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Wed 5 Nov 2014 09:09 AM

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Should I admit a mistake?

It’s never easy to admit an error, but we look at whether it’s the right thing to do in the long-run.

Should I admit a mistake?

Who should consider doing it?

Everybody. Regardless of your position in a company, everybody will make a mistake at some point. In many cases the best way to earn respect is to own up to it. It’s certainly worse to create confusion by covering your tracks, pointing fingers at others, or defending your poor choice.

The consequences of this kind of behaviour is likely to be a loss of confidence in you by managers, employees, and at worst clients. It will leave a permanent negative view of your work performance and you might also be labeled as dishonest.

Acknowledging your own mistakes is no longer considered to show weakness but a learning opportunity. It allows you to recognise why you made the mistake in the first place and how to improve in the future.

Lastly, certain professions, such as financial analysts for instance, have a legal obligation to admit fault if they find mistakes in their work.

Why do it?

The fear of mistakes, often resulting from a culture of blame, lethargy and negativity, leads to burnout in the workplace.

Negative reactions to employees admitting their own mistakes decrease their engagement which is at only 13 percent globally, according to Gallup. One way to combat this is to create an environment in which your employees feel free to be creative, communicate openly, experiment and fail.

This involves allowing them to admit and learn from their mistakes.

How to do it?

Opening yourself up to someone else possibly judging you is far from easy. Nobody, no matter their position, wants to lose face. Therefore, don’t be hurtful or degrading when somebody is trying to explain what they’ve done wrong and why.

Understand the situation without judging, and help them fix it quickly. Be aware that people often take their most powerful talents for granted so remind them of their strengths.

If you’re the one admitting the mistake, try not to over analyse. Be honest, be apologetic, and try to find solutions.

What are the next steps?

We all make mistakes, but it is our responsibility not to repeat them.

Once you have confessed your mistake, explain how you will fix it and how you will ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Avoiding similar errors in the future requires educating yourself and paying more attention until doing the right thing in that particular situation doesn’t become your unconscious habit.

In the meantime, do not put yourself down even if you are a perfectionist or someone with an overactive internal critic. Simply learn to move on.