Please Stop Organizations from Overpromising

Organizations shouldn’t overpromise as an alternative to the risk of losing a customer, employee, deal, flattering article or favorable analyst rating. Overpromising may buy some time, but it almost always comes to haunt the organization in the long term. Not delivering on expectations is dangerous for the future of the organization. Honesty is a better alternative to overpromising.

Another, maybe better way to put it: It is much better surprising people with good news at a later time than giving them unrealistic expectations too soon.

An organization builds trust not just by fixing things before they break, but by consistently being honest on what they can or cannot do. Even though this seems simple many companies overpromise in many different ways.

Let us talk about a wide range of exaggerations, unfairly raised expectations, and outright deceptions.

The job that has the biggest amount of overpromising is a salesman. The salesman will promise everything in order to make a sale. He/she will make the sale and worry about how to keep the sale only after they landed the business. Companies rationalize this type of pitch six ways from Sunday. They tell everyone that everyone exaggerates to make a sale. That type of behavior is expected in sales. The truth is that customers expect companies to keep their promises and hold them accountable for delivering  what they guaranteed in their presentation.


Here are some categories on over-promising


FINANCIAL FORECASTS – Wall Street is unforgiving when a company’s promise never materializes. Many CEOs talk about the upcoming quarter in a good way when cushioning a current dismal quarter. They may do a good job at convincing analysts of an upswing. When an upswing doesn’t materialize, analysts are furious, Wall Street hates surprises, and it hates unnecessary surprises even more.


EMPLOYEE RETENTION – To keep good employees, managers will often guarantee them promotions, raises and bonuses. In some circumstances, employees make these promises during a particularly busy time. In other instances, they make these promises knowing that they are unlikely. In either situation, word spreads quickly among organizations when these promises are broken. If this type of practice is allowed explicitly or implicitly it causes employees to doubt everything management says.


RECRUITING GUARANTEES – This can be a great temptation for companies looking for “hot” candidates for top positions. Knowing that these superstars can have their pick of jobs and that they probably have other offers, organizations will offer all sorts of perks and promises. Their rationale is once the employee is onboard he’s not going to leave if the company doesn’t deliver on all these guarantees.


DEADLINES – Companies will tell federal and state legislators they’ll meet their requirements by a certain date; they tell their customers that they’ll have the order delivered to them by a certain date; they insist to the financial community that they’ll be profitable by a certain quarter. For all these groups, dates are important. They are counting on deadlines being met and when they’re not they feel deceived. The feeling of deception is even stronger where it seems organizations had no intention of meeting the goal. Too often, we underestimate the importance of due dates. individuals being late by a day may not matter in the grand scheme of things. But, for companies it sends a clear message that they aren’t honest. If a company isn’t serious about its deadlines, than what else don’t they care about?

DEAL NEGOTIATIONS – Some organizations that are known as great deal negotiators may not be known as honest or fair negotiators. In mergers and acquisitions, in labor negotiations, and in joint ventures, some companies consider themselves great bargainers because they cut good deals. They are willing to say anything to close the deal on favorable terms. They paint rosy pictures to a company while they will cut 25% of the company’s employees


MEDIA INTERVIEWS – It’s astonishing to see otherwise intelligent leaders get carried away in a media interview. They start saying how great the company’s prospects are, and before you know it they painted an unrealistic picture of their prospects. Stories like these not only unfairly raise an audience’s impression, but they also mislead reporters. When reporters find out their published article is inaccurate they feel burned, and don’t trust that CEO and organization and their following articles reflect this.

By: Brian Gottesman

Brian Gottesman is a Public Relations Executive with over 9 years of experience in public relations and publications. His work has been published in several network television, print and blog outlets including Fox News, CBS, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Buzz Feed and Mashable.

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