Last week I sent this email to an employee of mine (names have been changed, content paraphrased):
Earlier today I received a voicemail from Joyce saying that you are late delivering the new website feature. What’s the status of that project?
The response of my employee was disproportionate to my intent:
They are lying. As you can see in the email thread, I promised them… and they…
She was visibly upset.
The point isn’t the content of the email. The point isn’t who is or isn’t lying. The issue here is that I failed to recognize the weight and potential damage that my word, as owner, carries in our business.
Customers call me with all sorts of weird questions and demands – sometimes they are reasonable, sometimes not. In this case, I was merely trying to get a feel for the situation before calling the customer back – my employee’s response was very defensive, and the defensiveness slowed down my fact-gathering. I don’t blame her for being defensive – I’m the owner of the company, and I need to remember that the owner’s word weighs a ton!
A better way to handle it might have been to start up a Slack conversation or voice call to get their word in first before I burst in with the facts. We are human, after all, and people respond to things differently.