No one told me

“No one told me”

At a recent event that my wife organized, an employee from the host hotel repeated this phrase a few times, and it got me thinking about where it came from.

First, a little context.

At the hotel where the event was held, there was a mix up with when the ballroom was supposed to be unlocked on the second day. (It was unlocked too early). We went to the front desk to ask that it be relocked, and the desk agent called over the radio to someone to take care of it.

In a frustrated tone, we heard, “No one told me that” coming from the radio speaker.

Barring the obvious frustration, the doors were relocked as requested, and we went about our business. When it was time to unlock them for the day, the person who apparently answered the radio call showed up and unlocked them. “No one told me” again was uttered to us as the doors were unlocked.

That was pleasant.

At first glance, this seems like an annoyed employee shirking their responsibility and protecting their turf. But the more I thought about this, the more I realized what a quagmire it really is. Is this a communication issue, an employee issue, a culture issue or a leadership issue? Hmmm…

Of course you could argue that it’s all of these, or at least a combination.

Let’s explore a little deeper:

Communication issue: it seems at a minimum that the request of the client was not relayed to the person who could carry out the request. Why? Was it not understood by the event manager? Was it communicated to another person in the door unlocking department, but not to the person on duty that day? Is there no process for communicating these requests (beyond word of mouth) to the right people? If there is a system, is everyone using it (or are they proficient in using it?) Was it not communicated from the client? (In this case, I can confidently say this is not the care, because I was there. Still, it’s an option that should be explored.) Ultimately, where did the communication break down?

Employee issue: Hearing something like this we probably think that this employee doesn’t care, they are burned out, frustrated, overwhelmed, not accepting responsibility, etc. All of those may be true, but I heard something else, too. I heard a desire to help. “No one told me” could be saying “don’t blame me, it’s not my fault”, but behind that could be “I want to help, I’d love to help, I want to make this right for you, I want you to have a GREAT experience, but that’s really tough if I don’t have the information to do my job.” Which leads back to our communication issue, but also nods to a culture issue.

Culture issue: Like ANY action or behavior, there is more to it than what we see on the surface. This employee could be reacting to an unsettling trend of being repeatedly blindsided with these types of requests. Have the employees’ requests for additional information or clearer direction gone unheard? Are they tired of getting the brunt of aggravation from guests when things don’t go right? Are they the one that gets blamed by management when these shortfalls in service occur? THAT can be frustrating.

Of course all of these issues point to one thing…

Leadership issue: who has the greatest impact on communication? Who defines the culture of a company through their words and actions? Who is responsible for making sure that employees are heard and supported?

If you are a leader, that would be you.

Also as a leader, you often can’t take things a face value. This post contains more questions than specific answers, and that’s the point. When you see something go wrong, it’s important to ask enough questions to get you to the true root cause of the problem so you can find the right solution.

Yes, that is your responsibility as a leader. There, now you can’t say “no one told me.”

Thanks for reading.




About the author: Matt wants to help open doors to your leadership potential. He’s been educating and entertaining audiences for years, offering customized leadership and team training courses, one-on-one coaching and development, and recently co-created Lessons in Fun – a totally new kind of learning adventure!  Contact Matt today to find out how to maximize your leadership potential!!

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