Place blame where it lies, but don't blame anybody

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Sea Gull
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03 Apr 2012, 11:16 pm

I have a conodrum at my job. As part of my normal functions as a truck dispatcher I have to report delayed or late trucks, as they occur to the sales department and to other managers.

I was told recently that my reporting was lacking, that I needed to provide more details so we can identify problems and deal with the people who are creating them. So being a pliant hardworking guy I complied, and everyone at every level started getting after me because 'perfection' is impossible and sooner or later everyone in every department slips up somewhere.

I was spoken to in private and given the message; tell the truth but filter it so no one ends up getting hurt. Be honest and place blame where it lies, but don't blame me or my department staff. (from every department head)

So a 'Catch 22' situation. Either I do the reporting poorly, without too many details and people are frustrated and mad at this, or I give a detailed account of problems and face the fallout from the people making the mistakes- just about everyone at some point in time.

From my perspective the problem is the expectation of 'perfection and efficiency' in the workplace. There are always problems, things never fully go as planned, things happen. Perfection and perfect efficency will never be achieved. The problem is the expectation, and I don't know how to deal with this??

Being tactful or subtle is not something that comes naturally for an Aspie like myself. Any suggestions?


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jedaustin
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04 Apr 2012, 12:14 am

I would say something like this to the person that told you to to tone it down:
"Tell you what.. I'm not the best at that kind of thing. How about I send it to you and you edit it however you see fit and then send it on?"
Beyond that if you can identify underlying causes that are systemic you're helping everyone.



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Sea Gull
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04 Apr 2012, 12:24 am

No, I have to send out notices that can be caused by any number of factors. Merchdise shortages- merchandising department, sales errors- sales department, drivers late for work- transportation department (my boss gets mad), ect, ect.

The company I work for is already 98% efficient, there are no systemic problems. Their goal is literaly the 100% mark and perfection. This is not achievable, human error always occurs, so do other problems. I had a truck which got hit by a train this week- you explain that one tactfully to sales about who is to blame? (I blame the train- he backed into our truck without looking the mile down the highway first).

I've been saying' our driver on route #-- has been delayed- here are customers affected by the delay' but they want more, a scapegoat, someone to point a finger at. If I point fingers someone always gets hurt, sooner or later the fingers get pointed back towards me.

Stll its a good job, steady living wage, good benifits, I wouldn't dream of leaving it. Its just a hang up that I can't think of a solution for?


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jedaustin
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04 Apr 2012, 11:35 am

Stupid question - are you bound to report only problems? If you're on time 98% of the time then there is a lot of call for praise too. My point is that for limited windows of time you do get it 100% right (grin). It seems more of a problem of unbalanced reporting than you reporting reality.

In Toastmasters I learned a sandwich technique for that sort of thing where you point out strengths, then areas that need improvement, and finally recommendations. For example - You may not know that Driver X has been on time 96% of the time... recently Driver X was hit by a train which caused a total loss of the truck and product... We appreciate your dedication to delivering our loads on time but remember that being a little late is better than placing yourself, the truck, and the product in jeopardy.

I'm confused why a truck would be on the tracks though.. I'd never have my truck on the tracks for longer than it takes to drive over them :)

Beyond that perhaps that you're so often on time and customers have come to expect it every time and your management is supporting that unrealistic expectation is the real problem. If instead you only promised a window of time with 10 hours to a day+ of wiggle room (at least for driver related delays) it would probably set better expectations. If sleeping the mandatory 8 hours a day and not driving over the maximum number of hours per day are a problem for the customer or your management then they really need to adjust their expectations since rigging the driver book causes fatigue related death.



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Sea Gull
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05 Apr 2012, 9:18 pm

Quote:
I'm confused why a truck would be on the tracks though.. I'd never have my truck on the tracks for longer than it takes to drive over them


He parked the truck while doing a delivery parallel to the tracks, not realizing that the train is wider than the tracks. The train sideswiped the parked tractor trailer.

95% of the deliveries are local in town with the drivers home each night. 98% of deliveries occuring properly, on time. They literally want perfection, 100% and nothing less, 98% isn't good enough.


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GumbyLives
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06 Apr 2012, 4:24 pm

jedaustin's idea sounds great to me. Kind of like what I've learned to do, but even better than I imagined doing before. I have found in such situations that even when people know someone is truly at fault, they will often get mad at you for pointing it out (even when they supposedly wanted you to).

I'll add my own here too just in case it helps in the thought process for this.

What I usually do it try to shift the focus so all possible causes are named, but put it in passive language. So...

NO: "Driver X is delayed because he parked his truck too close to the tracks and a train hit it".

But YES: "Driver X is delayed because the track area wasn't sufficiently marked for him and a train hit his truck".

My experience is that those who understand that Driver X is actually an idiot (not saying the real one is, but just playing this out for the example) will still understand from this that Driver X once again screwed up and if they want to do something about that, they can.

However, by not making the language direct and therefore something people can get their backs up and be defensive over, you've spared everyone having to fight over whether you've "disrespected" Driver X or the team or whatever other nonsense the NTs around you want to social-futz with each other over.

And if that or jedaustin's idea doesn't work, then seriously you're just caught in a no-man's-land where you really can't do the "right" thing because there is no right thing. My last job was like that - I was made responsible for the techs I dispatched not doing their work, yet I was never given power to control, redirect, discipline, etc any of them. So I got in trouble when they screwed off - but I was never allowed to do anything that would make them stop screwing off. In such a situation, you either leave, or you just develop a tough hide and hope they stop blaming you for their issues soon.

It's totally stupid, but it's an NT world where appearances and social gamesmanship and such counts often more than the actual work does.


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