By Mary Hladio, Founder and President Ember Carriers Leadership Group
Minor mistakes in the workplace can be something such as overwriting a file that does not affect others but wasted your time rebuilding; major mistakes are those that affect others or the bottom line, such as overwriting the only copy of a customer database.
You have heard of the saying, “Failure is not an option.” Well, guess what? No matter how many times you repeat this adage, failure will always remain as an option. Trying to prevent a mistake will only increase your chance of making a mistake. Just consider the following:
Huge amounts of time and energy can be wasted in organizations on explaining why the mistakes that do happen are not my fault. This is pointless.
The repercussions of the mistake depend primarily on its impact on the bottom line, the person’s track record of making mistakes, and the standing or designation of the person making the mistake. In many organizations, a mistake, big or small, is the starting point for a witch hunt, along the lines of:
Rather than stigmatizing failure, we should acknowledge and even celebrate it. When we can openly admit to screwing up without fear of reprisals, we’re more likely to fess up and learn from our mistakes.
Making a mistake means someone took a risk and it failed. To punish this action means you just weaken the creativity and innovation in the company.
Some suggestions on handling mistakes in the workplace:
Peter Drucker provocatively suggested that businesses should find all the employees who never make mistakes and fire them, because an employee, who never makes mistakes never does anything interesting.
How does your workplace handle mistakes? Is it more like a celebration or a witch hunt? What has been the most spectacular screw-up at work so far? How was it handled and was anything learned from it?
A company can’t possibly be prepared for every type of mistake that might occur; as such, protocol for handling mistakes can be difficult to develop. Answering the questions above when something does go wrong is a good place to start. Take the time to evaluate what might have led up to the problem and begin taking note of what the natural reactions are. The organization can begin to set precedents this way and have a more formulaic policy for responding to mistakes.
Mary Hladio is the founder and CEO of Ember Carriers Leadership Group, which provides leadership development for managers and executives. For more information, visit http://www.embercarriers.com.