Don’t even think of changing that receptionist who seemed to relish disconnecting you the last five times you called her organization. She evolved into that position and her employers have fostered it.
As a believer in G-d Who created all humankind, I only entertain Charles Darwin’s Evolution of Man theory for the great poster image of the so-called evolving apes that appear to improve from the end of the line on the left to the beginning of the line toward the right. Who knew Darwin was expressing his politics masked as scientific theory? The apes of the left are smaller and more bent over, while the apes of the right are larger with upright posture. I may disagree with Darwin, but I sure do love that monkey poster! I’ve even referred to it in public speaking.
Even old Charlie Darwin and his simian conga line would admonish you, explaining that many organizations have just such a petty tyrant who typically is a lower-compensated, long term employee, perhaps over three or four decades, and who has an overblown sense of job security no matter whom she inconveniences or offends through express rudeness or simple passive aggression through purposefully accidental disconnection. True to the Darwinian monkey mentality, she has adapted to her environment that sees her not just answering a phone, but answering to every person in the joint, not just the folks who phone and not just the Top Banana.
The Petty Tyrant (PT) most likely is following other poster wisdom, such as the one that says “Think big,” while depicting a tiny, sleeping mouse that appears to be dreaming of vanquishing a menacing cat. The PT is treated—or believes she is treated—as one of the earliest hunching little apes on the left of Darwin’s continuum. Yet, she aspires to be one of the bigger, upright apes—maybe even Ape Number 1— toward the right. It’s nothing personal toward you; the PT is manifesting her ape aspiration.
How to handle the PT? Two words—End game. You just want to get through to whomever it is you really want to reach, every time you call. You don’t need the PT to like you or care that you don’t have the time to wait around and “call back later.” The PT only knows what she’s been instructed to do, and that’s all she intends to do no matter how frustrated it makes you.
Avoid effusive flattery. The PT is rigid and slightly sadistic, not stupid; she can see right through what she believes is insincere buttering up.
Be thankful and express appreciation for specific examples of goodness. “It was so helpful that you connected me with [name] this morning—it made a big difference in our day. I made sure to mention it to [name of Top or Upper Banana]” That gives the PT the sense that you can and will communicate with the PT’s higher-ups without the threat of going to her boss if she does you wrong. Just much nicer to frame it in the positive.
Ellen Fischer ais a contributing writer to jlife magazine.