Everyone’s in charge, but nobody’s responsible

We are quick to take credit for anything that goes well, but never for anything that goes wrong

I went for my annual physical, and the doctor always has me get a blood test. `No problem, and thankfully, everything’s fine.’

A few weeks later, I got a bill from the lab for about $1,000. I called the insurance company, and they claimed the provider had submitted the wrong information, so they had denied the claim, instructing the provider to resubmit the correct information and not to bill the patient.

Well, the provider did resubmit, and as a result, I owed about $130, which is far more reasonable. But first I had to call the provider to straighten it out.

After waiting on the phone nearly an hour, I finally got a real person with a thick accent, making her difficult to understand. She insisted there had been no mistake, and I had to pay the $1,000. She kept asking me questions and interrupting me every time I tried to answer.

Exasperated, I finally asked to speak with her manager. Well, that changed her tune. She put me on hold to get the manager.
After a few minutes, she came back on the line without her manager, but she now understood that there had indeed been a mistake.

“You can ignore that bill,” she said. It must have broken her heart to say it.

According to her, the problem was caused by the doctor’s office, who had forwarded the wrong information. Well, I countered, the doctor’s claim had gone right through with no problems.

She still insisted, so I told her I had to show my insurance card when I went for the blood test, and they took the information. The mistake was really internal to her organization.

“Oh no, the doctor’s office was respon-sible.”

Well, some things are just not worth fighting about. Even so, I had to invest over an hour of my time to help them find and correct their mistake. I never even got an apology or a thank you. She was paid for the time she spent with me, but I wasn’t paid a nickel.

She was in charge, and we did it all her way, but she couldn’t even take responsibility for the error. It wasn’t her personal error; it was her organization’s error, and she was representing that organization, which is one of the giants in the business. If I used their name, you’d recognize it.

She did such a splendid job, the next time I need a blood test, I think I’ll go somewhere else. Unfortunately, I could easily run into the same problem there. Our health care has become so convoluted, the customer – I mean the patient, the one we’re doing it all for – no longer matters.

Admit responsibility

It’s not just in health care. We are quick to take credit for anything that goes well, but anything that goes wrong is never our fault. Everyone’s in charge, but no one is responsible.

It’s not that we’re trying to fix the blame. We can’t learn anything until we identify and admit the real cause. We don’t know what to fix. None of us is perfect. Anyone can make a mistake, strike out with the bases loaded or fumble a football. History attests that we’ve yet to have a leader that has made all the right decisions.

And yes, some wrong decisions cost many lives and can yield untold misery. But if we spend our time covering our tails and transferring the blame, nothing ever gets any better.

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are generally considered to be the best presidents we’ve ever had, yet they both made many mistakes. They were quick to admit their errors and learn from them.

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Lee Iacocca, Ken Olsen and many other business leaders were quick to do the same, but sadly there aren’t a lot of folks in recent memory who know how to say, “I screwed up. Here’s what we need to change.” nhbr

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque3@gmail.com.

Categories: Workplace Advice