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How to Deal with Failure in the Workplace



There’s a huge misconception that successful people never fail. This is despite the fact that most successful people will be the first to tell you that they failed constantly before they succeeded. Even with this information, and regardless of your best efforts, odds are you’re going to fail at some point too. And, it’s going to be unpleasant.

Professional failures can seem like the worst. They can affect your livelihood, your career, and many other people. All the same, it’s not whether or not you fail; it’s how you respond to failure that matters. That’s what we’re going to explore here. Yes, try not to fail. But, if you do, give some of these tips a shot.

Fix It

This should be your number one priority after coming up short at work. Frankly, if it’s something that can be fixed immediately and to little effect, no one needs to know it even happened (which will seemingly contradict my next point, but look at it as more of an exception).

Fixing a failure is not the same thing as not having failed in the first place. However, it shows that you have learned from your mistake. It doesn’t make failure a good thing, but it does mitigate the damage quite a bit.

Fess Up

You have to tell people what you did. It’s not going to be fun. Not only do they probably need to know, but they can also help you fix the failure before it does more damage. Will they be mad that you failed? Maybe, probably even. Will they be mad that you failed and just sat on it until they found out some other way? Yes. All of the yes. You’ll probably get fired, yes.

It’s not about whether you fess up, it’s about how you fess up. Despite your natural inclination, excuses are not your friend. We’re not talking about a mistake, accident, or something that happened to you. We mean a straight up, mea culpa failure. Whether it’s coming up short on a deadline or not doing something else that was expected of you, your boss is unlikely to care why it happened. What they will want to know is how you plan to rectify it and how to make sure it will never happen again. Have both of those prepared when you fess up.



Bounce Back

The external repercussions of failure are going to be what they’re going to be. It’s the internal ones that will have the most lasting effect on you. There’s a saying that the only good thing about hitting rock bottom is that it gives you the opportunity to bounce back up. Don’t let a failure keep you down. After you’ve done what you can to fix it, there’s literally nothing you can do to change it.

Failing doesn’t make you a failure. You have to keep it moving. Use that negative situation as motivation for the next project you take on. Beating yourself up about something you can no longer change is as unhealthy as it is unproductive. You may even be able to mine some diamonds from the rough.

You are not the first person to take a hit at work. You certainly won’t be the last. Hopefully, the experience will help to make you empathetic when one of your employees comes up short. That way, everybody wins.

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