Oops, I goofed. This is a textbook case of what not to do when you’re annoyed. It went something like this.
One of our vendors sent us an invoice that reflected a price increase. Looking back at the invoices, I noticed that he does this every year, yet his annual sock-it-to-the-customer hikes were far outpacing inflation. So we inquired why.
Instead of answering the why question from our chief information officer, he responded about the cost of filing tax returns, reconciliation of Act 32, handling charges and green receipts.
So the CIO asked him again to please clarify and tell us what we can expect moving forward.
This time he responded by telling us we’ve asked a great question. Again, he didn’t answer but instead defended his actions by elaborating on his philosophies. He told us he used to think remaining competitive was about price but now he knows it’s about a great staff so he has to increase their pay every year at our expense. He said his staff is better than any other which is what sets his company apart.
Annoyed, I sent the following email to our CIO: “What a crock of crap. This is the type of thing people say during communication training when they are trying to tell people why their company or product is better than everyone else’s. It’s not a good reason. It’s nonsense.”
Here’s the goof. I accidentally hit ‘reply all’ so the vendor saw the email. It took only seconds for him to respond: “Please find a new company to do business with.” Oops.
I often tell people to be careful before hitting send. Make sure you re-read your correspondence and make sure you check the recipients. I clearly did not heed my own advice.
Yet, as I tell my kids, sometimes things happen for a reason. Truth be told, I wasn’t thrilled with this vendor, but it was easier to keep him than search for someone new. Yet as we replaced him, we found an equally qualified person who is charging us less and doing more. He is a welcome change.
It made me think about how resistant most of us are to change. Earlier this year, I left my hairdresser for someone new. While that may not sound like a big deal to some of my male colleagues, for most women it is a huge step. Stephen and I had enjoyed a great relationship for more than 25 years. He did my hair for my wedding and other life moments. Aside from the fact that he did a great job, I really liked him and looked forward to chatting at our appointments.
So when I decided it was time to head in another direction, it took me forever to make the move. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Besides, who would I use and what if they weren’t as talented as he was?
Eventually I found someone new. It took a while to get in sync, but she’s great and also does a terrific job. She was change that I needed.
Then there’s the Web design firm. We’ve been together for 15 years. They have always been responsive and reliable, but I decided I wanted a new look as we’ve grown over the years and they no longer met our needs. Again, it took a while to switch gears, but we did. The creation of a new website was incredibly time consuming and challenging yet we ended up with a better product that functions more efficiently and works harder for visitors at a more reasonable cost. The change was worth it.
Why then do so many of us resist change when it’s necessary to grow and thrive? Why it is those of us who are risk-takers fear risking inevitable change? Research says we’re actually all alike; that when it comes to change most people try to avoid it. Turns out that is has to do with the way our brains are wired. Scientists say when a certain part of our brain is overcome with unfamiliar ideas, it can trigger anxiety, fear and even depression.
So, how can we navigate change at work without causing those around us to slip into a deep dark hole?
Communicate, don’t demand
For starters, don’t demand it. Rather, communicate what’s happening, what people can expect and why. Keeping people informed keeps people calm.
Get rid of geek speak
Make sure your messages are far more than bulleted talking points. Messages need to have the right tone and demeanor so when they are delivered, they are people-centric and clearly convey what your organization is trying to do.
Tell the truth. Don’t tell them it will be OK if it’s not. Tell them as much as you know when you know it so information comes from you and not the rumor mill.
Put people first
Change might affect you but as a leader, it’s not about you. It’s about employees, customers and other stakeholders. Make sure you and your team help others understand how they’re affected and what is being done to help them move forward.
Sync words and body language
If your body language doesn’t convey what your mouth is saying, your authenticity and credibility will be questioned. People see first and think later. They observe how you react from gestures to facial expressions to presence. When your body language conflicts with your words, people will question the legitimacy of your message.
Finally, be thoughtful in your responses. When I realized my goof with my vendor, I immediately called him, but he refused my call. I emailed him an apology telling him that while the email was not intended for him, it was insensitive and inappropriate. I told him he had always provided good service, which I appreciated. He didn’t answer. Our CIO left him a voicemail. He didn’t return the call.
Perhaps he goofed too. Forgiveness and a thick skin go a long way. Instead of taking an oops so personally, perhaps there are lessons learned. If one customer feels this way, do others?
Maybe he doesn’t need the business or perhaps he just doesn’t need my business. Either way, the focus should be on the problem, not the person.