First Slide

Feed me Seymour. No seriously feed me.

It had been approaching an hour since the five of us sat at the table and placed our food and drink order at a local restaurant/entertainment venue. Our waitress’s name wasn’t Seymour, it was Brittney or Becky or something of the sort. She was nice enough and accommodated my request for extra, extra pickles. Our order was simple and straightforward. The kids were itching to go play the overpriced yet captivating arcade games. Even the adults were getting antsy. Mike K. (ETE Reman technician and good friend of mine) was regressing to the point that he was teaching the kids how to make spitballs. At the one hour and seventeen minute mark a supervisor approaches the table and informs us that our food is on the way out, however one of the entrees is unavailable and we will need to choose another option. Had it had been my order I would have simply passed on the meal and went to play a ridiculous amount of Skee-ball. Unfortunately, it was my eight year old ant summoner that was being told that there was no fish and chips for him. Thankfully he didn’t feel the urge to bellow his wicked screech and simply ordered chicken tenders.  

The manager delivered the lukewarm tenders to the table with a promise to comp the meal and the game card. I didn’t complain that my burger was more like a hockey puck than the medium rare deliciousness that I ordered. I didn’t fret about the missing pickles. I accepted what was offered, we paid the bill and went to go collect the highly coveted game tickets. 

I could have demanded more. I am not that kind of customer though, but some are. In the service industry I have encountered customers as demanding as Audrey II and I’d bet you have too. “Feed me Seymour, feed me all night long. Cause if you feed me, Seymour….”

Grant me a discount, cause if you do I’ll buy from you. Provide me with additional coverage, cause if you don’t I’ll blast you on a Google review. Bestow onto me everything above and beyond your normal business practices, cause if you won’t I’ll never do business with you again. 

How should we react when a customer threatens us? Do we cave to protect the business’s good name? Stand our ground, and refuse to let the customer dictate how we react in sticky situations? Unfortunately, it’s not black and white. You must ask yourself what cost is associated with saying yes. Or no.

When I have one of our reps reach out to me for guidance on a customer concession here’s a few of the questions I ask myself: 

  1. Is being right more important than doing what’s right?: If the policies that govern what can be done for an upset customer contradict your company’s core values then DO what is right. Do not base your decision on a piece of paper. Is being right worth losing a customer? Disclaimer: Move it up the chain of command if your position does not allow you the discretion. 
  2. W.W.S.D.: What would Sari do, rather than what would Seymour do? What would I expect from a company if I was in the customer’s shoes? Would I cause a scene? Would I actually write an online review, or would I tuck my tail and walk away? I surely wouldn’t let a pushy, ungrateful customer take the life out of me.  
  3. Is it worth it?: While we can’t allow our customers to bleed us dry, we have to take into consideration the benefits and costs associated with the decision. If we say no, do we risk losing a large customer and the profits that come along with them? If we say yes, do we set a precedent of being a pushover? It’s important to look at the bigger picture and not just the situation at hand.   
  4. Does it feel good?: Sure, poking your finger to feed an alien plant hurts a bit. So does giving more than you should to a customer that is trying to drain you. When making concessions to a customer keep a gauge on how it feels. If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, or that they are making excessive demands, shut it down. Be respectful and tell them what you can do. Not what you can’t do.  

When you have a giant Audrey II on the phone or in your face it’s ok to give a little if the payoff is worth it. Keep in control of the conversation, don’t get taken advantage of and evaluate the validity of potential empty threats. 

And remember, if all else fails there’s always Seymour’s way out.

It’s that time of year in Wisconsin when you can feel Spring weather approaching. It’s still a bit chilly and the ground is wet. The robins are snatching up worms to take back to their nests. Yesterday my son, myself and all three cats watched as mama bird picked out the best slimy delicacies to return home with. This morning the road was just as damp, yet there were no birds and no worms. My son says to me, “Where are all the worms today?” Because I don’t know, and I don’t have a good answer I tell him to make up a worm call and see if it works. Of course what comes out of his mouth can only be described as an extremely loud shriek that had more chance of attracting the turkey vulture that was soaring overhead than the worms he sought. No worms surfaced as expected, yet instead of being disappointed he tells me that worms don’t have ears so they can’t hear anyways. Thankfully the bus showed up right on time. 

As I trekked down the slippery hill it occurred to me that his failed attempt at worm communication wasn’t destined to fail. He just chose the wrong method. I don’t have a solution for him and I’m not going to search the web to find out how to summon worms. I am clearly not a worm expert. However, I am well versed in human communication. Here we will take a look at the forms of communication that are viewed as negative. 

Negative Communication

The Passive Communicator

Your boss tells you that you need to stay an extra hour to catch up. You don’t want to stay late because you had plans to fix your car after work. You have to replace your radiator and have planned on getting it done this evening. Instead of telling your boss that you can’t stay late today, you change your plans and move the repair day to tomorrow. 

A passive communicator will avoid conflict, lack confidence, speak quietly, seek approval and fail to express their own needs. Often they remain silent in meetings and appear easy going and shy. 

How to manage passive communicators:

  1. Make them feel safe: Create a safe place for people to express themselves without judgment. Remove the fear of articulation by ensuring that any employee, especially the passive communicator will not face negative consequences for voicing their opinions. 
  2. One-on-one: Passive communicators often feel more comfortable when in a private setting. Provide the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in smaller groups. 
  3. Allow for alternate modes of communication: Follow up with an email or a message if able. Make sure that you are getting the entire team’s input and not just the vocal ones. 


The Aggressive Communicator

Your teammate sold the wrong part for the application. The company has now lost money on freight costs, has an upset customer and product that is in limbo while it awaits return. You approach yelling at the teammate, “You idiot! What is your problem! Now I have to fix your mistake! Can’t you do anything right?”

An aggressive communicator will disregard the thoughts and feelings of others. They are generally seen as intimidating, speak loudly, and will personally attack or name call when trying to be heard. They will be persistent and dominate the conversation.

How to manage aggressive communicators:

  1. Set clear boundaries: Enforce the rules of engagement during meetings. Do not allow for the aggressor to interrupt others. Call them out on the negative behavior at the onset. 
  2. Provide tools: Acknowledge and discuss with the aggressive communicator how their actions affect the rest of the team. They may be unaware of the impact or be oblivious that they are communicating aggressively. 
  3. Record and replay: Whether it be in a meeting or on a recording call with the customer provide the aggressor the opportunity to hear themselves. Often a cringe worthy moment may seem like nothing to the person speaking until they are able to hear it from another’s perspective. 


The Passive-Aggressive Communicator

Your co-worker has fallen behind and asks for help with the workload. “{Sigh} Of course I will help, that’s what I do best, you can’t help it that you’re not as efficient as me.” After helping the co-worker you wander three cubicles over and tell another work mate just how frustrated you are and that the other person must be stupid. 

Passive-aggressive communicators will seem outgoing, helpful and friendly. It is common that their tone of voice will not match their words. Misalignment is also evident in their body language and facial expressions. 

How to manage Passive-aggressive communicators: 

  1. Point them in the right direction: If you are on the receiving side of the venting session, redirect the person back to the involved party. “Have you spoken to them about it?” Encourage the person to address the issue directly with the other. 
  2. Stay cool: The passive aggressive communicator is likely trying to push your buttons. If you give into the aggressiveness they become the victim and will flaunt it far and wide. Do not express the anger that they are unable to express. 
  3. Address the situation: Use “I” statements. “I don’t like it when I ask for your help and you discuss it with others after. If you do not want to help then please just say no.” The passive-aggressive communicator will feel attacked and shut down if you address the issue as if it is a fault of theirs. Keep the walls down but explain how it affects you or the team. 

While the above communication styles are not ideal, they are better than no communication at all. I suggest that you keep your door open and continue to grow with and lead your teams to become confident, effective communicators. 

I suppose tomorrow I will suggest a more assertive communication style to beckon the worms to the surface rather than the torturous howl. 


Each time we engage in a culture fit interview the question gets asked, “Well now that we know a lot about you, what questions do you have for us”? Often, the candidate asks us in one way or another what our favorite part about working for ETE is. While I have many reasons, my answer is always, “I am allowed to be me.” Sure I have to be a little less myself sometimes, I know how to put on my professional pants, but I’m still all me, just a temporarily modified me. I am quirky, loud, slightly unconventional and maybe even a tad bit bonkers. Not only is all that accepted, it’s embraced. I am Sari, and this is who Sari is. 

We foster an environment that promotes self expression and we do not judge a person for who they are. You can be quiet, you can be funny, you can even be a smidge odd. But as long as you live by and believe in our core values and our culture, you are one of us. 

If you toured the maze of cubes taking up the second floor of our building it is likely that you feel like you already knew some of our people simply based on the items that adorn their walls and shelves. Seth, he’s a golf guy, the mini putting green gives him away. Andy digs drift racing, as is apparent from the rows and rows of badges. Ashley and her ducks, there’s nothing more to say about that, it’s obvious. And me, my space is a mixture of my kids, Disney and a giant Christmas pig I haven’t had the heart to put away yet. It generally looks like a tornado tore through it and dropped a house on a wicked old witch. I was hoping the munchkins would come out, until I realized I am the munchkin. Suppose I should step up my singing game. 

I have suffered through jobs where I had to walk the walk and talk the talk. My lines might as well have been scripted. I was told how to sit, and even how to sneeze. Let me make it clear that I have no issue playing by the rules. My problem lies when I am forced to be fake.    Our people need to be able to express themselves and be accepted for who they are – especially if we expect them to feel fulfilled, have longevity and become one with our culture. 

What can you do to encourage self-expression in your workplace? Here’s how we do it:

  1. Create a safe place for expression: Don’t knock what you haven’t tried. I could make fun of Seth for being a golf fanatic. He probably wouldn’t put away the putter but my opinion could have a negative effect on our working relationship. Let your people sing out loud if that’s what makes them them. 
  2. Be Exclusively Inclusive: Allow experiences for people with common interests. If there is a vegan club, let there be a meat club. Cheese Club. Mmmmm Pickle Club. By allowing our team members to engage with others with the same palette, they have a collective way to express their likes and build relationships. And just because Eric doesnt love pickles doesn’t mean he can’t join the group, he just can’t judge us.  
  3. Be a No Judgement Zone: You don’t like tattoos, don’t look. You don’t like buckets of candy, don’t eat it. You don’t agree that a Christmas pig is still on display in February, stay out of my cube. Allow people the right to be themselves and express it without demeaning them in front of or behind them. 

ETE is one team made up of hundreds of people. We have had different experiences. Lived different lives. Believe in and practice different things. But we are all ETE and that’s what makes us one.