Sometimes I want to do what is best for the customer at all costs. That objective sometimes creates an emotional trap when considering price increases, service changes, or product discontinuations. Yes it is a good and noble objective, but you really can’t always do what’s best for the customer in all cases. I mean, you can’t sell your best product for nothing for instance. You may not be able to provide 24 hour customer service. You may not be able to be the best or fly across country at a moments notice. There is some limitation to what you can do for your customer.
The same could be said of any of the truths you hold to be self-evident. Are all men really created equal? Do we all have the same access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Is lying always wrong? Do we owe our shareholders more than our community, or vise versa? Must we lay off employees when times get tough, or not lay off employees at any cost?
Rather than answering these questions, I would like you to know that some choices are very tough and take careful consideration. Some choices that look easy may have unforeseen consequences. If possible, you really need to take a step back and consider all the ins and outs of a problem before you do something about it. And that means initially setting aside you long held beliefs and come from a position of logic rather than emotion.
Is this yet another long, boring discussion about ethics? Well, no. People are emotional about all sorts of things. It is usually because you paint yourself into a corner about something and have no options when you encounter a problem that doesn’t fit. Try this on for size: “I will never…” or “I will always…”; these can be problems because what if you must or must not? What kinds of things do you use these phrases with? “I will never leave the house without an umbrella.” What if you left your umbrella at work? Silly, eh? Well people paint themselves into corners with these kinds of things all the time.
While having absolutes makes things difficult, there is one absolute. You must always follow the law. Think you must break the law? Consult with an attorney. Don’t know the law? Learn it. It is said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. You can go to jail for decades for ignorance. Do you have a good excuse for breaking the law? Again, pass it by a knowledgeable attorney before you do anything. He is likely to tell you the consequences.
How about you? Do you recall having an emotional response about a question somebody asked you? Or a problem you were working on? Or just responding to something somebody else said?
Originally published 8/8/2011 on businessfizz