I’ve never been a fan of Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. I’ve never met the guy, but he has little respect for others and he aggressively swears and yells in the business environment. I’m not a believer that “the customer is always right,” but I would never belittle my customers. Last week, O’Leary’s latest tirade caught him calling a customer an idiot—and it’s not the first time. Apparently, on discount airline Ryanair, if you don’t print your boarding pass before arriving at the airport, you are slapped with a 60-euro fee (about $77 US dollars).
O’Leary: “We think Mrs. McLeod should pay 60 euros for being so stupid. She wasn’t able to print her boarding card because, as you know, there are no Internet cafes in Alicante, no hotels where they could print them out for you, and you couldn’t get to a fax machine so some friend at home can print them and fax them to you.” Why does he need to act this way? Sure, you might think this about the customer, but is that how you want to portray yourself or your business in the public eye? I know your answer is an emphatic “NO!”
His comments were not directed personally at this particular customer, he argued, but at all those who forget to print a boarding pass, especially if they then seek compensation afterwards. O’Leary later commented, “To which we have replied, politely but firmly, thank you Mrs. McLeod but it was your f***-up and if you screw up, you compensate us and you send us a gesture of goodwill.”
Business people who regularly use foul language in the workplace have never impressed me. I’ll use the occasional nasty word at times when I’m angry or when I mistakenly cut through the electrical cord while trimming the bushes, so I can’t classify myself as a pure soul, if you will. However, the business person—and we’ve all encountered this type—who can’t get through a sentence without the “f-bomb” and other foul words, doesn’t garner a lot of respect from most people. Sure, some of the richest CEOs and other powerful people talk like sailors in the workplace…but does that make it acceptable? What does it gain that person?
Do you see much of this taking place at your accounting firm or at your company? I hope not. The increase in this type of language in professional business doesn’t bode well for the future. We’re not working in a meat-packing yard, on a highway crew or putting up drywall—there’s nothing wrong with those professions, but foul language there is not the same as swearing at an accounting firm, bank or &#$@!*% legal office.
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