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Ask Amy

Bank worker is instructed to ‘flirt’

Q. I brought a big client to the bank where I work. I partnered with a “relationship representative” (a female colleague) to build the account at the bank.

The rep informed me that she was having issues with the partnership and said she needed my help.

I spoke to the client and we agreed to speak again at a later date.

Sometime after this, the rep and I saw him at a public event.

I was truly shocked when the rep asked me to go “flirt” with the client.

I am gay, as is the man in question.

I am afraid to say something, as my position is too low, and I may be terminated.

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What should I do?

K

A. You don’t say how you responded to this request in the moment, but your colleague’s suggestion is totally inappropriate, and you should register your discomfort.

Write down your account of exactly what happened, so you have a record, and take this to HR.

If you were terminated for bringing a very reasonable concern to the administration’s attention, then you would surely have a case of wrongful termination that I assume any employment lawyer would be happy to take.

I understand that banking is a “go-go” industry. Your bank’s “relationship rep” might skirt all sorts of boundaries in order to keep major clients happy, but if she can’t manage this professional relationship without calling upon you to flirt with the client, then she isn’t very good at her job.

She could very easily claim that this was a joke. The word “flirt” can have nonsexual connotations. Regardless of her intent, she should not make comments like this, or attempt to use you in this way.

You brought this big client to the bank, and your doing so means that you are valuable to the bank. Don’t underestimate your own value, both as an employee and as a person.

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Q. My sister committed suicide after a complicated life, contentious divorce, and child custody battle.

Her horrible ex-husband has always blamed me for her suicide.

I tried to help her and was dedicated to her (not him), while living abroad.

Their daughter, 21, who I am in touch with and see when I am in the US, is getting married, but she did not tell me, which is disappointing.

Her dad forbade her from inviting me. She accidentally revealed it on Facebook.

Should I get her a present?

Loving Aunt

A. I’m very sorry for this loss to your family. When people die by suicide, their death creates tremendous trauma, heartbreak, and relational challenges for survivors.

After your sister’s death, your niece was left with one parent, who you describe as “horrible.” She is only 21 years old, and she has already been through a lot.

I don’t think this question is really about a wedding present. But to answer your question — yes, you should definitely give her a gift.

Your gift to her could be something as simple as just getting in touch to say how happy you are to learn that she is getting married. The choice to start a family with a beloved person is a positive one for her, and this should be celebrated.

Express your desire to meet her significant other at some point in the future, and don’t put any pressure on her regarding being invited to the wedding.

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Extended family members can be important heroes to their younger family members — especially when there is loss and grief in the picture. You may never know the extent of your positive influence on your niece, but you should continue to attempt to keep the relationship going.

Q. More feedback to “Seen It All,” about how customer service personnel should handle irate clients. I was in customer service for over 30 years.

The abusive customer is well aware of their demeanor, and might have it well practiced. The best way to get past the ire is to let the aggrieved customer have their say (rant), apologize, and then ask, “What would you like me to do?”

This approach reliably defuses the situation. The complainer is distracted and taken “off their script” in order to reconsider their demand.

Really Seen It All

A. I receive a lot of upset, irate, and (sometimes) abusive “feedback” to my work. I agree that how you receive this can transform the experience. People really do need to be heard. “What would you like me to do?” is the perfect response.


Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.