Why some decisions backfire

A number of months ago, I made small talk with a teller at my bank. After the normal nothings, she mentioned how much her feet were hurting. She’d been standing for three hours, and had at least three more to go.

Couldn’t you get one of those adjustable chairs, I asked.

Oh, we used to have those chairs, she chimed in with a tone that tipped me off I’d hit a nerve.

Bracing for the worst I asked, So where’s yours?

Oh, some genius upstairs with a chair (referring to "management") decided we didn’t need them and had them removed.

As my teller- who now could care less about my transaction- ranted on, her colleagues shook their heads in agreement.  For what seemed like a lifetime, the next few moments were filled with a string of unhappy tones about the "people" upstairs.

OK, should this woman have volunteered me this information? No.

Should she have ranted on? No.

Was she overstating her case? Probably.

Regardless, here’s the point: Decisions made in a vacuum and sent downstream without your presence or proper context can create more problems than you want, or need, as a leader.

Maybe there was a good reason the chairs had to be removed. Who knows. It was clear from the teller–and the reactions around her–that, 1) no one knew the reason and therefore felt slighted, and  2) the people upstairs need to come downstairs more often.





  1. Dane July 11, 2007 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    A great story, thanks Dave.

  2. Margaret M. Mohit July 12, 2007 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Terrific example!Thanks!M

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Written by Dave Fleming