That’s Just an Excuse!

Manager: “Why didn’t you finish the report on time?  We really needed that information to move forward in the next phase!”

Employee: “I am sorry but the influx of orders, as well as our team members out because of the pandemic has made it impossible to take care of our customers AND analyze what was needed for the report.”

Manager: “That’s just an excuse…”

“That’s just an excuse” is uttered way too many times from leaders in all industries.  While it may be intended to motivate an employee, it is demoralizing and dismissive!

Do not misunderstand, there are times that employees will have actual excuses and need to be called out when they do.  Unfortunately, though, leaders often default to quickly dismissing employee concerns by labeling them as excuses.

Responding with “That’s just an excuse” is, in itself, an excuse for lazy leadership.

Great leaders know that active listening is the first step to bridge a connection with their followers.  Taking the time to listen and then deciphering between an excuse and what may be an actual reason is the mark of a true leader.

Reasons do exist and are often legitimate as to why something does not get accomplished.  The key is to recognize and understand the differences between excuses and reasons.

My daughter, for example, is learning to play the guitar.  She practices several times a week and does so without prodding from her mother and me.

Let’s say one of her guitar strings breaks – this would hamper her progression in learning to play.  If I were to ask her why she is not playing well and she told me about the broken string, it would be heartless for me to respond with, “Well, that’s just an excuse…why don’t you go get another string?”

She would undoubtedly remind me that she is not old enough to drive herself to the store and would need me to take her.  In this scenario, the broken string is not just an unwarranted excuse; it is an actual reason why she was being limited in her progression as a musician.

If I were practicing servant leadership, I would proceed to the local music shop so we could buy her a new package of strings. 

Leaders should learn to listen first.  Hear what the employee is saying as to why they struggled to complete a task.  Then, without jumping to conclusions too soon, seek ways to provide resolution.

Jumping to conclusions and firing off with “That’s just an excuse” will create barriers and your employees will stop coming to you for coaching, mentoring, and resolving issues altogether. 

Seek to understand, carefully decipher between excuses and reasons, and provide servant leadership.  Your employees will appreciate it and you will find them wanting to get it right more times than not!


Published by Bryan Etters

Hi! I am a servant leader determined to help leaders grow and develop their personal and professional leadership skills. I am a retired military member with over 20 years of leadership experience in both the military and business worlds. I am determined to help you lead!

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