Click here to read the previous article

I Promised him the Moon!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rajit Nair

“Anakoduthaalum Asha Kodukkaruthe” is a popular proverb in Malayalam regarding hope giving; the literal translation is “Even if you gift an elephant, don’t give vain hope to someone!” Giving false promises (hopes) and not been able to deliver those promises will cause havoc in all relationships including the corporate scenario. To get business, suppliers or service providers always endeavor to such strategies like promising the best service or product or after sale support. Once the ‘deal’ is through, seldom these promises are upheld or simply overlooked.

In the long run, such failures in delivering promises may hurt not only the business, but also the relationships. Once the confidence in the company or it’s services is marred, later, whatever the company does good, will be viewed, evaluated or judged from that single episode of failed delivery. Paradoxically, the business owners or the chief executives make such unrealistic promises than low rank employees.

Why do we need to promise, if we know very well from the onset that we would never be able to deliver is the question that needs pondering. There would be many reasons like lack of confidence in the product or service or the team or even thy self that ‘push’ the business owners to opt for false promising.

Great Global Sahara Offer

Internally, when the employees discover that their team leader or supervisor is a ‘promise breaker’, then in the short run, both the confidence in the supervisor and the employees’ productivity will go for a spin. As team dynamics is constituted of lots of such important components, the dent in the confidence as a result of a non-delivery or no fulfillment will have a huge detrimental impact as mentioned above.

General Manager of a bakery in one of the Gulf countries used to promise good bonuses for the production departments, if the target is met during the festive season. The question that beats me is that why you need to have incentives during a festive season, even otherwise the sales will go up, right? Every year, he used to fulfill without failure the promise even though not in the quantity as promised. The GM thought that the little ‘bread crumbs’ would shut the employees or make them happy and motivated. On the contrary, the employees took this as a game to fool them and considered this as a betrayal. As employees tend to have an attitude of ‘you scratch, I bite’ slowly frustration started to take control over their emotions and loyalty. The failure in keeping the promise was not because the team did not achieve their targets, but due to the change in attitude of the business owner, who started enjoying the taste of success in business recently only. As mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, it is not a great idea to have frustrated and irritated employees especially in an eatery. Such a group would deliberately compromise on quality, quantity and even creativity (required for designer cakes & other similar products to meet the market trends) to jeopardize the business. Hope the business owner would not make more promises, which he is not planning to fulfill in the future at least, if the shop is still open!

Another example of a failed promise is from an electronic after sale company owned by one of the renowned families in Gulf. Employees used to enjoy annual bonuses based on company’s performances from the early 80s. As the new generation took over the reigns, all sorts of incentives, including bonuses were stopped without informing the employees. At the start of the year, the employees as usual expected their bonus. Many planned their vacations, shopping, children’s education etc. based on their expected extra income. The employees were kept guessing as the management did not have the courtesy to inform them about the new decision. Needless to say the employees who used to work their heart out in expectation of the year-end ‘carrot’, started collective grunt. The company started losing quality and skilled workers within a span of 15 – 30 days, with whom the company spent their time and effort to give training during those 10 – 12 years of their service with the company. Among the reasons quoted for their resignation, non-disbursement of bonuses stood tall. Further, they disclosed during their exit interviews that even though the bonus amount many used to get was very meager, still they would have welcomed it as a gesture from the new generation owners. So who is the loser here? I would say the company, which lost their talent, that was nurtured all through these years just because of some thickheaded or immature or unskilled decision-makers who were trying to prove to their visionary dad that they achieved cost cutting the moment they assumed office. This is ridiculous!

In the same company, an HR professional who was instrumental in establishing the company’s human resources department resigned due to a similar ‘promise issue’. The General Manager made the promise, that once the HR department is established, the HR executive’s package will be revised. But the GM failed to uphold that and the employee walked off, jeopardizing the HR initiatives in that family owned firm. This created more chaos as this coincided with the attrition of the technical staff due to the bonus issue. These kinds of promise breaking episodes are seen mainly in the Gulf businesses and the high rate of prevalence among the family owned or non-listed companies where immature decision-makers are at the helm.

Delaying or withholding promises is seen in all walks of our lives. We see the politicians failing to deliver what they promised during their election campaigns, governments failing to create employment opportunities in countries like India, failure in controlling the price rise, failure in delivering the projects related to infrastructure development etc are few examples. The voters don’t have much choice like employees in a company!

It’s fair to look at the other side as well, where promise breaking sometimes is beyond an individual’s control. The circumstances when the promise was made may not be the same at the time of realization. Such as, the company making losses or on the verge of bankruptcy, inflation or recession or economic condition of the nation, those may propel them to change their word. Whatever the reason be, if you had promised and now reached a situation where you can’t uphold, then explain or talk to the other party and explain the situation. People will respect and appreciate your openness and honesty. What people hate is silence. Silence can lead to many rumors and fabrication of stories and later people will resort to extreme actions like resignation, termination of payment and deceit. So you decide, which is better!

Please keep visiting (every week) for more on the series “Fearless or Shameless”. © stateoftheartconsulting 2010

Do Post your Comments

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


Click here for Rajit's Corner

Click here for Your Leg or Mine Home