Promises Involve Self, Other, and Context

I talked to an middle manager recently who promised his VP that his group would deliver a special project for the VP.

Unfortunately, he made a promise on the basis of incomplete information. Once he talked to his group and ran the numbers, it turned out the work he promised will have a negative return on investment. And it’s a double whammy: doing the low value work will delay doing higher value work, and cause the group to miss other targets.

But the middle manager refuses to even consider going back to his boss to explain the situation and renegotiate. He gave his word, and he feels his integrity is at stake.

I think he’s leaving something out. In standing on “integrity,” he’s considering self, but not the context or the other people involved. What about the financial integrity of the company? What about the people who have to do the work, and will work overtime to meet other commitments, or experience consequences when they miss other dates?

There’s another part of integrity that involves cleaning up your own messes.