Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fix the Problem, Not the Blame

Let’s say something has gone wrong in your retail business. It’s serious enough that you’ve switched from open minds mode—in which you invite creative ideas—or open roads mode—in which you’re moving ahead assertively—to open wounds mode—in which you must take prompt, decisive corrective action.
     Now after the panic eases, who do you blame for what went wrong?
     Maybe nobody. Holding people responsible is different from fixing blame. Estimates by psychologists at New York University and University of Tulsa suggest that about 70% of retail employees will do less well in a store like yours if you put more emphasis on fixing the blame for the problem than on fixing the problem that caused the setback.
     Here are the most common patterns of thinking and behavior set off by blaming retail employees for serious problems that come up:
  • Denies that failure has occurred or denies any responsibility for it. The employee then begins distorting everyday business occurrences so as to avoid confronting problems.
  • Accepts some responsibility, but deflects most of the responsibility to other people or to unforeseeable circumstances. The employee then is too quick to sense only the criticism when given constructive advice.
  • Announces their responsibility in order to brag about the corrective actions they’ve taken. The employee then aims to impress managers excessively, sabotaging teamwork.
  • Wallows in self-blame out of proportion to their actual responsibility. The employee then overreacts to even minor mistakes, withdraws from necessary risk-taking, and labels setbacks as failure prematurely.
     Guilt and shame are powerful emotions which can lead to the dysfunctional consequences identified by the New York/Tulsa researchers. Embarrassment is a milder emotion in which the employee still accepts both responsibility and that others know about the incident.
     When serious problems arise in your retail business, hammer out the difficulties in supportive ways. Use your hammer to repair the shortfalls, not to pound your valuable staff—and consequently, their staff morale—into the ground. Stop at embarrassment, short of guilt or shame.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Be Creative, But Only Sometimes
Prefer Obligation to Shame

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