The most important thing to Mr. Beddinghaus is that he feels as though his complaints are listened to and not dismissed as trivial. Being that Mr. Beddinghaus is an elderly neighbor of the Church, it is important to remain on good terms with him; however, Mr. Beddinghaus undoubtedly has more time that I would as the administrative assistant, simply because he is older, and probably retired. Possibly, Mr. Beddinghaus is bored and complaining is his entertainment; not that he is malicious or harassing, but that he has plenty of time to commit to a conversation, whereas, I would have to listen to his concerns while managing my time. I would make certain that I reassure Mr. Beddinghaus that his concerns are important and will be addressed immediately.
Therefore, I would allow Mr. Beddinghaus to vent his concerns to me and I would take notes on the concerns. Then, allow Mr. Beddinghaus the courtesy of a repeat of his concerns, but at that point, interrupt and assure him that I have not only listened, but taken copious notes of his important concerns. I would read back the concern and get him to agree that his concern has been heard and understood. At that point, I would tell him that I need to get this message to Pastor Helmut Rieg immediately: “Thank you for your time expressing your concerns, Mr. Beddinghaus, please allow me to deliver this message to the Pastor immediately. I have your number and I will get back to you as soon as I have news. I am positive we will work out something.”

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I would end the conversation with the next action promised on my behalf, that way Mr. Beddinghaus would be less likely to keep calling back. Furthermore, when I do call Mr. Beddinghaus back it will be at a time that is good for me and conducive to the day’s productivity. If Mr. Beddinghaus continues to freely call, I will forever be interrupted and my productivity as the Pastor’s assistant will decrease.

For the immediate short term solutions, I would speak with Sunday school teachers and see if we could make a game out of cleaning up leaves, or I would speak to the groundskeeper service and request that the leaves be removed, possibly having to pay a little more for the particular service. I would not be above raking the leaves myself if need be; possibly I would spend less time raking the leaves than fending off phone calls for the immediate future.

However, in order to attack the long-term viability, the church’s pruning service might have to remove more branches and/or the tree itself. However, if that is not possible, then I would propose to make it part of our community service program. It is possible that it would help the Church to have the leaf-removal service for elderly folk within a 5-mile radius. This tax write-off could be a win/win situation for both Church and Mr. Beddinghaus. If there was no viability in the community service plan, I would research if there are state-assisted programs to help elderly folk with grounds maintenance. Additionally, I might chain a wastebasket nearby the tree with a lid and a sign that asks for help collecting the leaves. I believe that the folks in the congregation would be good-hearted and oblige Mr. Beddinghaus’ request.

Although the Church is not legally liable for the leaves, the Church is responsible for maintaining positive relations with neighbors, and much more would be saved by obliging Mr. Beddinghaus’ request than in fighting his request. Plus, it’s a good deed; regardless of how cantankerous his complaints are, the congregation is here to help.