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  • James Walton

Shooting the Messenger

In Oregon, where I live, the legislature recently enacted a single-use plastic bag ban in grocery stores. Starting January 1, we all have to pay $0.05 for each bag we use, or simply bring our own.


Decades of ingrained behavior in the grocery store was upended overnight.


I went through the checkout line recently and asked the cashier how it was going with the new bag law.


She sighed heavily and told stories of how customers have reached across the counter to shake their fist in her face, claiming a god-given right as an American to a free plastic bag. The anger directed towards her was palpable in the retelling.


When you encounter something frustrating in your professional life, ask yourself:

  • Is the person in front of me responsible for the pain I'm experiencing? The vast majority of cases, the customer service rep, the front desk attendant, the service technician is simply the messenger. Don't shoot the messenger.

  • Am I responding the way I'd like to be treated? The Golden Rule is an effective life principle, and especially here it'll keep you from acting unprofessionally.

Indignation and righteous anger has its place. Just make sure it's directed towards the person who caused your problem and who can solve it.