The Power of Empty Promises

Published on October 2, 2003

A friend of mine was telling me how much of a B.S. artist his boss was. He was always promising things and never delivered on them. Whether it was getting something done or following through on some operational detail, there was always disappointment to follow.

If a manager is leading his life this way, the culture he is creating in his department is not one of meeting and exceeding expectations. The attitude being developed is one that says “if the boss can get away without having to come through on commitments, then so can I.”

Granted, most of us who promise things really do it with good intentions. But good intentions alone are not enough. You have to be certain you can really deliver. If not, the damage you create by falling short will be far greater than the rewards you have gained from making the promise in the first place.

Assuming you really did have good intentions and believed you could follow through, what do you do if your worst nightmare came true and you couldn’t deliver? The answer is not to run from the promise. While people do greatly value one’s ability to keep their promises, they tend to value to a greater degree the courtesy of not being blindsided. Customers and employees don’t want surprises. While they may not want to hear about failed expectations, being warned in advance at least gives them the opportunity of taking action ensuring your non-delivery of a promise does not set them back with other people who depend on them.

And that’s another point. If you fail to deliver on a promise to an individual, consider how many others are affected by this action. When you take the time to figure out the casualties of a failed promise down the food chain, you will find there are plenty of other people suffering the effects of your inability to follow-through.

What do you have to lose if you don’t follow through on your promises? Only your reputation. How much will that cost you? You decide!

Posted in