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Monday, January 9, 2012

Handling mistakes at work

In all spheres in life, we make mistakes. Is there room for forgiveness at work when mistakes happen? We mess up a great meal at a family function when we over-salt the meals. We pour water on the sofas or leave taps open only to find our homes flooded upon return. We buy the wrong shade of paint and forget to pick change from the local market. In other words, we live in a world where mistakes are a common fabric.

However, mistakes at work are among the most dreaded due to the repercussions that accompany them. Mistakes have cost people promotions, while others have had to be laid off. Some of these mistakes cost the employer great deals of revenues hence the reason why many employers will not want to be seen to be tolerating mistakes. This coupled with the presence of many perfectionist bosses only serves to make the workplace a branded mistake-free environment.

Mistakes are however not evil. Every progressive workplace should learn the art of celebrating the mistakes of its staff. Just as in day to day living, mistakes are a common indicator that learning is ongoing. Mistakes generally happen when staff are either experimenting on some concepts or are interacting with a phenomenon for the first time. This is how learning happens both for adults, just as for children. A work environment where staff make no mistakes is a cause to worry for management. It might just reflect the lack of interest in growth or discovery or could just be that staff are overcome with fear hence would rather maintain the status quo.

This is however not a ticket to go on a mistake-making spree. Mistakes are costly and learning should be evident through the experiences. When you make a mistake at work, you may want to consider the following remedial plans.

Admit your mistakes. This is one of the most difficult things to do. From the very early age, we are not socialized to accept our mistakes. This was due to the consequences of admitting wrong doing. We would rather die than admit our mistakes. Admission of mistakes is a brave and intelligent step towards appreciating the lessons accruing from the experience.

Don’t blame anyone else for your mistakes. When God asked Adam whether he had eaten of the forbidden fruit, he quickly turned the heat on Even who comfortably passed the blame to the serpent. This is human nature. We never mind finding a quick scape goat to blame for our mistakes. Senior staff would always place the blame on the juniors while the juniors blame the bosses for the mistakes. This trend leads the company to nowhere. It never shows the source of the learning curve.

Don’t stay on the floor after the fall. Falling may not be the problem, remaining on the floor is. After admitting you have made a mistake, rise from the floor and move on with life. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Learn the lessons, develop ways of remedying the consequences of the mistake and live your life. Mistakes are lifelong experiences that we must seek to celebrate and learn from.

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