Have you ever made a dumb mistake? It’s not a great feeling when you do, no matter the time or place, but at least when it happens at home the people surrounding you are more apt to forgive and may end up becoming a part of the solution. The same cannot always be said when the mistake occurs at work. This recently happened to me. And when I say it was a dumb mistake, I mean dumb. When you mess up so badly that you find yourself sitting in a conference room with your boss, her boss, her boss’s boss, and her boss’s boss’s boss…. you know you’ve really gone and messed up.
This year is a busy season for me and my coworkers, and mistakes are bound to happen when you put in as many hours and juggle as many responsibilities as we do, but there is never an excuse powerful enough to override the energy it took from my entire department to cram the correction of several months’ work into one weekend. As bad as it could have been, my employer and coworkers were very gracious and sympathetic. I cannot tell you how many times I pinched myself because I am not sure that if it were my employee who made the mistake, that I could’ve handled it with the integrity and patience that they did. Despite their better than expected attitude, each time I observed the added stress and worry that it brought upon our already small staff and full schedule, it made me feel like crawling under my desk to hide.
Last weekend, after pulling a long shift (and biting my nails over the whole ordeal), I returned home and turned on the TV because I was tired of listening to my own thoughts. I had nearly forgotten that the London Olympic games were in full swing, and so I was happy when I discovered that I had something to take my mind off of everything that had transpired. While I was watching men’s gymnastics, I found myself empathizing the guys whenever one of them missed their mark. How embarrassing it must be to not only fall short of your own expectations, but to let your team, and your country down as well; and on national television to say the least.
My job isn’t awe inspiring enough to be considered an official olympic sport, but I could definitely relate in some small way to how they must’ve felt, as I could not help but to be disappointed in myself after discovering that I had failed to live up to my own standard of excellence. Ironically, after a less-than-perfect routine, whenever a gymnast returned to the sidelines, he was always greeted by his fellow teammates with a pat on the back as they ensured “I’ve got your back”.
I realized at that moment that this was exactly the way in which my coworkers had approached the situation at work. It was also the first time that I truly understood what it felt like to be a part of a team. I also realized that a large reason for the knots in my stomach was because I had become overly concerned about how the mistake would affect my standing at work. I realized that if my department were to pull through as single unit, I would have to stop feeling sorry for myself and work harder than I ever have to be a part of the solution. That, like an injured olympian, I would have to steady my focus and work through the pain, summoning up the strength to press on, not for self-glory, but because I have a team of people depending on nothing less.
Has something like this ever happened to you? How did you handle it?