Our last article discussed the CEO or other senior leaders as the “fall guy” for organizational mistakes. Now that a mistake has occurred, willful negligence or an unintentional accident, what happens now? How does the organization or individual recover? As I stated several times in a past article, it depends.
It depends on the severity of the mistake, presence of intentionality, and so on. It also depends on the culture of the population affected and that of the offending individual or organization. Does the organization have a history of making offensive mistakes? Does the individual have a reputation of repeat acts of indiscretion?
Here are some things that organizations and individuals can do to help repair their image.
An apology goes a long way – but only so far and so often. Apologize after losing you cool once during a meeting and you may be fine. If you have a history of explosive rage, you may find yourself updating your resume and a trunk full of what was once in your desk. Organizations can apologize too. This may be a result of (un)intentionally misleading customers and an apology could be in the form of a Tweet, Facebook post, or even a news announcement. A personal phone call could do the trick as well.
Make amends through financial compensation, repairing what was damaged, replacing what was lost, or offering something at a steep discount or free. Organizations do this often. When an auto manufacturer identifies a malfunctioning seat-belt, they offer free replacement and may even offer a rental car if needed – at no cost to the customer. I once offended (unintentionally) a colleague of mine and was able to buy them a cup of coffee and talk it over. In the end, we were both fine without any additional fall-out.
Now, this may sound counter-intuitive, but it may be appropriate in some cases. The issue may seem so severe at the time, but in reality, it was minute. Depending on the severity of the mistake, and the results, the best decision may be to do nothing and let the issue just fizzle out on its own. I have done this at times, and it works ok. Usually when I do nothing, it is only temporary as I end up following my “nothing” with an apology later.
For the individual, this may mean leaving a position, changing employers, or even starting a new career. For the organization, this could result in a product realignment or disbandment, adjusting services offered, or even just policy and/or process changes.
These are not all-inclusive, just a few ideas to get you thinking. What works for you? Any recommendations, please let us know.
Jared W. Snow