Be Happy and Successful at Work

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As a magazine publisher, I receive frequent pitches from publicists wanting me to read their clients’ book in hopes I will publish a favorable review. They’re happy to send me a free copy – and sometimes the books just show up unannounced. Although tempting, I already have a stack of books awaiting my attention. So, I sagely but sadly decline their solicitation.

I don’t recall the details surrounding the arrival of Barbara Burke’s book, The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey, but there it was, relegated to my pile of “books to read” and soon other books that seemed more promising buried it.

But, one day, I had to babysit my computer during a remote troubleshooting session. Wanting to make the most of my time, I sought a short book with easy-to-read chapters to aptly occupy myself between occasional glances at the computer screen. A couple of hours later, the book was finished, but the computer issue wasn’t.

Promoted as “a customer service fable,” The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey is subtitled: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind. The inside back cover notes author “Barbara Burke is an internationally-known consultant, speaker, and author who specializes in the ‘people side’ of customer service management.” Generally, books about customer service are generic in nature and need to be tweaked to even somewhat fit call center realities. However, The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey is all about the call center.

Reminiscent of the classic The One Minute Manager, this fable follows the vocational pursuits of Olivia, a harried customer service representative – that is, a call center agent – working for the local utility. Starting her position with much excitement and high expectation, it isn’t long before the crush of complaint calls and barbs from angry customers brings her to her breaking point.

At this point, wise Isabel, an insightful veteran of the team, fortuitously comes to Olivia’s rescue. With one simple piece of advice, Isabel changes Olivia’s job outlook and career trajectory. This, however, is not the only interaction between mentor and mentee, but the first of many such exchanges. Along the way, Olivia records twenty-two “aha!” moments, which have broad application for call center work, as well as all customer service efforts and even life itself.

In case you’re wondering how a napkin, a melon, and a monkey fit into this, let me assure you they do, serving as metaphors for three key points, the reoccurring themes in the book. But don’t take my word for it. Read The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey yourself, and then share it with your call center staff.

It just might help you be happy and successful at work.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the August/September 2012 issue of AnswerStat magazine]