Friday, August 21, 2009

Own Your Damn Mistakes

I work for a software company, and my job is to help solve problems. I frequently enjoy my job, because I like figuring things out as well as receiving praise when a problem goes away. (Hey, I'm human.)

One thing that often frustrates me about my job, though, is that sometimes solving a problem takes more time and effort than it should, because others involved in the process don't want to admit when they've made a mistake. I understand that it's also human nature to want to hide from errors, if only to preserve both an image and a self-image of competence. But hiding mistakes from the guy who's trying to help you fix those mistakes creates problems:

- It takes extra time for me to try to figure out what went wrong.

- I'm not perfect, so I may well miss something, provide an incomplete fix as a result, and inadvertantly make things worse.

- if you continue to assert that you didn't do anything wrong, even after I've figured out what you did wrong, then I lose a lot of trust in you; if I can't trust you to tell me when you messed up, then most of my work becomes figuring out what you're not telling me. Sure, it's detective work, but not the kind I enjoy.

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't always followed this advise myself. But the older I get, the more I notice that not owning up to my mistakes actually hurts me more than it helps, in more parts of life than just work. It's probably only a slight exaggeration to say that most errors in communication occur when people can't or won't accept that they've made mistakes, holding back useful information in the process.

As much as possible, I now do my best to own my damn mistakes. I only wish others did the same.

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