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Misprints: Three things employees need when they fail

Witness front page

The company that prints our local newspaper The Witness, made a colossal mistake today (3 April 2020). They reprinted the inner four pages from yesterday. Turns out it wasn’t a delayed April Fool’s joke!

Under normal circumstances it would have been inexcusable. And, wow! Did the Facebook Fiends let them have it! But our Covid-19 lockdown means that these are far from normal circumstances.

Yes, it was a terrible mistake (it included the crossword!), but we must stop and consider before we default to anger and irritation, demanding our perceived rights.

Does the person who failed need to be told (angrily) about the error, or should they be encouraged to get up again and keep going forward

How do you discuss failure with employees (or spouses or children)?

With most employees, it is not wilful negligence requiring dismissal and damnation. (If it is, deal with it as such.)

Most of the time we don’t need to be told that we have done something wrong. We know it and are waiting fearfully for the axe to fall.

What we do need is

  • encouragement to get up again
  • a reminder that this failure doesn’t define us. It isn’t all that is known about us
  • an open door through which we can ask for help, bounce ideas and ensure, through cooperation, that we know how to stop it happening again.

When we lose our temper and condemn an employee (or spouse or child) for an error, we have told them nothing they didn’t know already. But we have also slammed the door against any requests for help we might have received or guidance we might have given. If they do get up again, they will be alone (and so will we) and they will muddle along as best they can. They will not fly. And nor will we.

Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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