Ah, excuses. We’ve been making them up since that first time we didn’t do our homework back in Grade One. Yet despite perfecting our technique a little since then, one thing remains the same … excuses don’t work.
Excuses seem to be particularly prevalent in times of corporate change or challenge. Things are moving quickly, and rather than make the effort to adapt, isn’t it just easier to make up an excuse why you can’t?
Here are four of the most common excuses that paralyse employees and frustrate their managers:
#1: “My boss just doesn’t get it. They have no idea what’s really going on and their management style really ticks me off.”
For a start, let’s cut your manager some slack. They are probably under the pump from their superiors too. Ask yourself, are you honestly communicating with your manager as much as you should be? Or are you expecting them to be a mind reader? They are dealing with a wide variety of different personality types, all with different goals and motivations. Have you sat down with your manager and constructively spoken about not only your concerns, but what gets you motivated? They may be under the false impression that you are only motivated by money, when what you are really aiming for is a promotion or public acknowledgement of a project that you worked hard on. Leadership is never a one-size-fits-all approach, so make sure that your manager knows exactly what makes you tick.
#2: “I’m surrounded by idiots. It’s more like ‘Team-Shirk’ than ‘Team-Work’.”
It’s always their fault, isn’t it? If only you could work with clones of yourself, everything would be just fine. Expecting other people to be just like you is about as pointless as you can get. The only person’s behaviour that you can change is your own. So let’s back up a bit and give our co-workers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are just as frustrated and willing to change as you are. No-one likes confrontation, but if you can candidly acknowledge the obvious in a non-threatening manner, they’ll probably be relieved you brought the issue up. Rather than telling them what you want to happen, ask to brainstorm some solutions together so that you have buy-in from both sides. You will all have strengths and weaknesses, and the beauty of a team is that you can compensate for each other and utilise your talents in the most effective way. Still unsure about how to approach your team? Ask your manager to outline some crystal clear goals and expectations for your team so that you know exactly what you’re working towards.
#3: “The company culture is poisonous. It’s like a cancer has spread through the whole company and I’m powerless to change it.”
This is a tough one, but you do have the power to make small changes. Start with your immediate circle and agree on some positive steps that you can take. Success breeds its own good publicity, so chances are your efforts may become a template for change in other areas of the business. Don’t buy into negative gossip and soon co-workers will be seeing you as a welcome island of positivity. If you truly find the situation unbearable be prepared to cut your losses and move on to a more optimistic scene. Resist the urge to vent your issues on the way out and make sure that you leave any negativity behind as you take on your new position. Do a really honest self-inspection to make sure that you’re not just transporting the same problems with you to a different location.
#4: “I’m special. In fact, I’m so special, that no matter what solution you suggest, I’ll come up with fifty more excuses why won’t it work for me.”
Yes, you are special. We are all special. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s work on some especially great solutions. If you truly have extenuating circumstances, work with your manager to create some new goals that you can meet, not excuses why you can’t. Remember your strengths and find new ways that these can be fully utilised within your team.
Once again, look deep and decide whether you’ve created your own culture of ‘excuse-making’ to avoid challenges. Sure, it’s the easy way out, but it’s also the easiest way to make yourself redundant. Remember the times when you adapted to change in the past, whether it be at work or home? Be proud of that, and use that resiliency to confidently take on the next challenge.
Creating a corporate atmosphere where change is expected and not feared is half the battle when dealing with the excuse-making machine. If your team has the confidence to meet change and challenge head-on, the need for excuses falls away. Whether it be in our personal or professional life, being able to draw upon our past resiliency can be the most effective way of putting an end to the toxic culture of excuse-making.
Rhett Morris is a co-owner and director of Bulletproof People. In the last four years he has delivered in excess of 600 workshops on topics including resilience, managing conflict, drugs and alcohol, and fatigue and energy management.