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The Company We Keep

Gripes, bad warrenties, defective merchandise, broken promises, miss-management, relationships gone sour... It's a complex world out there.  No matter how simple I make my life, I have to depend on others.  Are there simple guidelines for resolving problems with others?

Ask yourself, are you dealing with an authority figure or an expert? If not, you are talking to the wrong person.  An authority figure has the power to make necessary changes.  They don't have to be an expert.  An expert has specialized knowledge which authority figures draw on. Sometimes they are one and the same person.  Frequently they are not. How do we  know who to trust?  Here are a few critical questions to ask before giving informed consent.

Do they treat people like a rule book?
I want information, not hoops to jump through. Am I talking to a contact person who has the authority to make changes as well as someone who has expert knowledge? I need to know this before I pay money, select a service, or sign on the dotted line.  How accessible is this person?

Are they intent on explaining why they are right?

Being confrontrive or sucking up distracts from getting a problem resolved.  Experts and authority figures who act threatened  become more problems instead of solutions. Effective experts relay information in the simplest way which gets the job done.  Authority figures who ask questions instead of acting defensive, make things happen.  Who are the experts the authority figure listens to and connects with?  This tells a lot about how they, themselves, handle their own problems.

Do they do things without explanation beforehand? 
Do you have to pry things out of them? Do they miss appointments, not follow through? This makes people have to second guess and rely on the rumor mill. Working through any joint venture means connecting often enough to make sure resources are in place and scheduled activities are taking place. 

When you are put in a position where you can't avoid a deadhead,  it's time to move up the power chain until you find someone who will treat you responsibly.  When resolving complaints: 

1. Have warrenty information or promises outlined, dates, times, places and who was involved, written down.
2. Have the issue written down in an "expert" easy to understand manner.  It should be no longer than one paragraph.
3. State the problem and what you expect to happen to resolve it.  Too often, people vent, then are upset that nothing happens.
4. Give the other party time to respond. Venting may express your anger but will also get your back up as well as the person you are talking with. Use anger as a last resort.  Be firm, repeat what you want, without losing control.
5. Do not listen to why they're right or what hoops you have to jump through. Ask repeatedly for the authority figure who can change things or the expert who can get the information you need. If they don't know who that is, ask for their boss.
6. If everyone stonewalls, it's time to sick an outside authority figure on them. Don't settle for call backs or excuses. Short of calling your lawyer, inform them you will need to contact the better business bureau, post gripes and send letters to sites of their advertisers, suppliers and competitors. 

Simple living doesn't mean giving up freedom of choice to an ultimate authority.  Nor does it mean having to do everything yourself.  It does mean, making those you interact with accountable, while having the 'time' of your life.

Human enterprises are living, breathing hero's or monsters to employees and customers, depending on what management feeds them. In today's, fast paced world, the company that does not nurture open attitudes towards progressive change, not only loses valuable employee resources to rivals.  The institution, business or expert that does not lead responsibly may soon have no company to keep, at all!