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Thread: Personal insults from residents

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Personal insults from residents

    I am used to angry phone calls from residents, often questioning my personal integrity. As long as it sticks to that level I can handle it - although the integrity part can get to me a bit.

    Today I had a new one. A resident called me up to rant and rave at me, assuming I was behind a developer's plans in his neighborhood. As he wound down, he then made a comment about my personal appearance. Nothing too nasty but certainly off-topic, to say the least. He then hung up, fortunately, before I really lost my temper at him. It was about something really minor in the grand scheme of things, but really seemed out of the realm of appropriateness.

    Has anyone else had to deal with this sort of non-work-related comment from a disgruntled person? Its new to me.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Personal insults are absolutely unacceptable. The closest thing I've had to deal with are angry applicants referring to me as "young man", which, while not an insult per se, is still demeaning as I'm a professional going on 30, not a college kid.

    I've dealt with dozens of angry phone calls but have never once had one from a resident questioning my personal integrity. And I thought we had a tough crowd here. Good lord, I'm glad I don't work in your community.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Yes. I Have. 5 words: Water Off A Ducks Back.

    Let it go.

    Really.

    When I was the *only* planner for a town of 11,000, I routinely had old men knocking at my door on the weekends, bitching at me. I learned to sleep in and ignore the *otherwise* RESPECTED VETS.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Oh yes the churches made a point to bring up religious stuff and hell, there have been a couple of times where my gender was insulted and yes my age when I first got into the field. As Chet says just let it roll off and keep going. These folks WANT and are trying damn hard to get under your skin don't give them that satisfaction.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  5. #5
    Constituents called me everything, corrupt, short, stupid, damned.

    There is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. To fight back would cost you your job. Just know that most of the people in the room, and all of us here, sympathize with you.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    I was called the "Council's Pet Planner" once. Which is funny, because I'm not really into the whole collar and leash thing.

    Like the others here, I've been insulted too many times to mention. It always bugged me a bit when my integrity was questioned. But, then I just considered the source and moved on. Once, a guy did kind of freak me out when he said something to the effect of "I know where you live.'
    He's a planner, he's a dreamer, he's a sordid little schemer,
    Seems to think that money grows on trees . . .

  7. #7
    I go to a lot of other cities' and counties' planning meetings and call them all racist crones.

    In Florida, though, you can get away with that. It helps if you spent two years in school studying the Antebellum Period, though.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I think it is worth mentioning that while you can't fight back per se, if you set a precedent in which you, the planner, are perceived as a doormat with no credibility because others with their own agendas undermine you by humiliating you publicly, then you will never be respected in the community and will never be effective. It's certainly a fine line to tread but it's something to be aware of.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Our county's policy is you do not have to take abuse from citizens. We allow them to vent but if it goes on too long or gets too personal or abusive we are told to end the conversation as politely as possible.

    My standard reply is "Thank you for your input." CLICK
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I guess I've been lucky. I've had plenty of people vent and disagree at so many levels, but never personal. Most of the time they like to attack the public officials, and then apologize that I had to hear it all. I think it's because a former mayor was so good at insulting the public at every meeting. Lines like "Do I have to listen to this trailer trash..." don't go over well.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    Our county's policy is you do not have to take abuse from citizens.
    Sounds familiar. We don't have to put up with yelling, personal insults, cussing, etc. and have the uberboss's permission to politely end such conversation on the phone. I usually say something like "I will not listen to such language. Call back when you can discuss this issue in a civilized manner". CLICK.
    Now, when it's in person, that's harder. I usually stare at them with a blank expression until they wind down, then I tell them that yelling at staff does not make any of us work faster. Once they have calmed down again, I explain that we are ready to assist them, once they can calmly explain the problem and will listen to the reply.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I have learned to put up with the personal insults over the years, however when the cursing starts, I am like others here, I will politely and calmly tell them that they have to stop cursing and if they do not I will hang up. This usually works and I have had a few complaints made to elected officials about my hanging up but after I have explained it to them and who ever I reported to, I was never disciplined, The classic was when I had a reporter (female) was calling me the F word at the main counter where there were other members of the public present, I asked to come to my office and continue the conversation if she was going to continue to curse, She then started screaming at me, still using the F word. I told that if she kept it up I was going to have her arrested. She kept it up and I picked a phone up thinking that she would stop but she kept it up, so I dialed our police, explained the situation and they sent an officer over. She kept it up after the officer showed up. He then arrested her and she looked at me and said "are you serious?" We then adjourned to my office and I explained that no charges would be filed but a copy of an incident report would be kept on file (cover my behind as well as the citys) She and I had a strained relationship after that. A side bar is that she was also dating on the council men.

  13. #13
    Yes.

    Like others here, had to hang up [olitely on a few unacceptable language calls.

    Had a fellow planner who had someone show up on his front porch and threaten his wife. The City placed a restraining order on that one.

    Overall, tho, in 24 years have not had that many bad incidents. Certainly a lot fewer that some other occupations!

  14. #14
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I've had to toss people from my office before, including having an officer escort one man out. You start cussing at me on the phone and doing personal insults, I simply hang-up without further statement.

    I refuse to respond to personal insults, as the people saying them will eventually do so in the wrong place. I had a guy go off on me at a City Council meeting during public meeting, including personal insults like "this young punk asshole over here...". While the Council usually snoozes through public comment, they were quick to respond on him, berading him for his behavior in front of a packed chambers full of his neighbors. He moved a year later.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Captain Worley's avatar
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    I keep a log of 'Great Quotes" that I've heard from our customers (code compliance, mainly). Its usually pretty amusing to reflect on. I just noticed it has been almost a year since the last entry.
    Navy collier
    USS Cyclops

  16. #16
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    My experience working in a public planning office is minimal, but I have many years in customer service. My stock reply when someone is being abusive is to be calm and tell them that I understand that they are upset but am only willing to help if they are calm and stop the name calling.

    Most times it works. Once I had to call the cops once on a guy over a specific Beanie Baby toy that I didn't have at the restaurant that he wanted. I had offered him what I did have pointing out that he could exchange it if the package was sealed and if he would give me his name and number I would set one aside and call him. He went ape$hit and refused to get out of the drive thru line. Cops came, made him pull out of the drive thru lane, issued him a summons to court, and gave him the run down because his kid was in the car with him at the time. All this for a $1 toy.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  17. #17
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Before entering the world of planning I worked as a social worker. Imagine how angry a person can get when they believe that you personally denied them some monetary benefits and they are going to be evicted from their apartment or have their electric or gas shut-off.

    If they began to rant at me on the telephone, I would immediately tell them,"I am sorry to hear about your sitaution, goodbye" and then hang up on them (regardless of whether they heard me or not). In all of my time doing that, I never once had somebody call back to rant more after being hung up on. They were also free to call my boss which none of them ever did.

    Once in a great while they would want to come into the office to complain face-to-face but luckily I was only in the building a few days a week and I somehow always managed to miss the real wackos.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  18. #18
    Cyburbian jdplanner's avatar
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    During my tenure as a planner for a small city in eastern North Carolina I had to endure a few very unpleasant situations involving enraged citizens. I will never forget on my first day, my boss and co-workers informed me that the office was in a good location because it was directly down the hall from the police department. Just in case!

    Our office policy was similar to what has been stated in this thread. If a citizen or anybody got belligerent and insulting toward staff they were told to come back when they could discuss the situation in productive manner. It was a whole other situation when dealing with this on site.

    On the whole though I didn't experience anymore insults than I did in previous non planning related jobs.

    On a more serious note, I did experience one situation where I feared for my safety when dealing with a citizen. This person was so infuriated that he picked up a 2X4 and started smashing his car windows!! Also, my former bosses car mysteriously burst into flames one night. It was during a time when our department was involved in a controversial dispute with a night club owner.

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