Monday, August 16, 2010

A Blow for Civility

Special Guest Blogger Rosanne Thomas, certified etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc., continues the conversation about the recent Jet Blue incident and what it means for civility.

In yesterday's New York Times, Benedict Carey wrote of Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant whose dramatic exit from a plane after an encounter with a passenger has elevated him to folk hero status. The veracity of Mr. Slater's account is now in question after several other passengers offered different views of what actually transpired.

But whether the messenger is ultimately to be believed, light has been shone on the very real challenges faced by those who deal with the public every day, and perhaps what happened is a good thing. Or perhaps it isn't.

Time will tell if Mr. Slater's claims have merit. If they do not, time will also tell whether what he did for the "working man" was more harmful than helpful, a potential ironic blow to customer service workers who deserve a credible advocate.

In the meantime, what we know for sure is that Mr. Slater struck no "blow for civility" as Mr. Carey asserts. Answering alleged rudeness with rudeness, and in this case involving an entire plane of innocent passengers, lowers the bar of respectful discourse across the board. These are undoubtedly stressful times, yet nothing can be gained by lauding such behavior. Civility, unfortunately, was not on board that day.


Anonymous said...

I just don't get what makes this guy any kind of "hero" fact this whole thing is mystifying...why the attention, all the media hype, who cares. Let the guy crawl back into his hole and let the rest of us get back to our whacky, challenging, funny, painful, real lives!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with this column. Unless you've worked in the trenches of the "Hospitality Industry" I really feel you can't have an opinion either way. It is very often the case you have customers who feel they can be rude to you and get away with it because to stick up for yourself, in most cases, means losing your job. In Mr. Slater's case, he has the unfortunate position of being trapped in a steel tube with customers for hour on end. What do you think that does to a person over time? I applaud Mr. Slater! And, shame on the other passengers who witnessed a fellow passenger mistreating Mr. Slate and uttered not a word in his defense. Never judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes.