Why “No Problem” Is a Problem

If you’ve been out an about recently where someone has served you, in a restaurant or store, and said “thank you” perhaps you’ve noticed a new trend. Many younger people in particular no longer say “you’re welcome.” Instead they say “no problem.”

I have a big problem with this because I think it is symptomatic of a shift in consciousness that is partially responsible for the number of unemployed younger people, and those dissatisfied with their current positions.

Looking a bit deeper, saying “you’re welcome” acknowledges your “thank you” as an appreciation of their service.

“No problem,” on the other hand, implies that your request in some way intruded on their right to be undisturbed and they deem it acceptable that you made the request and they complied. It conveys no appreciation whatsoever and I’ll go a step further.

They seem unconscious of another aspect of the situation. They’re WORKING.

Confronted with this concept, many might argue that I’m advocating a subservient position, but that is in no way the case.

Rather I am suggesting that during “work” there is an implied level of commitment to the task at hand that is expected unless you are an uncompensated intern. If you’re being paid, then it is your task to perform whatever duties are reasonably expected and none of these should ever be construed as “a problem.”

Assuming that any disturbance of your peace during working hours (and this includes your texting or speaking on the phone) is a problem that you magnanimously have decided to overlook makes you a poor employee. Period.

Recently I had two customer service experiences – in one a rental car was beeping in ways I could not fix and no one at the office answered the phone. In the other a web site did not perform as expected and I was not given the service I anticipated. When I pointed this out to “customer service” they said, “and what would you like me to do about it?”

They saw my intrusion on their peace as a big problem. They did not realize that it is their job to at least express some empathy and understanding of a customer’s perspective. They cannot undo what happened but they can acknowledge the legitimacy of the issue and even apologize.

This is the result when everyone begins to see their responsibility to perform their job as a problem.

Even if you take the position that this is a meaningless phrase that is now just in the current vernacular I beg to differ. “Problem” is a loaded word. Every time I hear that some getting me another cup of coffee is “not a problem” it rubs me the wrong way. And if I don’t come back to your restaurant, that is your problem, not mine.

You might counter that my sensitivity is “my problem” but again if you’re the one that is consciously or unconsciously considering service as a “problem” I suggest that the consequences will accrue to you.

Working with the public is no picnic but manifesting a self-serving attitude will not bode well for your future.

Risking the “when I was your age” cliché, there used to be a concept called “paying your dues.” When you paid your dues, you were happy to get an opportunity to work and believe me, under those circumstances, your attitude always conveyed that “nothing was a problem, glad to help.”

This is what I see so lacking today. I get it that college loans are overwhelming and challenging jobs are scarce, and many in my generation fill positions that could well be handled by younger workers.

I also believe this also grows out of the civil rights movement when it was said often and loud that “no one gives you your rights, they are yours by birth,” so that any suggestion that someone take a position of service is somehow demeaning and inappropriate. Young people seem to bristle at any suggestion that they should perform any task that they deem beneath them.

And there is also no question that when working with the public that there are those with unrealistic expectations and bad attitudes who may assert their power in ways that inappropriate, by being abusive, unreasonable or hostile. Certainly any human has a right to maintain his or her dignity under those circumstances.

However, when you are WORKING you loyalty is not to your inner peace, friends, task list or the voices in your head – it is to the client, customer or associate whose needs you are being paid to meet.

Therefore in no way shape or form is any request on their part, or need that is to be satisfied, a problem; rather it is an opportunity. It’s a vehicle for you to show you skills and demonstrate your willingness to help or comply in any reasonable manner.

It is a chance to show initiative, warmth, humor and intelligence.

So when someone appreciates your efforts and says “thank you” with sincerity, and especially if they drop a dollar into your tip jar, the appropriate response still is, and always will be, “you’re welcome.”

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4 responses to “Why “No Problem” Is a Problem

  1. There are many high end establishments training employees to say “My pleasure” as a response to a “Thank you”. I think that is also an acceptable response. I have been known to sprinkle in a “no problem”, from time-to-time, as I like to mix up my responses and don’t like giving rote answers. I think of “no problem” more along the lines of “helping you is a privilege, not a problem”.

    I definitely see your point in the bigger picture. We are losing the ability to communicate in a respectful manner and we are losing many aspects of formality.

    • Just saw this Jeff. Yes, it is a matter of customer service training but if the underlying mindset doesn’t shift, the results are minimal. I for one don’t like it when it’s obvious that an employee is responding from a “script” rather than as a human.

  2. Oh boy, if this is what gets you hot under the collar, you should be so lucky as to live in Syria right now. Or Gaza, or Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, you know, places we are bombing on your dime.

  3. I guess we all have our pet peeves.

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