Making Sense of Mistakes at Work

Mistakes only make sense if you make sense of them

Making mistakes only makes sense if you make sense of it. Which is easier said than done. More often than not employees finger point instead of going within to find the lessons. Why? Because they don’t know how to make sense of mistakes. Below thus are the 3 steps to making sense of mistakes at work. As always, theoretically-backed, reality-proved.

Step 1: Event


Embracing a mistake starts with acknowledging the event. Denial is the first reaction to mistakes at work, and more so the bigger the mistake. It is therefore the first logical step to acknowledge that you failed and how. Need a quick fix? Verbalize! Describe your mistake out loud. Imagine you’re talking to your friend, your mother, your enemy. The more angels, the better! Tip: don’t lay it out on your actual mother or spouse. Just don’t do it.

Step 2: Emotion


It’s not pleasant to bathe in the feelings of disappointment, sadness, or anger. But the good news is this: you don’t have to stay there. Emotions at work are usually considered a taboo. Up until recently, the only interpretation we would give to emotions at work is that “(s)he can’t hold it together”. Emotions, however, are the early indicators of the majority of work-related problems. And thus, if addressed timely, can be a game changer in terms of problem-solving at work. Spot them early, and save a lot of money later!

Dealing with emotions at work could be hard, though. It’s considered OK to say that you don’t know how to deal with your function. But it’s (still?) not OK to say that you don’t feel good at work. Emotionally, not physically. A lot of factors come into play here from (self) judgement to security issues.

The benefit of naming the emotion at work is that, once you name the emotion, you name the contrast. And, once you name the contrast, you become aware of 2 things: what you don’t want and what you really want. Which is a great stepping stone up your career ladder. So, feel free!

Step 3: Explanation


There’s no point in identifying what really happened or feeling the emotions of anger or disgust without interpreting either. And that’s where the magic comes in. It really is true that people name 100 different things when looking at the floor: from bricks to stains and anything in between.

Explanation is the final and crucial step in making sense of mistakes at work. Put it plainly, it’s asking yourself a question “What will I do differently next time?”. And giving it an honest answer. That’s it.

We all know mistakes at work are inevitable. But only a few of us really acknowledge the true nature of mistakes. Most of us feel uncomfortable accepting bad situations or feeling the negative feelings associated with them. And without these 2 making sense of mistakes is impossible. It takes conscious awareness to not lose the lesson when we lose the battle. But herein lies the power of conscious growth at work we are all after.

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