The Difference Between Being Right and Doing the Right Thing

Is it better to be right, or to do right? Is there a real difference between being right and doing the right thing? When it comes to communications, support, and teamwork, there is a perceptible difference between the two.

Customer Service

Assisting customers can be rewarding, frustrating, and downright annoying. The scope of dealing with customers is as diverse as the personalities of the individual customers and the situation that each customer is experiencing. Some customers are grateful for assistance, and express appreciation for the efforts to help them. Some customers are frustrated by a situation or experience, and may express aggravation in a myriad of unpleasant ways. After an interaction with a highly charged angry customer, it can be challenging to not allow the experience to influence your attitude toward the next customer experience. Recipients of highly charged emotional outbursts may carry the experience beyond the workplace. There is a way to dissuade this personalization of an intense exchange with a frustrated customer, and to alleviate the personal aggravation that may result from the experience.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences in providing customer service is the occasional encounter with a customer who is deliberately providing false or misleading information. Regardless of the reason that the customer is being deceptive, it is tempting to be insulted or annoyed by such an encounter. The frustration from this type of experience can also be alleviated with the proper approach to handling the customer.

In the case of angry, belligerent, and deceptive customers, a common response is the feeling that it is necessary to prove that we are right. In an effort to prove that we are right, it may also imply that someone else is wrong. That someone who is implicated as the individual in the wrong is none other than the customer. In the effort to prove that we are right, we may alienate the customer and create a situation in which our interests are at odds with one another. The focus of the interaction and the dialogue may shift from addressing a specific issue, and turn to the great divide between who is right, and who is wrong. The effort to be right, or to prove that we are right, may intensify the anger, frustration, or deceit without making any progress to resolve the underlying problem. In addition to losing the customer loyalty, the result is quite often an unsatisfying exchange that leaves both parties with lingering aggravation. There is no lasting satisfaction from an empirical victory that proves we are right, at the cost of neglecting what is the right thing to do.

To overcome the emotional experience exchange, maintain a clear and concentrated focus on doing what is right. It may be necessary to explain your actions or response with the perception of why you believe that you are doing the right thing. This is not to imply that you are right, but rather why you believe that it is the right thing to do for the customer. Simply saying that it is policy is not usually a satisfactory explanation. It may be necessary to provide a reasonable rationale for the policy. Doing the right thing may or may not include a customer accommodation, and sometimes even the accommodation is not satisfactory. If you can maintain a concentrated focus on the issues and the right thing to do for your customer, avoiding the interpersonal battle of who is right or wrong, you can align yourself with the customer and endeavor to be a customer advocate. Acting as an advocate for your customer in earnest will give you the lingering satisfaction that you have honestly endeavored to do the right thing, regardless of the outcome.


It is unfortunate that similar battles occur with the workplace. As pressure builds and personalities collide, it is inevitable that conflicts arise in which members of the same workplace community are at odds regarding who is right, and who is wrong. Sometimes there is a perceived need for an individual to prove him or her right. This personal need is harbored internally, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon an unsuspecting coworker. As internal frustration builds, it may erupt as a volcano of capital letters or profanity in an email or personal confrontation. Email has made it far too easy to attack coworkers and expose inner frailties to the masses while maintaining a temporary safe distance. Confrontational emails are public demonstrations of personal attacks that typically coincide with vicious rumors and unhealthy gossip. The public effort to aggressively prove one as being right is often the public display of a rot that has been growing beneath the surface. The damage to all parties involved, and the collateral damage to innocent bystanders copied on the communications, can be detrimental to teamwork and motivation of the organization.

The vision of what is right and in the best interest of the company or customers may vary between individuals. It is expected that perception and description of the right direction may be shaped by previous experiences, successes, and knowledge. When these experiences and perspectives are shared in a respectful manner between individuals, it fosters a community approach and a sense of unity. Even when individuals disagree on the definition of what is right, it is possible to acknowledge, understand, and agree on a collaborative course of action. Differences in opinion on the right thing to do may also create opportunities for alternatives and back up plans. The key is to be respectful of the experiences and successes of the other individuals within the company team, regardless of personal perspectives or personalities. The important thing is to come to consensus on the right course of action, rather than debating which person is right. Being able to distinguish what is right, from who is right, is the mark of a mature organization on the path to success.

You may read this and think that it is right, or you may have another perspective. I respect your opinion. In any case, this may be an opportunity to create some dialogue within your own organization to discuss and collaborate on what is the right course of action for you and your customers. I trust that you will find satisfaction in doing the right thing, with an understanding that the definition of what is right may evolve and adapt over time.

Keep smiling.

Words of Wisdom

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

– Arthur C. Clarke

“A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”

– Thomas Szasz

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

– Mark Twain

Source by John Mehrmann