How do I handle parental complaints? Easiest question ever!
STEP 1 Ignore them as long as possible. Parents can wait! Hey, you’re enjoying well-deserved time off playing Halo 4 after The Extreme Best Overnighter in the World™ (T.E.B.O.W. for short). The best way to ignore critical parents is to follow this handy advice:
• If the complaint arrives via voicemail, ignore it. The upset person is at least 50, so help him or her take a technology baby step by waiting at least 48 hours to respond. But if the person name-drops a key elder or deacon, call back immediately.
• If the complaint comes via written letter, toss it. Snail mail? Did a mystical portal drop me into 1974? After a few days, simply throw away the letter. Then claim it must’ve been “lost in the mail.”
• If parents complain via text-message, reply ASAP. This is true especially if they’re likely to start a social-media insurrection. Jam out a quick apology, promising to make everything right.
STEP 2 When you do talk to disgruntled parents, accept no responsibility. Have a scapegoat handy (a convenient college-age hipster is perfect). Be ready with key deflections to indicate the situation was “out of your hands” and you’re “totally disappointed, too.” Then hope no videos surface of you laughing during the incident. Keep these clever excuses ready in a pinch:
• “I wish someone had made me aware of this right away.” Redirection places the blame back on parents. For a solid follow-up, work in this one: “I guess we’ll never know the truth now.”
• “I’ll deal with those people immediately.” Was it your choice to play that R-rated movie? Was it your call to duct-tape a freshman to the ceiling? Who knows? With careful word play, parents will never know, either.
STEP 3 Drive a wedge between parents and teenagers. “Divide and conquer” is a biblical concept, so undermine parents whenever possible. Roll your eyes when Dad isn’t looking. Exchange knowing glances with kids to show how out-of-touch their parents are. Pacify adults long enough so you can plan The Next Big Thing That Will Change The World Overnighter Extravaganza™ (T.N.B.T.T.W.C.T.W.O.E. for short).
By now I hope you get the idea: Do the opposite of everything you’ve just read and you’ll handle complaints well. They’re a tough but necessary part of your growth as a leader. Jump in quickly, take responsibility, and repair the damage. Blessings on the journey!
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!