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If you or your business get caught up in a scandal, how will you respond to the deluge of inquiries — from customers, vendors, investors and employees? You don’t have to be in the news for it to be considered a crisis.
If you’re unsure, you’re not alone.
Some errors are more common than others because they seem to make sense in the moment. But doing something because it “makes sense” is often a problem in and of itself. Here are five basic mistakes that frequently land people in hot water — and tips on what you should do instead.
Lying And Lack Of Transparency
The truth can be a bitter pill, especially when it’s about wrongdoing, less-than-desirable earnings or sales results, or making a mistake. True, honesty is the best policy. But there’s a middle ground between Jim Carey’s character in Liar Liar (who was unable to even tell a white lie for 24 hours) and Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones (who was infamously deceitful and manipulative). Regrettably, more people seem to take their cue from Game of Thrones. This creates a lack of transparency and trust.
Do this instead: Don’t lie or knowingly deceive. One of the wonderful things about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what story you told and to whom. Selective truth-telling is an option because not everyone needs to know everything, but this is a slippery slope.
Putting Things Into Writing
It’s incredible the things that people document without considering the possible implications. They’re creating a paper trail for posterity. While documentation may be useful in a CYA situation, it can often lead to misunderstanding and land you in the awkward position of having to prove a negative: “That’s not what I meant!”
Do this instead: Before you commit anything to writing, always ask yourself, “What will be the consequences if this gets out? How might it be misconstrued or misinterpreted?” Imagine the worst case, because it may happen. Also, when something is sensitive or you need to hear someone’s tone of voice to know what they really mean, there’s a lot of merit to picking up a phone or talking in an office with the door closed. Be sure other C-suite executives, board members and staff do the same. If there’s any doubt about whether it might get you in trouble, don’t do it.
Not Paying Attention To The Details
Whether you’re a business owner or sit in the C-Suite, it’s your job to make sure the “little” things don’t go astray. Too often, employees believe small transgressions will fly under the radar. It’s the “everybody-else-is-doing-it” syndrome. For example, using a corporate account to pay for personal items or padding billable hours to meet a metric. If people get away taking an inch, a mile isn’t far behind. If that culture exists at your company, it’s an invitation for big trouble down the road.
Do this instead: Be alert. Be careful. Be consistent. The smaller the organization, the more vigilant you must be because there are fewer checks and balances. Rules must be understood by everyone and practiced and enforced consistently. Otherwise, people will get lax and believe that crossing the line is permissible.
Saying, ‘It’s Not My Job’
Claiming it’s not your responsibility doesn’t absolve you. Nor does believing something was done correctly because it’s “common sense.” Never assume. This is especially true with financial matters. The rule is simple: Where there’s money, there’s temptation. Where there’s temptation, some people can’t resist. Don’t make it easy for them to break the rules.
Do this instead: To protect yourself from fraud and corruption, disperse financial duties. The more staff members involved in the process, the harder it is for any single person to hide shenanigans. For small businesses, make sure the same person doesn’t handle the flow of money in and out of the company. For larger organizations, make sure your board’s audit committee is engaged and not merely ornamental. If you don’t have an audit committee, create one.
Hoping A Problem Will Go Away On Its Own
Occasionally it may, but that’s a rarity. The more moving parts a situation has, the less chance it’ll stay secret and blow over. Your best bet is to seize control of the problem in the early stages. Otherwise, you’ll create a beast that’s hard to handle.
Do this instead: Always assume something will go wrong. There’s a lot of truth to Murphy’s Law and very little time to act when a crisis occurs. So have your defenses already in place before it does. It’s better to have a plan and not need it than to be caught unprepared.
Regardless of the business you’re in, the ultimate rule is the same: If you sense something inappropriate is going on or likely to happen, it’s your duty to speak up. Never let things slide. When you see a problem, step in immediately — regardless of who’s involved. If you don’t, the bad behavior will continue and escalate.
June 11, 2019 at 08:01AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs