4 Career Failings You Should Forgive Yourself For
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Alexander Pope’s famous quote touches upon an unfortunate quirk of human nature. We all make mistakes, but we also all struggle to forgive them. Moreover, our harshest condemnation is often reserved for the person most needful of our forgiveness: ourselves.
Time for a rethink.
Within the workplace, there will be times when we come up short. There will be times when the fault lies squarely upon our own shoulders. Such mistakes are as unavoidable as they are desirable -- because it is through trial and error that we learn and grow.
The news isn’t good. You didn’t get the job. Or the promotion. You didn’t close the deal or get your work published in a prestigious journal. You weren’t good enough. Someone else was chosen. You failed.
Rather than getting caught up in a spiral of negativity, accept rejection as a necessary part of life. Nobody wins every race they run. Vincent van Gogh only ever sold one painting in his lifetime. Stephen Spielberg was rejected from film school three times. Harry Potter was turned away by twelve publishers.
If you can pin the rejection on a personal shortcoming then evaluate and amend the problem, and repaint this rebuff as a valuable learning experience. If chance or competition held you back then dust yourself off and try again. There is always more than one path to the top.
It wasn’t just that you made a mistake. It was that you made such an avoidable mistake. If you’d only proofread that document carefully enough, you’d have noticed the glaring typo in the title. If only you’d written down the details of your important meeting you wouldn’t have forgotten all about it.
Beating yourself up about blunders isn’t helpful, even if they were caused by your own laziness or incompetence. What’s done is done. If the mistake is fixable, stop worrying and start planning how to put it right. If it isn’t fixable then own up to the problem, apologize to the appropriate parties, brainstorm ways to make amends… and move on.
Always remember that there’s no such thing as irrevocable damage. Even if a client refuses to work with you again or you get fired from your job, you can always find new clients and new jobs. Life is full of bumps in the road which we’ll never be vigilant enough to always anticipate. Pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
Your in-tray is still piled sky-high but you’ve had enough. You grab your coat, go home, run a relaxing bath… and immediately start feeling guilty that you’re not still at the office working into the night. Especially when last month you bailed out of that after-work event that was so boring you were falling asleep where you sat…
Modern corporate folklore is that being a good worker means putting in insane overtime, surviving off four hours sleep a night and spending all your free time networking at industry events or signing up for an after-work course in Mandarin. But this idea is unhelpful, morale-sapping and nigh-on impossible to achieve.
The fact is that the human brain is simply not wired to cope with such an excessive level of strain. After working hard for a set period of time it needs to switch off; that’s why taking regular breaks is so effective at restoring our productivity. There is a big difference between laziness and reaching the end of your capacity. When you know you’ve stopped being productive, stop working. Take more time for yourself, enhance the “life” part of the work-life balance, and you may even find that your overall productivity spikes!
Somewhere around the 100th passive-aggressive email from Susan-who-hates-you, you lost your cool and sent a snarky email back. Then Tim from Accounts continued his habit of cutting you off while mid-flow during the company meeting, and this time you found yourself snapping back.
Of course, there is a right way to deal with personality clashes in the workplace. Of course, losing your temper isn’t ideal. But you are a human being, not a robot. Human beings do not always act professionally, they do not always maintain complete politeness and sometimes when people are being extremely difficult they lose their rag. It happens. Accept that you’ll occasionally see red, and work on containing the situation afterwards.
The first thing to do when you’ve lost your temper is to remove yourself from the situation. You cannot solve the problem while you are still angry, so take some time to calm down and evaluate things rationally. Then, reapproach the party you had the disagreement with. Apologize for raising your voice, but outline the issues that lead to your reaction and suggest that you both find a way to move forward from this. If they won’t engage with you, then your only recourse is to find a way to have as little as possible to do with them or escalate the situation to a higher authority.