The worst thing about Haley’s chirpy greeting order is the insulting assumption that underlies it

The worst thing about the “It’s a great day in South Carolina!” order isn’t the fact that it is so grating and insulting to the caller. Callers can shrug that off; if they really need to do business with the state, they’ll take a breath and go ahead (even while filing a mental note that they now think less of SC government than they did before).

The worst thing is the attitude that underlies the order, which was ably set out in the newspaper this morning by Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey:

“While the press focuses on the negative, the governor is changing the culture of our state.. She is proud of South Carolina, and while we have challenges, we are making great progress every day. The focus of this greeting is to have state employees pass along a positive attitude and ask the caller, ‘How can I help you?’ so that they remember – and the people know – that they work for the taxpayers. The governor has always said that it’s time for government to work for the people, and this is the first step.”

She’s changing the culture of our state…. It’s time for government to work for the people…

This is the first step.

Because, you see, that never happened before. It’s never occurred to any state employee that they serve the people of South Carolina. Ever. Nikki Haley invented it. Thank God for Nikki Haley, because not one single state employee in the history of South Carolina has ever considered serving the public, even for a moment. If any had, this would not be the “first step” in implementing this wonderful new day. And this is the first step.

Again, we are seeing what we get when a person who does not have a clue about an organization — what it’s for, whom it serves, what its personnel are like, how it works, how it should work — is placed in charge of that organization.

Tragically for all of us, that organization is our state government — an institution that the people of our state, perhaps more than the people of any other state in the union, badly need to be well-led.

But there’s more to it than that. Nikki Haley is merely a symptom of a sickness in the politics of our state. The sickness is a nasty attitude of despising those who serve the public — and despising them more and more as their jobs become more difficult.

She is now engaged in the process of tearing down that workforce. And the first step is humiliation.

31 thoughts on “The worst thing about Haley’s chirpy greeting order is the insulting assumption that underlies it

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    I have had occasion professionally to call various government officials of all 50 states, and far and away the people answering the phones in the southern states are, no surprise, unfailingly courteous. This is a solution in search of a problem.

    I love courteous, personable interactions and would not choose to go to Boston, for example, for pleasure without some other compelling reason. I do not like weirdly chipper–the Publix on Rosewood is a great example. I have been startled out of a meal=planning reverie by an intrusively, manically friendly greeting in the produce department enough times that I think twice about going there–the Gervais Street one is about equidistant.

    I’m torn about whether requiring people to be upbeat is helpful or not–studies do show that a forced smile releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, and a forced frown does the opposite. On the other hand, things we do voluntarily are processed differently psychologically from the same things we are paid to do.

  2. Brad

    Kathryn raises a point I had meant to mention, but forgot:

    South Carolina is the LAST state where you need to give employees politeness lessons. Fault South Carolinians for almost anything else, but if you think they’re lacking in that, you REALLY don’t get it.

  3. Daniel Bein

    “She is now engaged in the process of tearing down that workforce. And the first step is humiliation.”


    This is a humiliating thing to do to these state workers. It reduces them to a Walmart door greeter status when they are supposed to be conducting important state business.

    And that’s not a slam on Walmart door greeters. From what I’ve seen, they do their job with far more dignity than Nikki Haley.

  4. Doug T

    Nikki is changing the culture of the state? Really? Wow. I hadn’t noticed. Maybe because I read and listen to the news, and the press focuses on the negative.

    Us against them. Fortress mentality. Reminds me of you know who.

  5. Steven Davis

    If I were forced to recite a greeting I’d make my own… “Good morning, only (enter number of years until you draw state retirement) more years until I can leave this hell hole.”

    I bet we’ll see a lot more calls going to voicemail than before this stupidity went into effect.

  6. bud

    The Walmart greeter is there for the specific purpose of presenting a friendly face and positive appearance for someone who is voluntarily choosing to come to their store. I fully expect the greeter to present just such an attitude and find them genuinely pleasant. If there is some minor assistance they can render they are willing to respond as they are capable.

    In contrast someone who calls a state office almost always has a serious issue to resolve and is in no way interested in anything more than a courteous, professional greeting. What brought this cutesy phone message requirement to the fore in the first place? Like Kathyrn says this is a solution searching for a problem. Perhaps the problem will come later. In which case a new solution will be necessary.

  7. hf

    It’s very humiliating as an attorney with 14 years’ experience. It’s inappropriate for a professional who handles serious and important matters. Yet another example of Haley’s inexperience and ignorance.

  8. Karen McLeod

    @ Kathryn–there are several employees at the Rosewood Publix who attend Trinity. It may well be that they recognize you.

  9. Steven Davis

    Nobody has said what happens if you simply refuse to say this? Can you be terminated for not answering with the proper greeting? Do you get written up, do you get time off with/without pay? Do you have to stay after work and empty trashcans?

  10. Patrick Cleary

    Simply evidence of a governor who believes achievement will come by bashing government competency and government workers.

  11. Mab

    Humiliating is what this slogan is. For the puppet governor (a woman) as well as those who must endure this for the duration.

    I think the powers that be want this to be long and painful. Puppets only obey their ventriloquists, remember. They are incapable of creating policy.

    Cotton Boll — re: “people get the government they deserve”

    Not necessarily. We get the government we didn’t prevent with the eternal vigilance we should have given this election. I, for one, sounded the warning gong — but apparently in the wrong venue.

  12. Kathy

    If insulting state employees could accomplish positive results, eight years of Sanford would have achieved perfection. Now, Nikki the Ignorant, demands that state employees answer phone calls like chirpy robots. I shudder to think what that little ignoramus will do before her term is up.

  13. Kathleen

    Thank heaven I retired before Ms. Haley’s advent! We had no way of knowing if an incoming call was from outside or the office next door. Giving and receiving that greeting as an obligatory part of in-office communication would have sent me around the bend

  14. Brad

    Hey, I sounded it as loudly as I could. I practically rode my horse to death, going up and down the countryside yelling, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

    Maybe I should have yelled something different…

  15. Steven Davis

    “going up and down the countryside yelling”

    Where exactly is “the countryside” you speak of, the path from your office to Starbucks?

  16. Juan Caruso

    The pettiness expressed by the above commentary is matched only by the sour grapes equally evident.

    If any of you want to make a credulous point, at least claim that not only did you vote for Governor Haley, but you are also a state employee who feels violated by the greeting.

    The temporary telephone greeting is intended to quickly reinforce (for all of us) the transformation all state employees, including supernumerary lawyers, from self-important bureaucrats to servants of the taxpayers.

    Sorry to be blunt, but if that is too difficult for anyone, please do all of us a favor and find a better job, or another state. Bev Perdue’s NC might accommodate the style you find more comfortable.


  17. Brad

    Speaking of being polite…

    Where I learned to speak Spanish (Guayaquil, Ecuador), you weren’t supposed to say “adiós” unless you were expecting never again to see that person in this life.

    Otherwise, you said, “hasta luego” or “hasta la vista” or “hasta mañana (if that applied)”. Actually, the thing people said the most, though, was “ciao.” I don’t know how that caught on. It was often said with that odd little wave that looked like you were beckoning the person to come toward you (palm up, fingers flapping toward you two or three times).

    Saying “adiós” was like saying the other person was going to die before you saw him or her again. The way I was admonished not to say it, it was almost as though you’d be WISHING the other person to die.

    I was surprised, years later, to learn than in other Spanish-speaking countries, people say it all the time, and there’s apparently nothing wrong with it.

  18. Lynn T

    Caruso, that concept of a “transformation . . . from self-important bureaucrats to servants of the taxpayers” is precisely the nonsense that is the problem. Most state employees are decent responsible people trying to do their jobs and treating the state’s citizens with respect. That is certainly how the vast majority treat me (but then, that is how I treat them). Why some, like yourself, are so threatened by them puzzles me.

  19. Juan Caruso

    @Lynn T

    Juan Caruso does not allow anyone to put words in his mouth.

    When did I ever allude to feeling the least bit threatened by SC state employees, which was only during the drivers’ license test, which I passed?

    The temporary greeting is intended to quickly reinforce the transformation of all state employees, including supernumerary lawyers, from self-important bureaucrats to servants of the taxpayers.

    As you say, “are decent responsible people trying to do their jobs and treating the state’s citizens with respect.”
    Such employees, probably 80% or more, are truly golden.

    The training will, with the public’s help, weed out or reform the much smaller number of incorrigibly arrogant, self-important jerks who reflect so poorly on our state.

  20. Mark Stewart


    I didn’t vote for her and I don’t work for the state.

    My opinion remains that her action was a juevenile stunt, born of a lack of both experience and savvy. I’d would hazard that that is the majority view on this…

  21. Lynn T

    Caruso, I didn’t say that you SAID that you felt threatened. However, I stand by my belief that interpreting the behavior of a significant percentage of the vast majority of public employees as “self-important bureaucrats” points toward defensiveness rather than an accurate appraisal of the behavior of the employees in question. I am frequently amazed when I watch post office employees and other government personnel deal with the public politely and calmly, despite being repeatedly confronted with irrational and ugly behavior. These people don’t need corrective advice from someone as inadequate in her own job performance, and as contemptuous of the public (for example, 50% of unemployed citizens are drug users), as Ms. Haley.

  22. Juan Caruso

    Mark Stewart,

    Of course your opinion remains the same. The problem is it conveys much, much credibility.

    And, if you also happened to be a law school grad, Mark, you would have absolutely no credibility whatever in this matter.

    Just saying…

  23. Scout

    One of the many things that she doesn’t seem to get is that if she really was interested in serving the public, she would have developed a phrase (If there must be a phrase) that was more responsive to the actual public which she claims to want to serve, rather than one that tries to impose conditions on them. It is not a great day in South Carolina for many callers. Telling them it is doesn’t change it for them. Actually listening to them to find out their issues and providing guidance, information, etc. (whatever is appropriate to that agency) for them to be able to change their situation where that is possible, might. At the very least, having a respectful conversation might help a little bit. Telling someone they are having a great day when they are not is not a way to convey that they you are going to be responsive to their needs.

    Haley has never been interested in looking below the surface at the complexity of the real problems here. She is interested in making it ‘look’ like things are great. The scary thing is I think she might actually think it is that simple – that if she says it, it will become true.

  24. martin

    Juan, the kind of state employees you’re talking about are primarily the political hack appointees who don’t have to answer their own phone calls.

  25. Kathryn Fenner

    Nice, Scout! You are insightful, as usual. It’s like the glassbowls ( to borrow Carolyn Hax’s rhyming term) who exhort women on the street to “smile”– it’s attempting to impose on others an artificial mood.

  26. Mark Stewart


    Thanks. Credibility is an easy thing to loose. However, I’m more inclined to believe that you believe that I don’t have any credibility on this as my position that our Governor is a dolt has not changed since before the election.

    It hasn’t. I could, if the Governor and her staff

  27. Mark Stewart

    …could find a way to stop flubbing every play.

    I’m just not willing to cheer when jeers are more appropriate. Again, as you said, it’s a question of credibility. And, of course, competency. Neither of which the Governor has shown much of to date.

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