I believe that experiencing failure at work at some stage in your career is not only inevitable, but it is a crucial way to grow and learn. Of course failure can take many forms and be of various degrees of significance. The good news is that if you deal with failure in the right way, you can not only bounce back from it, but be better because of it.
If you have made a mistake, the worst thing you can do is try and cover it up. You should be honest with your line manager and wider team if appropriate, and take some time to discuss what happened with them and agree next steps.
I am sure you have heard people speak of blame cultures within organisations. When something goes wrong, people start seeking someone to take all the blame – regardless of who made the mistake in the first place. Placing blame creates a culture of fear, produces bad feeling, and often prevents the employees maximising productivity as they waste energy covering their tracks.
As with all aspects of life, if you have failed in some way, you should try to fix it. There may be scenarios where you aren’t actually able to fix it, or it may be that your line manager decides you are not the right person to put it right. Even if either of those situations occurs, you should still consider how you could have fixed it and try and discuss this with you line manager – as it provides important learning.
Take some time to consider what went wrong, why it happened, and what you can do to avoid a similar situation from reoccurring in the future. This process may not be solely introspective – you may want to ask for opinions and discuss with stakeholders and/or your line manager. It might also be that the failure was team based, and therefore learning as a group is very important.
Take the example of a presentation that went wrong – perhaps you had stage fright and could not engage the audience. It would be very easy to become paralysed by the fear of doing another presentation and avoid them in the future. Those that bounce back from failure, learn from their mistakes and then try again with a renewed perspective.
People don’t like to fail – and when it happens it can be difficult to cope with. For some it can become quite consuming, which is why working through that failure in a methodical way using the 5 step method we shared above is the most productive way to come out the other side with an improved focus and determination.
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