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Reminder—Handling Missed Commitments

I occasionally run across common situations and write a little reminder about dealing with them. Most of us have been in the situation of making a commitment and then not being able to fulfill it. Maybe we underestimated the effort to fulfill the commitment, maybe an emergency arose, or maybe we just made a mistake and forgot. Here are some quick reminders on what to do when you find yourself in this situation:

  • Let the person to whom you have made the commitment know as soon as possible that you will not be able to meet it. This gives them the maximum possibility of meeting their needs elsewhere. It also reinforces that you respect their needs, even if you can’t meet them.
  • If possible, provide alternatives to meeting the commitment. Perhaps a coworker can help? Maybe the need fulfilled by the commitment can be met in another way?
  • Let the person to whom you have made the commitment know if you can meet it at a later date. Many deadlines can shift.
  • Let the person to whom you have made the commitment know what you can do. If you can meet 75% of the commitment, there may be high value in that.
  • If you can partially meet the commitment, involve the person to whom the commitment was made in prioritizing the tasks you can complete. Sometimes 50% of the tasks have 90% of the value, and meeting those 50% will be a great help.
  • Apologize. This acknowledges the impact your missed commitment had on the person to whom you made the commitment. Missing a commitment can damage a relationship. An apology is a great way to begin to mend it.

Final reminder—most of us realize part of being human is making mistakes. We don’t judge others on whether or not they make an occasional mistake, but we do judge them on how they handle their mistakes.

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