I ordered a meal. I expected a drink to come with it. But no one gave me a drink.
When I asked what was up, the guy told me that no one told him I had ordered a meal. He gave me a cup anyway and told me not to worry about it.
- If you pay people little enough money, it’s almost impossible for them to give a bleep about what they’re doing. It’s not shocking that this stuff happens at fast food restaurants. Frankly, it’s part of the price of walking into one of those restaurants. I know this.
- Your customer doesn’t care where a miscommunication originated. All the customer cares about is a quick, fair resolution. Your boss, though, certainly cares about where that miscommunication originated.
What does this have to do with your career? The takeaway is that there’s always a time to investigate a failure. And that time isn’t always right now, in front of your customer, or in front of your boss.
Say one of your stakeholders complains to you that she didn’t receive a report. You know you’re not the one that delivers that report. You have two options:
- Immediately broadcast that you’re not at fault, explaining you’re not the one who delivers this report.
- Preemptively apologize for the hassle, promising to investigate and resolve the issue.
Which do you think will win you more fans?
You don’t work in a fast food restaurant, where your customer stands in front of you, waiting for a resolution. You can take the time you need to investigate.
Maybe that investigation happens right now. Maybe it doesn’t. But it’s not a good look to immediately pipe up and deny any wrong-doing. Whoever has been wronged doesn’t particularly care whether you were personally responsible or not.
There’s a time and a place to get the bottom of a failure, to identify the root cause, to devise an appropriate solution. With the root cause in hand, you won’t have to execute the conspicuous, self-serving, on-the-spot denial. Timing is everything.