Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

What Excuse Will You Make For Them THIS Time?

From www.thelmagazine.com. Just a small ererr. Unacceptable  Excuses

* “Uh, Herman forgot to cover your car when he sprayed the paint on your house. Poor guy, he’s had a lot of problems at home lately, so I didn’t say anything to him. There’s no point in making him feel worse.”

* “You won’t be getting  your paychecks this month. We’re doing more with less over here in Budget, so Mathilda completely forgot about the payroll. She feels awful about it, but I can’t blame her what with all work we’ve had to do.”

* “I know Roberto promised your invitations would be done in time to mail before the wedding, but you won’t be getting them until the week after that. Just a snafu, you know how that goes! You’ll be on your honeymoon by then anyway, so the delay shouldn’t be a big problem, right?”

* “OK, so my guys forgot to put brakes in a few hundred cars last week. They’re only human and they make mistakes now and then. How come no one mentions the hundreds of brakes they put in like they were supposed to?”

* “I’m sorry about your incision coming open and your intestines falling on the floor. If you had double-checked to make sure we sewed you up correctly, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.  However, I’m not going to play the blame game at this point. The important thing is that it was a learning experience for all of us.”

Stop Making Excuses For Late Work, Bad Work and No Work!

For all the times supervisors and managers complain about the work or behavior of employees, in most cases there are a dozen times when they make excuses:

  • “My guys are really busy.”
  • “She’s got problems at home.”
  • “We were under a lot of time pressure.”
  • “She feels unappreciated.”
  • “No one understands the stress we’re under!”
  • “He felt frustrated.”
  • “It was really your fault.”

If you care about an employee, work with them to help them overcome stressful or unpleasant circumstances by putting their focus on their responsiblities. You don’t help them or anyone else–certainly not yourself–by making excuses or lowering standards. (If that sounds harsh, consider how many times you have complained about getting bad service or bad work in stores or businesses–don’t you wish excellence had been the standard?)

If an employee can’t behave or perform correctly, teach him or her to do it the right way. Then, provide oversight and assistance to ensure quality work. An internal or external customer should not  be the guinea pig on which an employee practices. Do quality checks while the work is being done, not when there is a complaint. (Sadly, many of the things that diminish your reputation and the reputation of your group will never be formally complained about.) 

If an employee can do the work acceptably but doesn’t, apologize to the person who received the poor service or a poor product and make it right. You don’t need to apologize in a way that demeans the employee, but there should be no doubt in the mind of the client or customer that you are sorry and you will make it right in the way they want, if possible.  

If the problem involves conflict or poor service within the work place, look for the primary contributor rather than automatically saying everyone was at fault. Sometimes only one employee is creating the problem–hold that employee accountable rather than talking to everyone in a meeting or memo.

Don’t be too mild when you tell the employee about the problem. Many supervisors make the mistake of downplaying the seriousness of a work problem, as a way to help the employee save face or as a way to avoid conflict. However, when you talk to the employee, you should make it clear in what you say and how you say it that the behavior or performance wasn’t acceptable and that it must improve, starting immediately. Try to involve the employee in the actions required to make-up to the customer for the poor product or results. Consider The One Minute Manager approach, which calls for brief but specific conversations.

Support and praise good work and don’t accept bad work. Never allow a culture of mediocrity to develop. You owe that to your organization, the people you serve, employees who are doing the right things, the employee who didn’t do the right thing–and you owe it to yourself. The first time you hear an excuse, call it what it is and don’t accept it. There might be reasons that are justified–a needed item didn’t arrive, someone else didn’t do their work, someone was gone legitimately. Even in those cases, often someone could have prevented the problem if they had been on top of the situation.

The next time you make an excuse, let someone off the hook, back down, change a deadline, approve substandard work, or are too mild in your critique of bad work, think about all the times:

  • When you have planned on an assignment being done and found out it wasn’t;
  • When the work product was a big disappointment to you but you accepted it anyway;
  • When you have been more worried than the employee about a problem;
  • When you re-did something or got someone else to do it, but didn’t tell the person responsible;
  • When you had to back-pedal and make excuses to someone higher than you;
  • When you have had to smooth things out, field complaints or put a good spin on something;
  • When you have taken the heat for something someone else failed to do or did poorly, and they didn’t even say thank you.

Aren’t you tired of that? If it happens tomorrow, what excuse will you be quick to provide? What excuse will you accept? Why should you accept any excuse at all, especially if even one other employee is doing good work with good behavior in the same circumstances?

How would this one set with you?

“Hey, I know you told Jake you wanted your tattoo to read,  ‘I’m a Lover’, but you gotta’ admit, ‘I’m a Loser’  is close.” 

December 16th, 2009 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 7 comments


  1. This is so right on, that I sent it to HR and they are sending it to all the managers. Your phrase about a culture of mediocrity hit way too close to home for me, because I think that is what we have most of the time. It seems like there is nothing so bad that a supervisor or manager can’t find an excuse for it and the employee never is held responsible. We have a new director and I’ve got my fingers crossed that there will be changes. Thanks!

    Comment by wiseacre | December 17, 2009

  2. I was accused of making excuses for the mistakes of anemployee, but I was really just trying to let others know that there were things going on they didn’t know about. Looking back on it, the person I was making excuses for didn’t show me any loyalty and I even think maybe I was duped about it. It’s a shame when you feel you can’t trust anybody! Sad but funny picture, by the way.

    Comment by D.H. | December 17, 2009

  3. Where I work the most common excuse is “You don’t realize how busy we are.” Second most popular excuse is, “You weren’t clear about what you wanted.” Third most popular excuse is, “I was out sick.” Fourth most popular excuse is, “I didn’t realize when you wanted it.” Fifth most popular excuse is, “You didn’t return my phone call about it.” The first hour of the day for some people is spent with them sympathizing with their friends over how busy they are, while the rest of us just get busy and do our jobs. I’m waiting for someone higher up to tell them to get to work.

    Comment by P.W. | December 18, 2009

  4. Excellent! (Or should I say, “Awsome”?) I printed this and gave it out at a staff meeting this morning and it was a hit. A few minutes later one of the supervisors started to make an excuse for a problem and stopped himself and just told us what he would do to fix the problem. I think we all needed the reminder. S.

    Comment by S.T.S. | December 18, 2009

  5. Is there any way a copy of this could be sent to every human being on the planet? This is seriously good stuff. Thank you, Tina. You’re amsome!

    Comment by Jeff Adams | December 19, 2009

  6. I have tattoo art and feel sorry for people who have theirs all messed up. I saw one once that was supposed to say, “Our love is forever” and had their initials. But it looked like “Out love is foreven.” The script style can really make a difference.

    This is a good looking website and I can see that it will be good for me to read. I have been a supervisor for a year and think I’m doing OK, but I haven’t had any formal training and the books I’ve bought were hard to apply. I’ve read some things here that would have helped me. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Tattooed | December 19, 2009

  7. Hi! A friend sent me this article because I have talked about this at meetings. I manage a county office and realized that most excuses are given to our internal or external customers. The supervisors would sometimes really get onto an employee for not doing a good job. But, when the customer who the job was for would complain about the quality of the work or lateness, etc., the supervisor would immediately make an excuse.

    I now require that we apologize for problems and follow up a few days later. I have found that supervisors do a better job of tracking work so they don’t have to apologize!

    Comment by Tom Tat | April 2, 2010

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