Years ago a very nervous nurse walked into the examination room to administer my son’s vaccines. “Please hold your son in your lap,” she said anxiously. “Wrap your legs around his, hold his wrist, and keep his arm very still.” Jason was always pretty brave about getting shots but, based on what she said to us, both he and I were starting to feel very edgy. “You’re scaring him,” I said. “He will sit on my lap calmly without my holding him down.” Later the nurse explained that she had had several bad experiences with children kicking, screaming, and pulling their arms away, so that is why she handled vaccinations this way. She did not see that she was using her experience as an excuse and that her approach was in fact making each encounter worse.

I thought back on that situation recently as I read an online article about lousy managers. The article, Top 10 Excuses for Being a Lousy Manager, listed the many excuses people give for their behavior. A common excuse I have heard from poor managers is that a bad experience, a difficult employee, or a poor outcome have affected how they treat others. “I have been burned by incompetent people too many times,” said one manager. “People have to prove to me that they know what they are doing before I trust them.”

It is easy to create great excuses, reasons, and stories for our behavior – whether it’s managing employees, working on a team, serving customers, or tending to young patients. The most effective managers and employees are those who learn from bad experiences and make changes that improve the way they deal with others rather than give them excuses to behave badly themselves.

Where are you allowing a bad experience to negatively affect how you treat others? What excuses have you heard for poor management?
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