not then he's a tosser who needs some customer service training. Don't take it personally.

annikin Tue 19-Mar-19 13:00:48

Disappointed by some responses on here. Yes he did his job, but I suppose it's the difference between doing it, and doing it well. If he did it well, he would of course have managed to be kind as well as give the information. It really doesn't take a lot.

rosinavera Tue 19-Mar-19 13:01:09

Oh for goodness sake, you've had some snappy answers from some other posters on here. Of course he should have been more sensitive - he's in a customer facing role!! Please don't listen to NannyRed - sometimes this forum is soooo nasty!!! It's his job to be polite and helpful and I'm sure if his line manager knew that he'd been snappy with a customer I doubt whether he'd been pleased!! Go and have a cup of tea OP. :-)

ineedaknittedhat Tue 19-Mar-19 13:01:26

Wow, if people think being kind to someone who is obviously distressed is an optional extra then there's no hope really.

I can only think that it's because autism is viewed so negatively and people begrudge autistic people the space they occupy.

Would they treat a blind person in this way?

OhDiddums Tue 19-Mar-19 13:02:07

He definitely could have dealt with you in a more sympathetic manner. Maybe he was having an off day. He sounded very abrupt. But generally the platform staff are there to ensure that trains are dispacted safely and that's their priority.

cariadlet Tue 19-Mar-19 13:07:47

I'm glad the most recent posts are more sympathetic.

Yes, you over-reacted. But that's not your fault.

He most certainly should have been more sympathetic. Dealing with members of the public effectively includes treating them as human beings. He's perfectly entitled to think that you're over reacting and that the solution is obvious. It's fine for him to be exasperated with you. But it is most certainly not ok for him to show it. If aren't capable of being pleasant and understanding then you shouldn't be in a customer facing role.

pinkboa Tue 19-Mar-19 13:10:59


I'm in such a role. And no they shouldn't be "sensitive"...
using your judgement in varying situations is good. Perhaps he was having an off day.

Seeing an adult cry over missing a train without background information, I wouldn't have the patience to deal with that. Probably be just a snappy as on the surface it seems ridiculous.

rosinavera Tue 19-Mar-19 13:12:36

Unbelievable pinkboa - you should get the sack then because that's YOUR JOB!!!!

Polarbearflavour Tue 19-Mar-19 13:13:52

Seeing an adult cry over something that seems small would make me wonder what else was going on. I would definitely try and help them and try to put myself in their shoes.

In interviews for customer facing roles, a question often asked is “what would you do if a customer was visibly upset?” Being brusque and snappy certainly is not the correct answer.

Polarbearflavour Tue 19-Mar-19 13:14:30

I don’t even like people very much but I certainly wouldn’t be mean to a random person crying!

NoCauseRebel Tue 19-Mar-19 13:15:58

There are two issues here.

People in public facing roles need to be polite. Their bad day is not mine or anyone else they have to deal with’s problem. They’re employed to help out the public and they need to do just that.

However, the fact that you are autistic is irrelevant here. People in public facing roles need to be polite regardless of who they are dealing with, and stating that you have autism and MH issues gives the impression that you believe they should be sensitive because of your issues. They just need to be polite regardless.

If being spoken to abruptly has left you crying in the toilets for an hour then you need to explore this for yourself and how you can deal with it in future. Because the reality is that you will come across other people who may be abrupt, and you need to find some mechanisms to be able to deal with them in future.

rosinavera Tue 19-Mar-19 13:16:09

Exactly Polarbearflavour!! I can't believe some of the posters on here. Hopefully they're trolls because I really don't want to believe people really think in this way!!

MiniMum97 Tue 19-Mar-19 13:17:53

Sorry but it's not hard to be polite and show a bit if kindness to someone in distress; you shouldn't work in a role working with people if you can't manage this. Get a job where you don't have to talk to the public.

I am saying this as someone that has done many customer service jobs and currently works with people who are often distressed. Politeness and basic kindness is the minimum expectation on anyone surely?

ineedaknittedhat Tue 19-Mar-19 13:20:14

Autistic people can't just switch their reactions off. If they could, they wouldn't be autistic.

ineedaknittedhat Tue 19-Mar-19 13:22:05

The above video is by the National Autistic Society and is called 'Diverted'.

FriarTuck Tue 19-Mar-19 13:22:23

Seeing an adult cry over missing a train without background information, I wouldn't have the patience to deal with that. Probably be just a snappy as on the surface it seems ridiculous.
Well aren't you just lovely. angry

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