Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Be Sensitive to Who Gets Blamed for Damage

Hurricane Sandy’s changing the dynamics of the presidential election. The candidates have had to curb their campaign travel, and the storm’s put a crimp in both polling surveys and early voting.
     Plus findings published in the American Journal of Political Science indicate that voters will blame a president if weather disasters cause severe damage. This will be true even though voters realize these politicians have little control over the weather and even though the voters may share responsibility for the damage because they failed to heed warnings from government authorities. The 2006 Democratic takeover of the House and Senate have been attributed in part to citizen disapproval of President Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.
     The researchers, from Boston University and Carnegie Mellon University-Qatar, also say that when the President is seen as acting decisively to minimize deaths, injuries, and property damage from a hurricane, the President gains good will. The effect of this good will at least offsets the attribution of blame and, because it is based on logic, usually exceeds the power of the blame.
     The lesson from this for retailers comes when a product you sell or something your store does turns out to cause serious damage. The 2010 recall of hundreds of millions of eggs affected grocery stores, restaurants, and other sorts of retailers. The impetus for the recall was evidence eggs from certain sources had been contaminated with salmonella. One response from industry spokespersons was to say that people who had been poisoned had failed to cook their eggs thoroughly enough.
     Understandably, this led to criticisms of the industry for trying to avoid blame. But research at University of Florida indicates that when a retailer makes a major error, the public, after initial shock, becomes open to the idea other parties might share responsibility. Here are the types of explanations research indicates are most likely to lead to the public accepting that responsibility for damage is shared:
  • “There were circumstances we’d come across only very rarely, if at all, before. Now we’ve built in ways to spot those circumstances promptly.” 
  • “Here is the information we’d been given, and as you can see, it was misleading. Now we’ve developed ways to get more accurate information.” 
  • “Here are the legal requirements, regulations, or policies that required us to handle the situation as we did. Now we’re telling those who set these rules what happened and suggesting changes.” 
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Assign Blame Accurately for Damage You Do

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