Ever wanted to tell ’em off?

How many of us have half jokingly declared, “On my last day at work, I’m going to…” and proceeded to describe how we would give our managers a piece of our minds, tell off those rude customers, do nothing all day or do any number of devious deeds, without the fear of retribution?

I actually was given that chance, on a silver platter, during my last day at a local salon/spa chain in a hotel in Downtown Memphis.

A customer became irate because we were unable to validate her parking ticket. I explained to her where we can and can’t validate, and instructed her to speak with the hotel’s concierge desk concerning the parking ticket, because we did not have any way of validating it. At this point, she let me know that yes, she would be speaking with the hotel, to put in a complaint and recommend they get another salon/spa in there because, in her words, “You people are incompetent!”

At this moment, I had a choice to make. A big choice. One of those choices that has real potential to impact your life in a big way, maybe not immediately, but definitely down the road.

The opportunity was right there, right in front of me, just waiting for me to grab it! It was my last day, and for the umpteenth time, I was getting yelled at for a situation that wasn’t my fault. Why not take advantage of this situation and tell this lady what’s up, right?!

Wrong. I couldn’t. As soon as I thought it, I knew I couldn’t do that. I was leaving this job to finish my degree in PR; are you kidding me?! Doing that could be career suicide and not to mention unprofessional. I didn’t know who that lady was. She could work for a client of ours, volunteer for one of our clients, be a friend or family member of one of our clients or a member of the local news media. Yes, telling her off may have made me feel better, but the long-term implications would have been huge! Not to mention, on my last day there, did I really want to create negative PR for the salon/spa and hotel? What if I ended up working with either of them again? “Oh yeah, that’s the woman who went off on a customer on her last day at work.” Yeah, that’s a great way to be remembered while trying to network professionally.

In that chaotic moment of clarity, I chose to not be that employee who flew off the handle. I chose to be a brand ambassador, not just for the salon/spa, not just for the hotel, but also for myself. So regardless of what you do or where you work, remember that you don’t just represent your employer; you also represent yourself. You may not be able to control the branding of your job, but you can and should carefully shape your own personal brand.