Too many people continue to dig themselves into deeper holes in the workplace because of pride, or shame. There’s an old saying, “When you are in a hole the best way to get out of it is to stop digging!” I don’t know who we credit with that wisdom, but it’s spot on for all of us.
I love the spirit of the two generations behind me, those 30-42 and those in their mid to late 20’s. However, one of the things that has become apparent to me is how these generations handle mistakes on the job. In my previous stint as a test driver I worked with some brilliant, young engineers, but one of the things my contemporary and driving partner noticed was the inability to admit mistakes. People passed the buck like I’ve never seen. Even the smallest “drop the ball’ moments were passed off and no one was willing to own a mistake. It might explain why people acted weird when the two, old foggy’s admitted our mistakes asap.
Pride can be a terrible master. Too many people have been convinced through their formative years, or education that they never make mistakes, or they’ve never been taught how to take responsibility for them. Don’t be ashamed of a mistake, but learn to own it quickly.
My senior boss is a contemporary. I bet I’ve owned up to more mistakes than he wants to admit in the time I’ve been writing for our company. But he is always gracious and uses it as a teachable moment so I avoid repeating the same mistake. Here’s some easy advice for dropping the ball:
- Don’t be embarrassed as there are no perfect people, including your boss/team lead.
- Confirm the mistake was made by you as soon as you can. Get all the facts.
- Admit your mistake ASAP, don’t go home and sleep on it, don’t blame someone else, own it as soon as you can!
- Learn from it. Make sure you will have all the tools in the future to avoid making the same mistake twice.
- Be gracious with those who admit mistakes, even big ones. It could easily be you.
The principal partners at my firm are in a word, gracious. They do not hold mistakes over your head, but they want to help you learn so you don’t repeat the same ones. They also admit their own mistakes which is refreshing.
Both of these guys are extremely talented and knowledgeable, but they are not wrapped so tight they can’t own their own junk. I appreciate it and it makes me work harder.
If your team lead, boss, or manager dogs you when you admit a mistake perhaps it’s time to take the long view of your situation. If she/he throws you under the bus with management then it’s definitely time to take stock in your situation. Do you want to work for people who can never admit a mistake? The best leaders I’ve known and followed over the years encourage humility within their staff and they model it. Admit your mistakes because in 30 years you are going to have a lot more. Hopefully not the same ones!
Monty Carter, Storyteller Webspeak Media 102 Trade Street/Greer, SC 29651 Monty@webspeakmedia.com
Images: Anna Gru and Jamie Street https://unsplash.com