Apologies and Excuses: Technology’s Impact on Accountability


Act first. Apologize later. In the business world this phrase refers to taking risk and breaking with convention for ideas that go above and beyond, assuming that if they’re successful rather than eat humble pie, you could be dining with your boss getting congratulated.

In the realm of social media, however, this equation changes – for businesses and for individuals. When it comes to the companies building the platforms, the need for fast and frequent iteration on products can mean making major missteps that piss off customers whose penchant for loyalty is pretty slim anyway. As far as individuals are concerned, an errant slip of the pinky finger on that return key sending that note you wrote while frothing over something someone said or did can mean the devastation of a relationship or, at the very least, an awkward moment.

Regardless of whether it’s a business or an individual, however, there is one very simple thing that more often than not can alleviate such situations or if executed well can achieve an even better result.

Being polite.

It sounds oversimplified, and perhaps it is, but at the end of the day, being accountable for what you do and say is the hallmark of the world into which technology is yanking us by the roots of our hair. Thanks to the maelstrom of on-line services and technologies we use to conduct business and stay connected socially, we can assume that the pace with which communications happen will only increase. With that will undoubtedly come an increased level of missteps as people attempt to keep up with the pace, and at times forget some of the simple social norms from the analog world.

If you buy what Michael Arrington says over at TechCrunch, we should just forget about indiscretion, bad behavior and let people do what they do. I don’t entirely disagree, in that we should allow people their missteps, but Arrington misses a critical point – the fact the once you have done something wrong, you need to own up to it, and show that you recognize the indiscretion or error.

My father often said that what happens to you in life is somewhat irrelevant, and that the way in which you choose to deal with life’s ups and downs is what matters. I’d say our world would be well served by applying that to business as well. We all make mistakes and we all make missteps, but those who own up, stay accountable and do so with grace and aplomb are those whose examples I certainly choose to emulate.

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About The Author

What began for me as a career telling other people’s stories has evolved into a journey of helping others tell their stories for themselves. I'm a “classically trained” Journalist whose passion for communications began with my first job ripping wire copy in 1982 and has evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media – from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting and guest booking. I've also curated content for several of the tech industry’s leading conferences. It was after finding myself engaged as an activist for LGBT equal rights that I began to explore the way in which personal stories inform and influence people’s everyday lives and I began using my tech background to teach people to make these connections of personal stories, using new technologies as the medium. Presently I run my own consulting firm in San Francisco, working with companies and individuals helping them navigate the crowded waterways of new technologies with the express purpose of leveraging these rapidly evolving platforms to tell their stories. Through workshops, seminars and strategic consulting services, I walk clients through the story-telling process and towards the kind of deep engagement that comes from truly authentic communication.

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