A Thing
The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 08, 2012 • Issue 12:10:01


Own it, solve it, move on

One thorny situation in the business world is when someone is forced to take the blame for a mistake made by a colleague or partner. Consider the following scenario: a merchant level salesperson (MLS) signs a merchant and promises the merchant will be completely set up within 72 hours at the most. But three days elapse, and the MLS receives an angry phone call from the merchant, who says the new POS terminal hasn't even arrived let alone been set up.

The MLS contacts the ISO involved; the ISO does some detective work and determines the vendor simply lost the order. The MLS's first impulse is to contact the merchant, deny any culpability and say the vendor was completely at fault because of a glitch in its delivery system. But the MLS can't say that because of the ISO's motto: don't throw your partners under the bus.

The ISO and MLS also both realize that laying blame on another party makes them look bad. It goes back to another truism: nobody likes a snitch. So the MLS takes full responsibility for the foul-up and works hard to correct the situation with the merchant.

Abandoning the blow-up

Often remedying a mistake improves a relationship, but sometimes the opposite occurs. Imagine that the merchant becomes intractably wary of the ISO and the MLS and eventually jumps ship to another ISO because the merchant can't shake the notion that neither of them can be trusted to deliver on their promises.

Now that the merchant has bolted, the ISO and MLS both have a strong impulse to vent their anger at the vendor over the costly mistake. Yet they don't do that because they both know that exploding at the vendor will only harm a relationship that has been beneficial for all parties.

Plus, the ISO has calculated that finding a new partner is not worth the time and costs, and who's to say the new vendor would be any better than the old one.

Getting beyond the emotion

So the ISO and MLS lose the merchant but retain the vendor that caused the problem. They each took a reputational blow, too, and they didn't even get the catharsis of yelling at the vendor. It seems like they lost all around. But, in fact, they won.

You see, the ISO did a very smart thing. Instead of laying blame and exacting punishment, the ISO met with the vendor and the MLS and went step by step over the communication and delivery processes. Not only did they locate and unravel a kink in the process, they found a way to streamline and improve it.

In the end, the mistake turned out to be a watershed event. It was handled in a way that didn't disrupt continuity between the partners or cause undue stress, the communication channels between the partners became stronger, and the mistake never occurred again. This ultimately boosted business, bolstered all of their reputations and increased residuals.

Moving up

Just think about the countless ways this scenario can be applied to other situations, whether in business or private lives. It could be a disagreement between colleagues over who was at fault for a blown deadline or a fight between spouses over who was responsible for a late mortgage payment. It's about getting beyond the anger and focusing on solving the problem. It's about putting aside egos for the benefit of a larger goal.

It may be difficult at first, but it gets easier the more the process is used. Analyze the problem clinically, work it out strategically, then move on. can stay on track until they run their natural course. end of article

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