it’s not my fault

“IT’S NOT MY FAULT! I’M NOT TAKING THE HIT ON THIS ONE!”

Few things are more awkward than being in the presence of people who are arguing. Except maybe when they are arguing about you.

“THEY CAME IN AND SAT DOWN WHEN SHE WAS ON BREAK. SHE DIDN’T NOTICE THEM.”

We were at a “travel center” (which is a vague marketing euphemism for truck stop) in the middle of somewhere New Mexico. It had been a long day of driving and we were trying to decide whether to push on despite an ugly storm brewing to the east or find a hotel and not arrive home the next day until several hours later than planned. Right now we needed food.

The gentleman tending the buffet told us we should get our meals, have a seat, and our waitress would get our drink order. Easy enough, except she didn’t. One waitress was tending the booths on either side of us and was able to completely block out our presence from her consciousness. Another focused on customers on the other side of the room.

Eventually, we stopped the waitress working near us and mentioned that no one had come by to take our drink order. She went off and hassled the other waitress. Waitress #2 came by, seemed apologetic, and we told her we were ready to go but would like to get some water in to-go cups. She disappeared and we could hear her talking to a third person who I’m assuming was the manager.

Cue the yelling. Start the blaming. They were behind a thin wall that blocked the kitchen from view but did nothing to dampen the sound. The argument was focused on blame, finger pointing, who was going to be in trouble, and who had dropped the ball by not getting us drinks.

And we still didn’t have any water. They were too busy fighting over who should have been helping the customer to actually bother to help the customer.

Mistakes happen, things get overlooked, processes fail, the customer / end user does something unexpected or unanticipated, etc. etc. What happens next tells me a lot about the company, the employees, and your leadership abilities. In the event things don’t go right, do your employees: 1) solve the immediate problem; 2) solve the immediate problem and then fix the underlying issue so it doesn’t happen again; or 3) make sure they don’t get blamed for it?

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2 comments

    1. So true. Although this is a simple example it shows up any time there are silos, any time a process crosses two or more departments without clear ownership, any time a leader focuses on blaming instead of solving.

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