Shooting the Messenger

Shooting the Messenger




When I screw up, I have one way that I have found effective at helping me get by it and learn from it.

I write about it.

This is one of those royal jerk screw-up times.

Patty and I stayed at a hotel where we paid about $300/night. The room was clean and the location good, but the service and amenities were definitely substandard, certainly not something we’d expect from a $300/night room. The night before we checked out, we put together a number of issues and I sent it to the hotel’s customer service site, requesting a reduction in our room rate. The next morning, I talked with the hotel sales director about some of our issues. She was pleasant and empathic and said she would talk with the general manager. A associate of hours later while driving we got a call from the sales director informing us that the hotel would not make any adjustment.

This is where the jerk part comes in.

I told – no yelled – that the sales director was making a mistake and that we were going to publish our issues with a poor rating on the travel website that we booked the reservation. After a associate more words I hung up. Patty was silent, which meant I was in the doghouse. I said to her, “Hilton would have given us better service.” That’s when she told me (rightly so) that I was rude to the sales director, that she was only the messenger, and that I should have never talked to her that way. The next 30 minutes in the car were pretty silent; I knew she was right and just needed a bit of time to mirror. We stopped at a Subway for lunch and while we divided a turkey sub I told her she was right and how I shouldn’t have done what I did. After we arrived at our next hotel I emailed her an apology which she graciously responded to. already with the apology, I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting a Christmas card from her.

I’d like to say that my dominant motivation for writing this article was to give you something to chew on; truly, it’s more a reminder to me and if you get collateral assistance then all the better. already after reflecting on my actions I nevertheless believe that me being disappointed with our stay at the hotel was justified. However, as I look back on my actions there are four things I did wrong:

  1. I shot the messenger – The sales director wasn’t the decision maker; she was only delivering a message from her boss. I neglected to concede that she was only conveying a message, and that she wasn’t the decision maker.
  2. I talked to her in a tone she didn’t deserve – I wasn’t calm and measured in my demeanor; I was angry and I wanted her to know it. I could have gotten my point across just as effectively without turning into a Tasmanian devil.
  3. I let my ego get in the way of doing the right thing – When the sales director didn’t give me what I thought I deserved I took it personally and reacted as if her actions were personal. In reality, she was just doing her job.
  4. I damaged a relationship with a possible customer – Some would say that I’ll likely never see her again, so who cares? In my profession anyone wanting to learn more about leadership, project management, or disability inclusion is a possible customer. Any help I could have given her is likely an opportunity lost.

My point to not only you as my readers but as a reminder to me is as follows: be firm in your convictions but do it with respect. You don’t have to be a wet noodle and give in to others; just don’t be a horse’s hind during the time of action.




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