The Worst Excuse In Business

printer Printer Friendly Version

Author David Towler

"I’m sorry but I’ve been really busy” is the most commonly heard excuse in business these days.

Most of us wear many hats at work and at home. We all have deadlines, appointments, meetings and personal things that demand our time. Being busy is a fact of life and many of us are legitimately busy, but we all know someone for whom ‘being busy’ is a chronic excuse. Everyone is busy and none of us are unique in that regard.

Claiming to be busy isn’t necessarily untrue but it’s not really much of an excuse for not replying to emails, phone calls, colleagues or clients. As the expression goes, ‘people do what’s important to them.’ We all know someone who always has to be chased for answers or who promises to get back to you but who never does. We’ve all left voice-mails for people whose outgoing message states that they’ll reply within 24 hours – but who never do.

It’s not only unprofessional and rude, it’s frustrating, wastes (busy) people’s time and it also sends negative messages that reflect poorly on these individuals and their organizations.

When people use the excuse “I’ve been busy” what they’re really saying is:

• I forgot.
• You weren’t a priority for me.
• I’m disorganized and have poor time management skills.

“Busy” sounds nicer than any of the above but it doesn’t change the message or its impact.

People who can’t be relied upon to be responsive should hire an assistant or improve their skills. It really comes down to good time management skills and common courtesy. There’s not much that one can do about the latter but people can be taught how to manage their time better and employers can screen applicants for these skills and for things like conscientiousness, reliability, dependability, initiative and multi-tasking ability.

There are a number of assessment tools available to measure time management skills. Some are self-tests for personal development and others are designed for pre-hiring scenarios. They measure things like:

• Action Plans
• Controlling Productivity
• Decision Making
• Organizing
• Planning
• Scheduling
• Time Usage
• Time Wasters

Employers rarely flag time management as a priority when hiring but it’s a skill that’s required in practically every job. For example, what good is a salesman who calls 100 leads a week but who also takes 3 hour lunches, rarely follows up and never replies to customer enquiries, or a manager who is always late with their budgets or employee evaluations? Being responsive isn’t only important at the customer service end of the business (where it’s also often lacking) it should be required of everyone in an organization.

Focusing on hard skills like sales ability or MS Office competence is common when evaluating employees but soft skills that contribute to overall effectiveness are often overlooked. However, that doesn’t need to be the case. There are now so many employee skills assessments available that it’s easy for employers to ensure that their employees have these and other necessary aptitudes and competencies.

There are many tools to help employers screen applicants or coach and develop existing employees. In addition to skill-specific tests like those for Time Management, there are general pre-screening tools and job-specific tests that assess a battery of complementary skills required for success in a vast array of occupations. Companies who use assessment products do so because they know that they work and companies that don’t do this risk hiring someone else’s rejects (and often do).

Companies like Creative Organizational Design carry hundreds of assessments that help businesses screen, train, develop and manage their employees. If there’s a skill that you’d like to measure, then there’s a test available to do it for you. If you’re wondering if there are ways to find better applicants and better employees the answer is ‘yes’ and we can help you do so.

(And we promise to reply to your query very promptly too!)


David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a firm offering nearly 40 years of expertise specializing in employee assessments and which has over 2000 different product titles available. Please send comments about this article to dtowler@creativeorgdesign.com. Creative Organizational Design has 100s of assessment tools designed to help employers screen out other people's rejects, assess skills, aptitude, attitude and 'fit' within an organization. For more information about the options available and help selecting the best tools for your needs please contact us.

Re-printable with permission.