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Denying Involvement Can Show Lack Of Accountability

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To many Atascosa County residents, the ballot insert appeared fine. For one voter however, it seemed totally foreign.

Here is the document in question:

consultants review ballot

Texas native Troy Knudson discovered his absentee ballot insert mistakenly pictured the national flag of Chile. According to him, the discrepancy was quite surprising:

Apparently the insert has been used for some time without anyone (voters and staff) noticing . . . I guess it’s funny in some way, but my initial reaction was more disbelief that no one had noticed.

There’s no denying, the two flags have a close resemblance. As you can see below, both utilize the same colors, patterns and shapes.

Texas Flag:

consultants look at the Texas flag

Chile Flag:

consultants look at the Chile flag

You would think that someone who had lived in South America and Texas would have noticed the difference from the start, but that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, the similarity between the flags and lack of color utilized on the insert allowed the mistake to go unnoticed for years. According to Janice Ruple, the county’s elections administrator, the incorrect flag was on the insert before she even took office. Turns out, the recently discovered error was far from new. It dated back at least five years.

To AccelaWork, this story is nothing new. As we have discussed before, mistakes happen. Failure is simply human nature; escaping it is something we may never overcome. Yet, it’s important to realize that without it, there would be little reason for change and little room for innovation. The key to accepting and benefiting from failure is to learn how to not make the same mistakes again.

When it comes to the ballot insert misprint, thanks to Knudson’s keen eye, the obvious problem was rectified—the flag and all other unnecessary items were removed from the page. It was a simple fix that made strides in updating Atascosa County’s communication. With all hopes, officials in Atacosa County have learned to pay closer attention to government correspondence prior to releasing it to its voters.

Yet, we would be remiss to ignore a second mistake that may be more subtle, but nevertheless just as important. Despite the amount of time she had to discover and fix the insert discrepancy, Janice Ruple publicly blamed her predecessor for the error. Interestingly enough, for half a decade part of her job was to create and maintain a certain level of quality. So regardless of who initially created the insert, it was ultimately her responsibility to keep it updated and correct. By denying her involvement in the ongoing mistake, she highlighted an obvious lack of accountability. Whether or not her claims were reasonable, she failed to demonstrate to her peers, colleagues, and employees that a job means more than just completing particular tasks—it’s about tackling problems and taking responsibility for them.


© Flickr user PACAF

We’ve talked before about how admitting mistakes can do wonders for how people view you. It wouldn’t have been hard for Ruple to say something along the lines of, “Clearly this is a problem that I should’ve addressed when I took this job. I missed it on my initial scans, but will be sure that it gets fixed moving forward.” That’s an honest statement, that manages to not throw anyone under the bus. Even though the initial mistake wasn’t her fault, she would’ve been taking responsibility. That would show both her colleagues and the general public that she’s willing to take action and take responsibility to fix a mistake, regardless of where the mistake initiated.

Want to learn how to make the most of failure? Looking to empower your employees? Reach out to our business process consulting firm today to learn more. We’d love to help you fly the right flag for your company.

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