If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.'
Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, uttered these famous words.
As you try to leave an impressive mark at work, a failure can bring
unexpected twists and turns. How you deal with failure is what will
ultimately help you succeed.
The question is: are you smart enough to learn from your mistakes?
What is considered workplace failure
While there's no standard definition of workplace failure, you know
it's happening to you if you can associate with any of the following
examples at your workplace:
Not meeting deadlines consistently
If you get the stick from your boss repeatedly for not finishing tasks
on time, you seriously need to consider a course in time management.
If you have taken on too much workload and set yourself an unrealistic
timeframe, you may have just set yourself up for failure.
Tip: Trust your instincts. When you feel bothered, speak up. It may
take some guts initially, but it will save you face later. In case you
miss the chance, request for a private meeting with the boss to
explain your feelings about a short notice to meet a tight deadline.
Fighting with colleagues/ peers
In this age of teamwork, conflicts with people and petty fights with
your boss definitely get labeled as failure.
Tip: Find common ground and never take sides in case of a conflict. If
you are involving your supervisor, tell him/ her how the conflicts
within the team affect your productivity and morale -- that way, you
will not sound like a whiny complainer.
Not keeping promises
Your customer's product is not ready or has not been delivered. It's a
massive service failure and you have no clue how to salvage the
Tip: Be honest with your customer and tell them you will do whatever
it takes to fix the issue. Never hide behind policies or procedures.
Your clients are human and will appreciate your honest effort. The
next time they give you business, surprise them with super fast
delivery to gain the credibility back.
Constant excuses can label you as undependable; you could be
considered overly defensive and resistant. You may be strong
otherwise; however, if you're always covering up your shortcomings
with excuses, your negative reputation will make you succumb to
Tip: Face the facts and stop procrastinating. Take other people's help
to get things done.
If you still fail, apologise and fix the issue without hiding behind
fictitious explanations. If your boss says the report was late, you
can choose to ignore but it does not become any less true.
My great idea bombed
You creative pursuits got the better of you and you spent the
company's money designing a product so way ahead of it is time that
nobody bought it. While you were expecting laurels for your
creativity, your boss asks you for a report to justify the investment.
Tip: Acknowledge the failure but don't apologise; risk-taking is a
skill required to succeed. Tell your colleagues you know one more way
of 'How not to do it'. Analyse what went wrong and crack it the next
First, take time out
"The problem with many young professionals is that they aim for a
flawless career from the moment they enter the workforce. They have
high aspirations and want to be seen as credible professionals with a
100 percent track record of success. They don't realise that nobody
made it big without failing a few times and the ones who succeed are
the ones who bounce back from their failures," says Rohini Verma, a
Delhi based clinical psychologist.
Take time out to think about what's going wrong with your strategies.
Don't be in a rush to get into the disaster recovery mode. Take a
small break; go for a vacation or a long drive.
Try meditation or yoga to help you ease your mind and focus. The
objective is to take your mind off work so you can think about
workplace challenges from a new perspective.
Next, analyse your failure
There could be several reasons but, if you get to the bare bones,
there are two factors that stand out:
You are stuck in the wrong job
This is a no brainer. You need to have the aptitude for the work you
are doing. If you're in the wrong job, you tend burn out quickly and
get tired of your job, which leads to more failures.
However, figuring what you want to do for a living day in and day out
takes some consideration. Try to get diverse experience in many fields
and then decide what you would like to do for a career.
You are just plain careless
Maybe you failed because of your own sloppy work, or you just did not
spend enough time understanding what you were doing or you made some
hasty decisions or misunderstood your job profile.
If these happen to be the reason/s, you need to listen, accept the
facts and shape up for the job.
Now, take steps
Workplace failures are a part of life but, if dealt with well, can
turn out to be life changing events. Here are some smart strategies to
repair your workplace failures and mistakes:
Acknowledge your failure
Taking ownership for your mishap is the first and the most important
step. Blaming others rather than yourself for the new product nobody
seems to be buying will create tension at office and spoil your
working relationship with others as well. You are much better off
focusing on the actual sense of the issue and what went wrong.
Don't make it personal
Criticism of your work does not mean your colleagues/ customers are
targeting you as an individual. If you goofed up during an important
client presentation, it doesn't make you a bad employee nor does it
negate your prior accomplishments.
Learn from your failure
So what if your idea bombed? You should use this to your advantage in
preparation for your next big project. Analyse what went wrong or
could have been altered. Maybe you could have done some more research,
or could have tested your idea before you went public or perhaps taken
the advice of some senior members of the team.
"Treat work life like a game of chess. One bad move does not mean it's
the end of the game. If you take a grip of the situation, you'll
always get the opportunity to strike back," says Prabh Sharan,
training manager with Kingfisher Airlines, Mumbai.
Make genuine friends
Have people on whom you can bank in good as well as bad times. Take
their advice. Ask them for feedback on your ideas and let them play
the devil's advocate. In an already competitive world, any help you
can get should be welcomed. Don't run the solo race.
Don't get emotional
You are bound to feel frustrated and upset when you miss an important
deadline that impacts a client, but don't blow it by making it all
The angry young man title will not get you any rewards at the office.
Maintain your dignity and be quick with your apology in order to
salvage your reputation.
Never say die
'No guts, no glory' is a cliché worth repeating.
Failure can be one of the best teaching tools; the best part is it
doesn't have to be your own mistake in order for you to learn from it.
In the words of Michael D Eisner, chairman & CEO of Disney
Corporation, 'Recovering from failure is often easier than building
Even if you fall flat on your face, you can always use the valuable
lesson you learnt on your way to the t