Do you chew gum? If you do, here are a few things to consider. If you don’t, you’ve likely noticed what I’m about to describe.
This really chews me up.
We’re in a department store looking at furniture. We’re prepared to spend hundreds of dollars for the right piece. Nearby, two employees are chatting with each other, oblivious to the fact that we need assistance. We approach them to ask a question about the merchandise.
Both turn to us, chewing gum. During their laconic responses, the chewing continues. Chewing gum while at work and dealing with clients? You’re kidding me, right?
We left the store without making a purchase.
Watch the following video or keep reading for more (If you want to watch with subtitles and they don’t show up, click the “YouTube” logo and watch on that channel).
How often has this happened to you?
Before a customer service representative opens his mouth to answer you, he or she is chewing away. I don’t mean chewing the fat (although that’s bad enough)–I’m talking about smacking gum as a cow chews cud.
Now, it’s true that some people may consider gum-chewing as no big deal and acceptable behaviour for customer service reps. I’m not one of those people. In most target audiences, there’s a large enough portion of people that would find this action inappropriate and that’s why I recommend against it.
Think about it for a moment. What terms have you heard or used that describe gum-chewers? Your actions show the world clues about you and your personality. They may or may not be accurate. I’ve heard people describe gum-chewers as:
- not knowledgeable
- sloppy, messy
- having no pride in themselves or their company
- not representing their organization well, unprofessional
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these perceptions are accurate. Not at all. These gum-chewers may be very competent in what they do. Heck, they might be head and shoulders above others in what they know. There may be no one else who knows the products and services inside out as they do.
Here’s the challenge: You may be undermining your and your organization’s image by gum-chewing.
Why risk a bad impression? Is a stick of gum worth it?
If you’re a gum chewer, try an alternative. Sip water, suck a mint. Do something that will not detract from your professional appearance, and possibly from your effectiveness.
Even if you’re not a salesperson, a customer rep, or you don’t deal with external clients, be aware that your colleagues, your boss, and your employees are also “clients” in a sense. They are all forming impressions of you based on your behaviors and the image you project.
The problem is when you are interacting with clients, colleagues, employees, and your boss, you represent not just yourself — you represent your organization’s brand. Any action or behaviour, gum-smacking or otherwise, that doesn’t reflect the values of your organization are inappropriate.
You may be chewing gum out of habit or nerves. Break that habit by substituting a more appropriate action, perhaps sipping water, for example. If it is your nerves that are prompting you to chew away, learn how to calm yourself with self-talk, increased confidence, and practice.
I’m not saying to never chew gum. Most of us enjoy it every now and then. I’m saying that there is a time and a place where doing so is completely fine. The workplace is neither.
Chew on that for a while.
PS: Do you agree? Ever have a similar incident? Feel free to share it in the comments below. SHARE and invite your colleagues to sign up at www.MarionSpeaks.com to receive their own MarionSpeaks blog articles.
©2022 Marion Grobb Finkelstein (MarionSpeaks)
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”
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