Series on Credibility: Keep your promises

What happens when people make promises which they know they will be unable to live up to? Disappointment and loss of credibility are the natural outcomes. Hence it is important to commit only when you are reasonably confident on delivering on the promise.


In 2000, a new contractor had joined a company on a six-month contract. After the first two months or so, the Head of the Division (HOD) noticed a certain lack of interest in the new person’s behavior and work ethic. In his discussions with the new hire, HOD could make out that he was quite intelligent, hard-working and eager to make a mark. However, the HOD could not match those personal attributes with his work ethics. This person did not contribute to discussions, kept watching the clock and displayed a general apathy towards work.

As the HOD probed further, he got to know that during his interview he requested “read only” access to the company’s BW (Business Warehouse) system so that he could further enhance his BW skills. The hiring manager agreed and promised he would get the requested access. At the time BW was a promising skill-set to have, and he wanted to further his knowledge as he worked in another technology.

However, he realized a month after he joined, that he would not get access to BW, since that system was controlled by a manager in another department. The manager who interviewed this person and who he reported to had no control over the BW system. That manager promised a prospective employee something that she could not have delivered since she did not have any control or ownership over the BW system.

This is a classic case of a person (the hiring manager) losing credibility in the eyes of another (the contractor).