Four Ways Plant Technicians Can Avoid Social Faux Pas

The second horticulture technician I hired was a soft-spoken mother of three with a graphic art degree. After a couple months of horticulture training, “Kathy” started working on her own. Every day she showed up on time, always cheerful, and was one of the sweetest people you ever talked to.

However, one day she returned to the office in tears. A few thoughts ran through my head, but the cause was not what I had expected. It appears that during the past several weeks, Kathy had been carrying on religious discussions while servicing at Mr. Petersburg’s, one of the top executives, office. According to her, their conversations were normally pleasant, but today somehow it turned ugly. It was ugly enough that this mild mannered man ordered her out of his office.

While I knew that Kathy had a strong religious convictions, I never fathomed she would continue bringing up such a touchy topic, especially while a CEO was in the office. Luckily, Mr. Petersburg was kind enough and accepted our apologies.

It was then I realized what a precarious position our service technicians are in. Not only do they need to be horticultural skilled, but they also need to have a basic understanding of appropriate behaviors in the work place and social etiquette while executing the service. Technician behavior reflects upon us and our company. We want to make sure that they show the utmost respect while working.

Ever since Kathy’s social faux pas, I have created the following guidelines for myself and my technicians to follow. These guidelines will help keep the relationships between the client and the technician in harmony as well as work to prevent any misunderstandings, making our presence in their work environment as cohesive as possible.

Silence Your Phone

While working inside the client’s office, I make sure that my cell phone is on silent. Although sometimes it is difficult to remember, the thought of my cell phone ringing “I’m Too Sexy” while a CFO is working next to me is embarrassing enough to keep myself on cell phone alert.

Avoid Sensitive Topics

Certain topics such as politics, religion, and personal matters are sensitive topics for some people and for that reason should only be share only with friends and family. From what I have seen, the most popular topic that people like to bring up inside the workplace is their personal life. People are naturally compassionate, but I’ve experienced technicians who used their captive audience like a counseling couch. Not everybody has a good social judgment. The topics that are negative, depressing, or perhaps even horrifying should be discussed with a close friend, relative, or a professional. It should never be brought up during your service. For example, there was an individual that worked for me who particularly liked to share their family matters, whether good or bad, with others. While Aunt Lily’s sciatica and foul mouth makes her the drama queen of your family, others may not find it as amusing or appropriate while they are trying to get their work done.

Respect Privacy

When an office door is closed, I never enter unless given permission by a company employee. To me, it’s not worth the chance of aggravating someone and causing them to think twice about their need for a plant service. Our service is about providing enjoyment, peace, and harmony.

Never Wear Headphones

Of course, you should never wear headphones while servicing an account. Some people might think that this is a no-brainer, but I’ve caught techs doing this. The only time I may break this rule is if it’s after company hours and the building is empty. While I too, much rather be listening to motivating music while working, doing so is very unprofessional and inconsiderate. Besides headphones looking unprofessional, it also discourages clients from engaging with you. Being able to interact in your client’s home turf is every salesman’s dream. In addition, having good communication between plant technicians and clients can lead to valuable information such as company expansions or renovations which can open the doors to many more major business opportunities.

I completely understand the time and effort it takes to train even experienced horticulturists on how to maintain each unique building interiorscape. However, the more we train our valuable technicians in the areas outside of horticulture, the more invaluable they can be.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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