Empowering Workers to Enforce Mask Mandates With a ‘Smile’

Aug 4, 2020

Enforcing mask mandates are putting retail employees, who may not be trained or prepared, on the front lines of mental health work. Russ Turner, Director of our Training Institute, discussed a three-step strategy to gain positive reactions to wearing a mask with Winsight Grocery Business:
  1. Find a connection and develop a rapport. Doing this helps take the intensity out of the situation. “It’s relational,” he said. “It might be something as simple as saying, ‘Thanks for coming in’ or ‘It’s good to see you.’ ”
  2. Make the request an ask, not a tell. Would you be willing or could you do this, he suggested, and feel free to add some context like it’s the state mandate or the bosses are making us do it. “If it’s a worker, I’m OK with them saying things like, ‘Yeah, they’re making us do the mask thing.’ Right? So it’s not personal,” Turner said. It also is helpful if the employee can put the request onto someone else. “Unless you’re literally the one that wrote that rule, it’s unreasonable for the person to have a go at you about it. And you want to try to convey that quickly and you do it by putting it on other people or other entities,” he said. “The word ‘they’ can be useful. ‘They are making everybody do the mask thing.’ Then add in the appeal. ‘Can you help me out, throw a mask on? Otherwise, I’m going to get in trouble.’”

    Turner also suggested using very informal language throughout the whole interaction. “It helps connect people,” he said. “Like ‘throw a mask on,’ rather than ‘You have to comply.’ ” If employees still get pushback, then move into step three.

  3. Find things to agree on to de-escalate the situation. Be prepared for the customer to curse, but if the employee can agree with the angry customer, even say something along the lines of “I’m on your side, but they’re making us do it,” can help diffuse some anger. Also, saying thank you for their compliance before they’ve agreed to comply can help. Another tip is for the employee to say something along the lines of “I really wish I didn’t have to have this conversation,” because it’s true, and it makes it not personal to the customer.

    Paraphrasing what the customer says also helps make them feel heard, which is really all they want, Turner said.

Read the complete article.

The institute’s one-hour course on the topic began the week of August 4, 2020.