When do reasons become excuses?

I've been accused of a few things since starting this job but the most recent left a very bitter taste in my mouth. In fact, I was so outraged that I felt I needed to spend some time thinking about why (and how) I could possibly have been tarred with this particular brush.

I try very hard to be open, honest and  to give some good solid reasoning and explanation wherever possible so it felt like a very personal attack when I was accused of 'making excuses'. 

In fact, it’s reasonably well known that I really do hate excuses, both in and out of work.  It was a well-aimed blow landing right on target! Now, I’ve been accused of much worse but I suppose my grievance was really that I felt it was most unfair and unjust. Or, was it? This definitely needed some further thought…

I work on the basis that if I just tell you that we are (or are not) doing something I’m only half way there and it’s likely that you’ll not really be satisfied. If I can also tell you why we have made that decision then you’ll understand. Of course, you may not always agree but that’s a different blog altogether.

To me making excuses is bad; the word holds derogatory connotations and is on the same level as other well-known phrases such as 'fobbing off' and 'covering up'.  Neither of which I particularly want to be associated with.

Out came the Oxford English Dictionary. 

Reason: (noun)
a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.

Excuse: (noun)
a reason or explanation given to justify a fault or offence; and,
a reason put forward to conceal the real reason for an action; a pretext.

…just as I suspected. 

So how had the reason, which I’d given in good faith, been taken as an excuse. Maybe it wasn’t what I’d told the customer but the way that I’d written it. Had I been defensive? Had my response been too emotional? Had I been a little dismissive or tetchy? Had I really understood the customer’s point of view? Perhaps what I’d written had unintentionally antagonised the customer. Or maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have mattered what I’d written or how I’d written it because whatever reason I’d given would have been taken as an excuse.

Whatever the catalyst on this occasion the reaction was enough to remind me that I should never become complacent. It’s all too easy to write an email and press send…job done!  Often it’s better to pick up the phone and have a conversation. I’m certain that if I’d done that instead then this particular customer would have had a very different impression.   

No more lost opportunities.

Last date edited: 13 August 2013

About this blog

Sarina Young

Sarina joined us in 2008 as our customer services co-ordinator. Among other things, she manages our national customer service team, complaints procedure and requests for information made to the Trust. She says that the most important thing to her is to be able to go home and feel as though she’s achieved something, however small that might be. Her job is hugely satisfying, widely varied, full of deadlines, immensely interesting, sometimes challenging and no day is ever the same, although some are surprisingly familiar!  

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