On Sunday I drove my in-laws down to Columbus for Ohio State’s graduation. Upon arriving at the Schottenstein Center, stopped to ask a traffic-directing cop if I could turn in for disabled parking. He asked to see the handicapped placard, which my father-in-law showed him. The cop followed with the following, in the most patronizing and condescending voice possible: “Do you see that little hole at the top? That’s so you can hang it from your mirror so I can see it and don’t have to ask you for it.” That’s 25 more words than it would have taken him to simply say, “Thank you sir. Turn here.”
There is a lesson to be learned from this little parable. It often takes a lot more effort to be an ass than it does to be nice. The next time you feel bothered by something an innocently-intentioned employee says or does, think of this story. And then think of which response will more likely result in resentment and division, emotions that lead employees to sue or form unions. And then rethink your response.