Employers love to put nice people in customer service positions. Especially if they’re authentically nice people—I’m talking about the kind it’s impossible to get mad at because they’re just naturally so dang polite and pleasant. It’s obvious they genuinely want to solve everyone’s problems, and they’re working really hard to make it happen.
This setup makes sense (put nice employees in front of clients = a no-brainer) and works out well for all involved—except you, the sweetheart professional.
For you, the arrangement is stressful and trying and leads to major job dissatisfaction. Here’s why:
Nice people are sensitive
Customers are loud, abrasive and impatient. They’re rude. There are exceptions, of course, but anyone who’s worked even one day in a client-facing position knows that people coming to customer service are usually upset. And for some reason, many clients find it acceptable to take their frustrations out on you, the well-meaning customer service employee, as if you’re intentionally out to make their experiences with your company crappy.
The main problem with this is that you internalize the insults and absurd accusations and take it all personally. As a truly nice individual, you absorb this non-personal angry venting and blame yourself for the issue. The more customers you work with, the worse you feel.
Nice people are easily flustered
All you want to do as a nice person is make the client happy. That’s a difficult enough endeavor on its own, but when several customers are barking commands at once, your people-pleasing brain starts smoking. All these clients need help, and most of them are mean about it, and you so desperately want to take care of all of them immediately—but the high level of negative input impairs your ability to problem-solve.
And so you bounce around from complaint to complaint, attempting to put out each fire but getting pulled away before it’s out by a larger one—and ultimately, you hardly accomplish anything.
At the end of the day, you reflect on all the issues you weren’t able to resolve and doubt your capabilities as a professional.
Nice introverts have it even worse
Extroverted people get their strength from speaking with others. Chatting and interacting excites and enlivens them. Introverts, on the other hand, find too much verbal communication tiring. It leaves them mentally exhausted, and they need some alone time to recharge.
It makes sense, then, that if you’re an introverted employee in a customer service position—where interacting with other people is the name of the game—you’re at an increased disadvantage. Not only is your “niceness” working against you, but you’re also operating in an environment that depletes you of energy.
A nice customer service employee leaves work feeling offended and doubtful; you, the nice introverted customer service employee, leave work feeling offended, doubtful and drained.
The exception: when customers are awesome
There are situations in which darling you working in customer service is a beautiful scenario for all parties. For example, let’s imagine you work for a charity, and your clients are donors or volunteers. Or maybe you’re employed by a Hawaiian resort, where your customers are vacationers.
If the clients are participating in a feel-good activity, or are arriving at the scene already in a fantastic mood, it’s likely those conversations are going to go swimmingly. That’s a win-win-win for the customer, the employer and you.
Bottom line: know yourself well and navigate the professional world accordingly.
And if you’re honestly nice, stay far, far away from most customer service roles.
Cassie Nolan is the blogger behind Alternative Badassery, “A creative guide to being good at life,” where she covers career, writing and health topics. She also regularly disseminates awesome on Facebook and Twitter.