Home » When Being Clever Backfires

When Being Clever Backfires

We were standing on the back patio looking up at the stars. The big dipper was only slightly obscured behind a tall cedar tree. You could see enough of it to recognize the constellation.

“Where’s the North Star?”

I pointed directly at it, proud of my astronomical knowledge.

“That’s it? That’s not very impressive.”

Have you ever thought you were being clever and then had someone just blow it up for you? That was one of those moments. We had a good laugh.

Unfortunately for some companies, they roll out something they think is clever without first testing it to see how quickly and easily someone might punch holes in their cleverness, or not understand the inside joke, or simply just not think it is that impressive.

My friend in California sent me a picture of exactly that.

The back of this employee’s shirt says, “I can make it right.”

Does that mean they expect to screw up a lot? That was the first thought my friend had when he saw the shirt. It was the first thought I had when he shared the story. I’m sure it is the first thought on many people’s minds.

There is something to be said for admitting your flaws and taking responsibility for your mistakes, but it probably isn’t the best idea to tell people that you expect to make mistakes. A lot of them. All the time. So much so that your staff is going around proclaiming that their one skill is in being able to fix problems and make them right.

Maybe you should train them to do it right the first time?

As a customer, my expectation is that you will make it right. Period. If you don’t, I won’t be back. Telling me on your shirt that you are trained for that doesn’t necessarily instill any new confidence in me because it makes me immediately think you’re prone to making mistakes you need to fix a lot. This shirt gives off the wrong vibe.

That’s not very impressive.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There is nothing wrong with being clever. Just be sure you have someone you trust look at it before you roll it out. Not your staff, though. They see the inside joke you see. Have an outsider tell you their first impression, then decide if you’re okay with that impression before you go live. Cleverness can be good when done right, but can also backfire when people don’t get the joke.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *