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Why Failure is Good for your Employees

April 13th, 2018

You’re been coaching your team of employees for a while now, and you’ve recently watched them put together a project for which they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’ve stayed late, they’ve demonstrated teamwork, and they’ve brought all of their hard-earned skills to the table. They’ve done their very best on their respective parts of the project. And they’ve utterly failed.

The disappointment is palpable, and the dark cloud in the office is fanning the flames of blame, mistrust and recrimination. The failure was so epic that some members of the team are rethinking their talent for this work and others are thinking of leaving the company. So as a manager, what should you do? Should you yell at them? Should you tell them they should have tried harder? Or should you view this as a valuable teaching moment? Consider the last option. Here’s why.

They are upset because they care.

Deep disappointment after failure is a strong sign of engagement, which should always be valued and encouraged in the workplace. Remember that, and respect and appreciate that if your team is gloomy, embarrassed, or wracked with self-doubt after the episode, you (and they) are doing something right. If they just shrugged it off, you’d have more cause for concern.

Put the episode in an appropriate context.

If your company is solely driven by profit and sales, let your teams know that this is just business, and growth in business comes at a cost. The more you fail, the more you learn to face failure and move past it. When you don’t fail, you don’t learn and you don’t grow. If, on the other hand, putting things in a context deepens the pain of the loss (for example, if you work in a hospital instead of an office) take a philosophical approach. Get some help from relevant therapist or healthcare management expert if you need to.

Speak privately with those who are experiencing self-doubt.

Give special attention to the employees who believe they lost the day through their own mistakes or skill deficits. These employees, separate from the team, will need a cleared-eyed assessment from you. If they’re mistaken about their abilities, let them know. If they’re correct, help them bolster their areas of weakness with appropriate training, exposure, and advice.

Keep an eye out for toxic behavior.

These difficult moments present opportunities for bullies, back stabbers, blame-placers and credit stealers. When you see subtle signs from bad actors (those who push others under the bus or deny their own share of responsibility) don’t fall for it. Give credit where it is rightfully due.

For more on how to pick up the pieces after a failure and make the most of the episode from a management perspective, contact the staffing and coaching experts at Merritt Staffing.

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