Messed Up on the Job? Helpful Tips for What to do Next!

Maybe some of you haven’t ever messed up on the job (if that is the case….you are amazing). But for those of us who have, it can be quite daunting.


My first several years as a young professional, I messed up a lot! I was an overanxious young adult whose main drive was to obey and please my fellow co-workers, managers, and bosses, while getting the job done at the same time. While my intentions for business success were good, it was inevitable that I would mess up, because guess what – I was new at the job thing. While I could go into a long argument about how our current social and education models don’t necessarily prepare us to fail well, the focus of this blog post is more about what you can do to overcome mess ups and failures on the job.

First, messing up and making mistakes WILL happen. So, before setting expectations too high, please, please know that messing up is not just part of the job experience, but also part of life.

Second, it is what we do with these mess ups and failures that determine what happens next.

The article How to recover from a big career mistake, by, gives five things someone can do when they mess up terribly at work, including:

  • Diagnose
  • Fess up and apologize
  • Keep communication flowing
  • Wait and watch
  • Remain positive

The article The ‘Just Right’ Reaction When you Mess up at Work by Forbes, demonstrates three scenarios based on  case studies, supporting some tips the MSN article mentions. Some similar and important aspects were: taking a deep breath, and owning up to the mistake.

I  cannot express enough the importance of honesty. Honesty and integrity in the office may seem hard to find, and hard to do. The article Honesty at Work by Career Success for Newbies, talks about what honesty in the workplace can do for you.

Over time, I have learned that mistakes in the workplace are bound to happen. I have been able to develop how I approach each of these situations, and though I haven’t perfected my response, I have found that honesty is the best policy. Because I understand that mistakes do happen, I can approach this issue with the expectation to learn from my mistakes, which in turn will make me a better worker, employee and person.

Creating More Positive Stereotypes Using Media

Perhaps some of you have seen the Dove and Always commercials taking over FB posts and social media by storm. One of the latest and greatest is about dismantling and really having the conversation about what it means to do something like a girl – taking already existing stereotypes, dissecting, and creating a new stereotype based on turning something negative into something positive. There are several other ideas that are trying to create new social norms and perspectives, like how it is considered cool to get a period (have you seen that video about period care packages - HelloFlo by Always?),  or how owning a mini-van is pretty rad (remember the swagger wagon commercial by Toyota?).

One my favorite recent trends is the lazy/idiot dad stereotype diminished with the new Peanut Butter Cheerios Commercial. Good PR Cheerios….a lot better than that other ad that sparked controversy when really it shouldn’t have.

Taking Creative Thoughts to the Next Level: Thoughts Realized and Great PR

I am always amazed at seeing ideas become revolutionized. Just like I say on my twitter page, I am motivated by seeing something amazing happen because of a thought – thoughts realized. And, isn’t this what life is all about?

My creative finds for the day inspired and moved me.

1. The FunTheory website,  came up with some brilliant ideas that are, “dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

Here is just one idea turned into action:

You noticed whose initiative this is, right!? Great PR Volkswagen!!

2. This next one had me teared up. Even though I couldn’t understand it because it is in another language, I was moved by this invention. I can just imagine a soon-to-be father wanting and desiring to know what his pregnant wife was experiencing, and taking that idea to the next level.

To see the father’s faces when they can share this moment is amazing, and I assume, something the women took great joy in sharing.

Bravo for thoughts realized and genius ideas that bring people together!

Power of Words

I know this video posted a while ago, but I was moved by the power of what using the right words could/can really do.

Second to the Best World Cup Ad

I still like Nike’s, but shoot – these people in this ad are pretty awesome!

Best World Cup Ad Ever

Well done Nike!!

Tell me you are not psyched…..

National Volunteer Week: Trends for 2014 – What to Expect From Non-profits

As part of my shout out to volunteers during National Volunteer Week, I compiled some great research about what is trending in the volunteer world. This research focuses on what non-profit organizations are implementing to make volunteering impactful, and what they are doing to meet the needs of busy people. In a world that demands our time for career stability and development, and family responsibilities and obligations, most people find there is little time to dedicate outside of these areas. I hope you find this research valuable as you contemplate your volunteering endeavors.

National Volunteer Week Trending Topics

Starting Off Your Workday

Not necessarily being in the “creative” field, my job entails that I come up with creative ideas on how to get the word out about internal initiatives and figure out how engage employees with a limited budget. In a world of crazy media swirling at all hours of the day, using social media to spur engagement is a fantastic way to get employees engaged. However, when is the best time to reach employees? Obviously on their downtime, right? I always thought that engaging employees at the beginning of the day was the best way, because that way news doesn’t become stagnant. After watching the following video, I thought the idea of ‘sharing’ information may be best exchanged after my creative juices have already been working.

Oh….Common Core

I saw this image posted today regarding a Common Core homework assignment.

Common Core FlubNational Review Online also posted some interesting Common Core ‘word problems’ in their post The Eleven Dumbest Common Core Problems, stating “The Common Core State Standards Initiative is widely denounced for imposing confusing, unhelpful experimental teaching methods, involving test problems that lack essential information and sometimes make no sense whatsoever.”

In the Huffington Post Article: Smoke, Mirrors, and Common Core, it states:

“As a parent, I am troubled by developments in the New York Assembly. My kindergartner comes home exhausted after a day of school with almost no time for unstructured play. As the child psychologist Megan Koschnick explains, the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate, virtually insured to give many children math and reading anxiety.

There is no good way to implement bad standards.

Fortunately, some New York politicians listen to parents on the issue of the Common Core. There is a bill (A8844 & S6604), with bipartisan support, that calls for a Blue Ribbon Commission to hold hearings, do research, and make recommendations to the governor and legislature regarding curriculum and testing before moving forward, if at all, with the Common Core. The bill requires New York’s education leaders to think before they act: a sensible proposal.”

Too bad the proposal was rejected, right?

I do not object to standards – after all, we do need guidelines and something for us to reach for. However, I do oppose the way Common Core is being implemented. From what I can tell, instruction for this new curriculum has been lucid, at best. Students should not have to come home to hours of homework every night in order to keep up with instruction. I would really like to see a poll on how children feel about their learning experience.

On another note, Common Core may be here to stay for a while. The Washington Post highlights an article about How Three Teachers are dealing with Common Core in their Class.

One teacher admits that Common Core has its challenges. She said, “However, my school has prioritized Common Core implementation and tackled its challenges with consistent professional development, regular refinement of unit plans, daily lessons and assessments, and an intense focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice. As a result, my students are thinking critically about numbers every day, and they are becoming accustomed to attacking problems with multiple strategies and assessing the validity of those strategies. The Common Core standards choose depth over breadth, and with appropriate teacher development and support, this leads to much more critical thinking and analysis in the classroom.”

Maybe the only thing that can be done is to give strict attention to how Common Core is being implemented. The ‘How’ remains. Is this something that needs to be taken care of on the federal level? Perhaps. Is this something that needs to be taken care on a school district level? Sure, why not. Is this something that teachers and parents need to learn how to deal with themselves? Looks like it.

I don’t have any answers to the questions I pose. I know rolling out any new policy is going to be tricky. Does it mean it is wrong? Not necessarily. But without the proper tools, resources, and training, policies that direct school curriculum is going to be hard for all those involved. One thing to keep in mind – who is feeling the inconsistency of this implementation? Our students. Period.

Organizational Change Management – How to Influence Change Without Having Authority

change aheadI am recently going up against what I believe a lot of people struggle with in the work place.  In former positions, my sphere of influence was greater than where I find myself now. I used to have all control and authority to do what I needed to do to get the job done with full top-down support and financing. I was directly influencing the audiences I needed to, and had some incredible outcomes.

In a newer position with a larger company, I find myself vying to influence a larger amount of people, but with minimal authority. I always thought that in order to be influential, all I needed to do was communicate well. I am finding that there is a lot more to it, particularly as it relates to organizational change – a good result of my new role. Over the course of time, being able to influence decisions has become more difficult, and I end up running into a lot of internal politics that stymie movement.

Below is a series of articles that provide some valuable insight over conquering or, at least, accepting this dilemma.

How to Influence Without Authority by Jesse Lyn Stoner

This article provides 8 ways to influence without having authority including character, expertise, information, connectedness, social intelligence, network, collaboration, and funding. The author also gives some guidelines for influencing without authority and talks about not having any hidden agendas. My favorite quote from this article: “When we shift from authority-based to influence-based leadership, we have to accept that we are not always in control. However, the reality is that we actually never were.”

The Influence Model – Using Reciprocity to Gain Influence (Also known as the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model) by Mind Tools.

This article provides some valuable insight into what steps can be used to overcome needing support or commitment from peers, and/or executive leadership. The article details the steps and provides some good advice assuming that the end-result will be win-win. It seems like this model would be easier to use on a peer-to-peer basis. However, I also see advantages of following these steps when needing to engage those persons who have higher authority. For me, the most important step is to make sure to “…keep your personal wants and goals out of the situation. For instance you may subconsciously want to be seen as “right,” or you may want to have the “last word.” These personal motivations often get in the way of effective negotiation. Focus on your work goals, and leave personal motivators or drivers aside.”

influencing-people1Exerting Influence Without Authority  by Harvard Business Review blog entry. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. While it was dated back in 2008, there are plenty of takeaways that are pivotal when trying to drive change without having the resources or authority. The article introduces the concept of lateral leadership. Partnering with peers and involving collaborative partners will absolutely help in driving an initiative forward. The article discusses networking being key in cultivating the portals you are going to need to influence change. It also discusses increasing knowledge in the art of constructive persuasion, negotiation, and consultation. At the end of the day, collaboration with others who would typically be bystanders as this initiative is dropped in their laps, is the best approach to creating influence even without authority. The article states, “To assemble a powerful coalition, begin by asking yourself who’s most likely to be affected by the change you’re proposing. Whose “blessing” do you need—whether in the form of political support or access to important resources or individuals? Whose buy-in is crucial to your initiative’s success?” The article concludes by speaking about the challenges and successes of lateral leadership.

Something else to keep in mind is a profound insight from John Hester’s article, Influencing Without Authority, or Even With It – 4 Key Behaviors, that said, “A common leadership challenge I hear in our workshops is: “How do I lead when I don’t have authority?” Even when we do have formal authority, we often need to influence up and across the organization. But should we use our authority to coerce others to do what we want or need them to do? I believe the answer is a resounding no…”

Other research also points out that it is still important to recognize that authority is what it is, authority. In one interesting video about authority, Jeffrey Gitomer says “I just read this quote: “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” It sounds good when you first hear it, but it’s not only completely without merit, it’s also downright dangerous. The quote should say, “One of the MANY keys to successful leadership today is influence.” It bugs me when someone attempts wisdom, and it flies in the face of logic, emotion, and especially reality. Imagine a person of great influence standing outside a major corporation, but not having a job at the company, let alone a position of authority. Would anyone take action? Would anyone follow that guy? Would anyone even listen? The “influencer with no authority” would probably get his biggest chance telling it to the judge after being hauled off by security.”

It is important not to step out of bounds when trying to influence. The articles mentioned above provide some great insight into what a person with no authority can do. I would like to add, in ALL cases, make sure that your boss or supervisor is aware of what you are doing behind the scenes to get what you need to be successful. The last thing you want to do is create a situation where you can no longer be trusted because you are perceived to be off having secret collaborative lunches with fellow employees about goodness knows what. While gaining momentum and collaborating in order to enhance the bottom line may seem innocent enough, it is also important to remember that part of this collaboration/lateral leadership/networking/influencing exercise should be maintained under the parameters of the authority figures you report to.

In one circumstance, I was having a hard time dealing with internal politics and understanding what I needed to do to gain momentum for an initiative. I asked for some advice from one of my personal “influencers” who said:

“Always keep the chain of command involved, unless it is something like sexual harassment. Be professional and do not allow emotion get in the way of discussion. Allow for the fact that others have differing priorities and understand that their report cards are not the same as yours. Schedule information exchanges far enough in advance to allow adequate time for planning. Get release approval for information from your supervisors, then send out reminders and material read ahead information prior to meetings.

Do your job and be proactive in ensuring your job is done…do not do the job of others …that is never your function.

Periodic status reports that are sent to your boss with cc’s to peers and others in the chain of command might work but get the boss’s approval on the distribution first.

There will always be internal politics, successful people know how to work within the construct rather than fight the construct.

My Takeaways

It is possible to be influential without having authority. It is also important not to compromise personal or the company’s integrity by trying to gain that influence. Becoming influential comes with time and with proper acknowledgement and understanding of a company’s hierarchy.