For years I had a sub-contracting relationship with a national outplacement firm.
They would send clients to me. I would work with the clients. When they were paid, they would deduct their referral fee and send me a check.
Everything was going fine.
Until late last year.
For some reason, I became dissatisfied with the speed of payments. I began demanding payment when the job was completed.
The firm explained that when they were paid I would be paid.
Like some spoiled five-year old I balked.
“Not good enough,” I said.
“Then we’ll need to find another provider,” they replied.
“Fine,” I said.
“Fine,” they replied.
And they replaced me with another provider.
Which was just fine with me.
And that, as they say, was that. I went about my business. The year has been great. Business has been way up and life has been good.
But the way I had responded didn’t feel right.
I had messed up.
And I knew it.
How Do You Know When You Mess Up?
The short answer is: “You know.”
We continually get in trouble with one another because we all think we’re reasonable and we put our behavior in that context.
We may try to explain away our actions.
We were just looking out for ourselves.
Other people don’t treat us that way.
We would never treat other people that way.
It’s unreasonable, unprofessional.
Or we get into fair and unfair. (Fair equals I get what I want. Unfair equals I don’t get what I want.)
Bottom line: You can rationalize your behavior until the cows come home if you like but if you were raised with any basic sense of right and wrong, you’ll know when you have messed up.
What Do You Do When You Mess Up?
As soon as you know you have wronged another, you need to act.
I decided to write an email.
This is what I wrote:
I think I blew it with you guys with my insistence on how I wanted to be paid.
That was a mistake and I apologize.
I have always told my kids when you mess up you own up.
I expect no less of myself.
I messed up and I’m owning up,
Donna was very gracious. She thanked me for my response and let me know they would be happy to consider using me again as a provider. I felt her response was very gracious considering my behavior.
I was humbled by Donna’s reply. I quickly realized whether or not I work with this organization again is not the point.
The truth is I needed to apologize for my behavior because I was wrong and that was what was most important.
Is there a wrong you need to make right?
Have you messed up? Do you need to own up?
During this season of giving, that may be this year’s greatest gift.