Job Talk: A mistake presents an opportunity for a skillful recovery - Albuquerque Journal

Job Talk: A mistake presents an opportunity for a skillful recovery


Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell and Dale Dauten

Dear J.T. & Dale: I recently was put in charge of a project where I had to build out a timeline of deliverables. I mistakenly got a couple dates wrong. As a result, some on my team submitted things at the wrong time. My boss ended up calling them out on it. None of them said anything to him about the fact that I messed up the dates. Now they are all giving me the cold shoulder. What can I do to make things right? — Emily

J.T.: I think you first need to go to your boss and candidly explain that you made the mistake, and they didn’t. I would also say that you didn’t realize it and didn’t know how to bring it up at the time. I would then go and make personal apologies to each of the individuals that were called out by your boss. Let them know that you’ve gone to management and taken ownership of the mistake and explain how you’ve learned from it. Mistakes happen and anytime you realize them, the best thing to do is be a friend as soon as possible. Nobody’s perfect! Plus, it’s a sign of character when you can take ownership of mistakes.

DALE: Your question got me thinking about my own days as a corporate employee and about one of my own scheduling blunders. A team of high-priced consultants was in town, and they took a few of us to dinner the night before coming to the offices. During the evening chitchat, I asked what brought them to town. They laughed … and then they didn’t. We all soon realized that they were there for a presentation that I was supposed to schedule and that I’d forgotten about. I instantly started calling everyone included in the meeting and told them how I screwed up. The next morning, I went from office to office apologizing. The meeting went off as (not) planned, but — ho ho ho! — everyone made fun of old Dale. However, to my surprise, the upshot was that it brought me closer to some of the executives I’d hardly known. Here’s the point: A mistake is an opportunity for a skillful recovery and the result is a net positive. Research shows that a customer who had a problem that the company resolved gracefully will be more loyal than a customer who never had a problem. So, here’s your chance to go back and make that graceful recovery.

Dear J.T. & Dale: My company is talking about going to a four-day work week. I know I should be excited, but I don’t want to work longer days just to have one day off. Do you think it would be inconsiderate to ask if I might still work five days a week? I guess I would be the only person in the office but honestly, I don’t care. — Rob

DALE: There’s a chance that your management would like the idea. After all, there would be someone around to take on any problems or opportunities that come up on the day that your office is closed despite it being a traditional workday. However, on the other hand, most managers loathe anything that “sets a precedent,” meaning that if you ask for special work hours, then why not Tina who wants to work three days a week and Gary who wants to work nights. So, I’m guessing your request will be denied, at least at first. If some issues later arise on the day the office is closed, they may remember your suggestion.

J.T.: I’m a bit more optimistic. I don’t think there is anything wrong with inquiring about working five days. I think I would ask it in a positive way. I would tell them that you’re excited that the company cares so much about work-life balance and that’s why you were wondering if they would offer you the flexibility of staying with the current five-day work week. If your company is already so forward-thinking that they’re trying to be this flexible, I can’t imagine that they’ll have a problem with you sticking with what’s working.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten’s latest book is “Experiments Never Fail: A Guide for the Bored, Unappreciated and Underpaid.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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