The Worker / Employer Relationship

Lyle Burkhead (
Sun, 10 Nov 1996 17:28:14 -0500 (EST)

Ira Brodsky writes,

> Regarding the post office, what you are really saying is that if you
> only request routine services, but act all the while as if they are
> performing valorous deeds, they will respond positively -- in
> customary slow motion.

No. If I go to up to a window at the post office, and say "Hi, I need to
send this package first class," the clerk weighs the package, takes
my money, puts the sticker on the package, and wishes me a good day,
just like the clerks at UPS offices.

As far as I recall, there has been only one exception to this. At the
on-campus post office at Stanford, they had some rude clerks;
one in particular was notoriously surly. On the other hand there were
some surly people in private businesses in Palo Alto in those days,
too. And since then I have run into some UPS clerks who were
pretty abrupt.

Since last night I have been trying to remember if I have ever had any
experience with the federal government. Very little. In high school
I went to a summer course for gifted math students, sponsored by NSF.
Years later, I got an evaluation form in the mail, asking about whether
the course had been useful to me. The form had a threat attached:
either fill out this form, or you will never get any funding from NSF.
As it turned out, I have never applied for an NSF grant, so I don't know
if they were bluffing. They were certainly rude. (I think I filled out
the form anyway, since the course was a very positive experience and
I wanted them to continue offering such courses.)

For every example of rudeness by government employees, I can
think of a dozen examples of rudeness by employees (or owners) of
businesses, including small businesses.

What I am "really saying" is
1. If you have NEVER been treated like a human being, then you are
bringing this on yourself. If you treat other people like human beings,
they will usually reciprocate.
2. You are trying to make your perceptions fit your ideology. I am just
trying to remember what has happened to me, and in my experience
rudeness has been a random phenomenon -- it is no more common
among government employees than anywhere else.