The most difficult statement for some people to make is:
I was wrong and I apologize.
I had been working part-time doing some sales and merchandising for a small company that managed accounts in the pet store market. I liked it. We only represented organic, whole pet foods and various pet toys and accessories. I had been with them about a month when I was asked to complete these two tasks.
I was new, but I felt pretty confident that I could accomplish the objectives easily. Since my work took place primarily in the location of my accounts, part of these tasks involved calling the accounts and speaking with a manager to make an appointment.
The first account made the appointment with me. I arrived and completed the task using the resources sent to me by my home office. I followed the direction of the manager on duty and did as he wished because it was his store.
The second account told me the task was already completed by one of their associates and they were happy with the setup. So there was no need for me to visit them until my next service call came due.
I’m golden, right?
Then I get a call from my boss. According to him the tasks never got completed at the store locations. Now his boss is “making” him come to see me and call on both locations to followup. He asks me to tell him again what happened when I called to make the appointments. Then he asks me to put it in writing and email it to him.
What it all boiled down to was a he-said-she-said with me being the lying villain. Since I make it a habit not to lie, repeating the same story over and over again when he kept asking “What exactly did the manager say to you?” was pretty easy. I just told the truth.
In the first store I pull out the documents the home office sent me to work from and he realizes that the information I have is only half there. He wants to know why I didn’t ask for a complete set and I tell him that I assumed I had a complete set. Why would I think otherwise?
At the second location I veer off once we’re through the front door and head for the restroom. When I finish, I start looking for my boss and as luck would have it I approach him from behind as he’s chatting with the store manager and the team leader. Once I’m within earshot here’s what I hear him saying in a conspiratorial voice to the store manager; “..well, she said she spoke to a guy named Wayne and he told her this was done, but I can see that it’s not done so I’ll take care of this myself! I can’t believe she would lie about something this important!”
As a boss, how unprofessional can you be?
I spoke up then and surprised him. He had no idea I was standing right behind him. I didn’t argue, or even act like I had just heard him slander me to this manager. Instead I addressed the manager and assured her that before our visit was over I would make certain that every task was executed to her liking. And I smiled at her.
Once I was alone with my boss I asked him why he was being so passive aggressive. I told him I heard what he was saying to the manager. If he thinks I’m a liar and a bad employee why doesn’t he just tell me instead of telling my accounts? If he intends to keep me as an employee and I have to continue calling on these accounts doesn’t he realize how hard it will be to rebuild trust in an account after he’s said things like this?
His reaction was to snatch the instructions from my hand and to pretend I didn’t exist. I decide to let him work this out for himself and assist him in completing the tasks even though he’s being an ass. I mean, really, how old are we?
An hour later I see him having a conversation with the manager again, but I don’t bother approaching them and just keep working.
After four hours, we’re done. I have endured every minute of his hostility and silent treatment with grace. I smile and tell him I’ll get the paperwork signed while he takes a break. And guess what I find out?
During the second conversation he had with the manager she told him that she called Wayne at home to verify my “story”. Wayne told her that yes he had spoken to me, “I told her the setup was completed and that it looked better than what we had before and I also told her she didn’t need to come in.” The manager asked my boss to tell me and to apologize to me because she could see he was being hard on me.
Did my boss tell me any of this? No, he never did.
When the manager was signing my paperwork that day she asked me if he had told me what happened and I told her I didn’t know what she was talking about. She realized that my boss hadn’t told me the truth about what happened so she told me the whole story again. She couldn’t believe that he hadn’t apologized to me. I smiled and told her that we probably just got busy and he forgot.
When we were in the parking lot preparing to leave he haughtily told me that I still had my job. I looked at him. I was disgusted by his behavior and knew I would never manage anyone the way he had managed me that day. And this is what I said to him;
“These accounts are huge and I understand the need to be thorough. I did exactly what I was told to do. I’m glad you came to work with me and I feel the training I received today was helpful. There is one thing I would like to point out to you and I hope it helps you the next time something like this happens. Always stand behind your employee. Even if you think the employee lied. If you have integrity, you can always fix the problem, no matter how big or small. If you undermine your own team with an account by letting them know you think your own employee sucks, then you’ve totally lost the battle.
You see, the account won’t even remember the bad employee’s name a year from now, but they will most definitely remember the name of the company that sent the bad employee into their store.”
I turned and walked to my car and he never said a word to me. Other than “I apologize for doubting you.” there wasn’t anything he could say.
I stayed with that company until we moved away. I still worked for the same guy the whole time. Not long after this happened the store managers told me what he said about me to them on the phone before we arrived that day. He told them he was making a “special” trip down to check on the accounts himself. He told both store managers that I was in hot water with the company because I had lied about the work to him and he was going to “set me straight”. Both of those store managers thought he was an ass.
If you’ve made a mistake you should always take responsibility. It’s not that hard to do. Once you’ve apologized you’ll be surprised how good it feels. Making mistakes comes from living. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is ever right all the time.
Being accountable and being able to say you are sorry comes from living well. When your life is good, admitting you’ve made a mistake and wanting to learn from it comes much easier.
Usually people lie out of fear. Their fear has nothing to do with you. It’s their issues and it’s best to let them work that out on their own. If you’re involved with someone you think may be lying to you and you want to keep giving them chances, do so until it becomes an unhealthy situation for you. Take care of yourself first.
If you’re the one being called a liar and you know you aren’t one, you have nothing to worry about. The person calling you a liar is merely reflecting something back to you about themselves. Perhaps telling a lie to cover their tracks is how they would have handled the situation and so this seems the most obvious route for anyone to take.
In the meantime, make sure that you’re looking at the big picture. I use this one experience in my memory banks to remind myself that I still have a lot to learn and I want to continue learning. This guy couldn’t admit he was wrong and he couldn’t apologize to me. He taught me a very valuable lesson with his inability to retract and surrender to the truth. I know now that I need to be accountable and I need to lose the pride that prevents me from being accountable and apologizing when the occasion arises. This will make me a better human being.