Understanding the difference between an excuse and a reason

by | Leadership

Excuse
seek to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offence); try to justify.

Reason
a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.

When situations turn pear shaped, things go wrong or when mistakes happen, at work or in our personal lives, many of us turn to an excuse rather than a reason for the situation occurring. The reason we use an excuse is to deflect the blame or justify bad behaviour.

How many times have you had an argument with your partner after a long day at work and used the excuse that you have had a long day and you were frustrated?

How many times have you not got to that important job your boss wanted you to do before the end of the day and the next morning found excuses for not doing it?

Excuses are too easy to come up with, but to identify a reason and take steps to change behaviour is more difficult.

As a parent, we hear excuses all the time, and as managers unfortunately, excuses for bad behaviour, mistakes in the workplace are also commonplace. An excuse often hides a myriad of problems and usually its a long held behavioural pattern that we are not just ready to overcome. How many times have you left an assignment till the night before it was due? As a student this issue can translate to problems with procrastination at work later in life.

If you leave everything to the last moment, your excuse could be “I didn’t have enough time” or “I have too much work”. The reason is that I have a tendency to procrastinate and I am working on changing that behaviour by putting in a project management system that allows me to allocate time each day to each job.

What are the most common excuses? Here’s ten excuses people make when things go wrong.

  1. I don’t have enough time
  2. I don’t have the right team
  3. I was waiting for someone else to do their part
  4. I need to find work, home life balance
  5. I slept in
  6. I’m too old
  7. I’m not lucky enough
  8. I have too much work
  9. I don’t know how to do my work
  10. I am not good enough

How to turn an excuse into a reason

Let’s look at the common excuses above and work on how you can make it a reason. By doing so, you are taking steps to change your behaviour and overcome making the same mistake again.

I didn’t have enough time, but I am working on my time management to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I don’t have the right team but I am working with them to make sure that they have had the right training so we can move forward and get the project done.

I was waiting for someone to do their part and now have spoken to that person to work out why it wasn’t ready on time

I need to find the right work-life balance and am working on getting my job done in time and spending more time at the weekend away from the computer.

I slept in (again). I am trying to get to bed early, but would you consider changing work hours?

I’m too old to use that as an excuse. I have the wisdom and experience to learn, so I am just going to dive right in. Can we organise a training session on a regular basis?

I am not lucky enough. Everyone around me seems to have more luck than me. Maybe I need to change my way of thinking?

I have too much work and I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do, can we sit down and project manage my jobs, so I can streamline my day a little better?

I don’t know how to do my work. I feel that I am still growing into my role and would like to do more training. Can you suggest where I need to improve?

I am not good enough to do this. There are plenty more talented people who could do the job better, but I am really thankful that you see the potential in me and I am taking on further training to help me get better.

When you turn an excuse into a reason and suggest ways to improve the problem you are taking steps to accept responsibility and develop initiatives to improve what you do (and yourself).

An excuse blames another person or a situation, a reason offers up a justification for why it happened and you can then take responsibility for your own action. Before you make an excuse today for your bad behaviour, stop and think about how you can work towards changing that pattern and become a better worker, partner or person.



Cheryl Jowitt, co-founder of Rebel Connect PL, a family owned and operated Australian business that helps small to medium-sized businesses compete in a digital world. Cheryl loves creating things in her spare time and in a past lifetime was a prolific writer and painter. Now she drinks anything with bubbles in it (except detergent, although she has been known to have done so blowing bubbles with her kids!)

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