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What are the effects of not doing what you said you would?

July 7, 2023
I was working with a client recently and a comment then a following ‘NON’ action really got me thinking.

I observed a Manager having a conversation with a fellow worker. The discussion was about a problem. It wasn’t big in terms of consequences, but I could tell it was important to the fellow worker. What I heard the Manager do was acknowledge the problem and say they would ‘sort it out, later that day’. The next day when I checked…it wasn’t sorted.

Let me give you more of the facts. The problem was out of the workers control, they didn’t have the resources required to ‘fix it’. The problem was hot, it was causing problems and the apparent solution had been both raised and discussed with the layer up in the organisation. The solution (what) had been discussed, who and when both discussed but…it didn’t happen.

The next day, it still wasn’t sorted. I decided to ask the Manager (note I asked, not confronted as I truly wanted to understand the reasoning behind it). What the Manager then told me didn’t surprise me, they said “I totally forgot about that”. It wasn’t intentional! I know the Manager is busy; I know the Manager has lots on their plate. This issue slipped through in their pile of many things to do.

What effect did the raised expectation and then the ‘NOT doing’ have on the worker involved?

I thought further… How often do I do this myself and what are the consequences? Why at that time did the Manager’s comment resonate with me?

A large part of building trust is figuring out what others expect of us, then confirming. If this is done well, and assuming then the expectation is delivered, trust increases a lot.

My conclusion is when you say you are going to do something and don’t this affects others (to whom you’ve discussed it). If you don’t do it, then this will erode trust and confidence in the relationship. People will remember this next time, especially if they have been ‘let down’ in some way. In my opinion it’s likely people will take this fact into account (either consciously or sub consciously) particularly if the action/non action affects them directly.

If you’d like to know more about trust and the skill in leading, please contact me (ben@vwaust.com)