I make mistakes. Everyone does! But, while everyone makes mistakes, not everyone admits having done so. In fact, some people excel in blaming other people for their mistakes, in an attempt to avoid accepting responsibility for the negative consequences of their actions. Recent events in my office prompted this post. As almost everyone who works for a living recognizes, there are some times when one is the client and other times when one is the provider of services to a client. Sometimes, the provider of client services is a vendor; other times, for people like me, the provider of client services is an expert or a professional (I daresay most of us would conceptualize a psychologist, or a medical doctor, or a dentist, as an expert rather than a vendor). When I am working as an expert who provides litigation research and consulting services to attorneys who are my clients, I recognize they are hiring me for my expertise, however, it is they, not I, who are in charge of my work. I must perform work according to my clients’ expectations and I must meet their requests instead of forcing them to do whatever I think they should do. In a similar fashion, when I am the client of one of Magnus’ vendors, it is I, not the vendor, who must be satisfied with the outcome of the work for which I have paid. It seems simple enough, however, in my recent dealings with a vendor, instead of listening to my requests, then ensuring work was performed in accordance with my specifications, I was blamed for “being difficult,” or “having unusual needs,” or a variety of other ills that were, in my opinion, a thinly disguised attempt to deflect blame from the true culprit, the vendor who ignored me. The fact that I am the client, the customer, and the person who decides which vendor to hire was, evidently, not given much consideration. Accepting responsibility for mistakes goes a long way toward enhancing customer relations. No one is perfect, but blaming me for someone else’s mistakes is something else altogether, particularly if the person doing the blaming plans to continue working for my company.
In my opinion, in the scenario which Melissa describes, the situation was not so much blaming her specifically, but her/us as a company, for having a tangled, cobbled together computer system that evolved over the past 25 years of so we’ve been in business. We/she had, and have, some specific ways we want things to work. This resulted in our prior computer tech’s creative solutions to make things work in a way we wanted. But, as we changed computer tech firms, and as software evolved, these creative solutions became liabilities. And, what frustrated both Melissa and me was the failure of the new tech team to anticipate how the way the system was set up would impact the changes being made, such that, rather than being proactive, we had to become reactive. We heard things like “Because of the way your system is set up, we have to do this…,” which we interpreted in context as blaming us for being difficult. To their credit, the tech team took on the task of updating our system anyway, but they did so in a way that got 80% of the job done and left us with 20% chaos in the aftermath. I liken this to being able to take off and fly an airplane, but not knowing how to land it – not being able to finish the job smoothly. I believe the 20% problems could have been anticipated and kept from becoming problems. But, rather, we were told, “Well, your old system was ____ so those problems were not surprising” after the fact. If you know about them, fix them in advance! That would be like us blaming a client for hiring us on a “bad case” then telling them we can’t help them because they have a bad case. Instead, we go into cases with eyes wide open and the knowledge that we get hired for only those cases with problems or concerns, not the easy ones. Maybe that is why our perspective avoids blaming the client, and instead, involves trying to find ways to help them improve their outcomes.