Avoiding an FFFP Frame of Mind

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Summary:

When things go awry, it's easy to slip into a Fault-Finding, Finger-Pointing (FFFP) frame of mind. After all, if everyone else did what they were supposed to, the situation you're now facing wouldn't have happened. But before concluding that someone else is to blame, it might pay to ask: Could there be a reasonable explanation for this situation -one that would cause me to see this situation in a positive light?

When things go awry, it's easy to slip into a Fault-Finding, Finger-Pointing (FFFP) frame of mind. After all, if everyone else did what they were supposed to, the situation you're now facing wouldn't have happened. But before concluding that someone else is to blame, it might pay to ask: Could there be a reasonable explanation for this situation -one that would cause me to see this situation in a positive light?

I'm reminded of a near-FFFP experience I had at a hotel at which I was presenting a multi-day workshop. Breakfast was provided for class participants from 7:00 to 8:30 in a room we had reserved for this purpose. The catering department had instructions to bring any remaining coffee to our meeting room in time for our 8:30 start time each day.

During previous workshops, the catering staff had been consistently attentive, cheerful and punctual. So too on the first two days of this workshop. But on the third day, 8:30 came and went and no coffee.

I Brake for Coffee

I began the session. Fifteen minutes later, still no coffee. The I-need-my-caffeine-and-I-need-it-NOW contingent was becoming restless.

As minutes passed, I started slipping into an FFFP frame of mind. Clearly, something had gone wrong, but what? Staff absences? The kitchen burning down? Or had they forgotten us

The last thing I imagined was an explanation that demonstrated the catering staff's superb service orientation. Can you guess?

Moments later, Ted, the head catering honcho, poked his head into the classroom and with his usual smile announced that he had our coffee. And then he explained his delayed delivery. He said he didn't want to remove the coffee service from our breakfast room while two members of our group were still in the room eating breakfast.

Huh? What two people? Everyone was present in the classroom.

Table for Two

Then I realized what had happened. Two gutsy guests decided to help themselves to the rest of our breakfast goodies. Maybe they knew the food wasn't intended for them but figured, "Why not?" Maybe they thought the hotel generously provided a nutritious breakfast for its guests. Maybe ... who knows?

The important point was that the delinquent coffee delivery wasn't a service snafu at all. With typical thoughtfulness, Ted had allowed people he assumed were class participants to finish their breakfasts rather than snatching the coffee away in order to deliver it to the classroom. And he had graciously allowed them to take their time, even though it delayed his scheduled clean-up of the room.

Caution: Caring Service Ahead

For me, this was an aha-and-a-half: a twist in the story's ending that turned my encroaching FFFP mindset into an appreciation of caring service.

I now use this experience as a reminder that sometimes, when it looks like someone is at fault (someone else, that is), there can actually be a reasonable explanation, and even an uplifting one. It helps me keep that pesky FFFP frame of mind in check.

User Comments

2 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

This story brings me back to my Organizational Behaviour class. During one of the lectures the instructor gave us some information about a situation involving two people, a woman and a store owner. He set it up as if we were present and watching the situation unfold.<br><br>He then asked for everyone's thought on the matter. Immediately a fair number of people started taking sides in the argument. Some started blaming the store owner and others blamed the woman. The instructor then gave us a little more information and we all realized that assumptions were being made; no one was really to blame. The point of the lesson was that it is normal to get into a FFFP frame of mind. As a manager or supervisor we need to recognize that feeling you get just before you slip into the FFFP frame of mind and start looking for an explanation as to what REALLY happened.<br><br>It was quite eye opening. Thank you for reminding us to keep our FFFP frame of mind in check.<br>

March 4, 2010 - 1:16am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Darrell, thanks for your comments. That technique your OB instructor used is brilliant. It shows how readily we fall in the trap not just of making assumptions, but of taking sides and finding fault. Your point that it's normal to get into an FFFP frame of mind is important. It's human nature to seek meaning in what we experience or learn about.The challenge, as you indicated, is to notice when you're about to slip into that frame of mind. Instead, we ought to aim to come up with the most positive interpretation for what's happening, while seeking data about what's really going on. ~Naomi

March 4, 2010 - 1:17am

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