Shifting the Blame: Mistakes As Learning Opportunities for Employees

5783612156_21ff40ee84_zAlthough making mistakes is a part of the human experience, mistakes can be embarrassing, sometimes leading individuals to cover up and keep errors secret. This behavior likely has its origin in our socialization. Errors can be perceived by others to be a lack of competency, and making mistakes can lead one to have a negative self-assessment, as well as an increased expectation of penalties as a direct consequence of a mistake.

Organizational failure culture, which is an integral part of corporate culture, may encourage these negative perceptions of mistakes. In reality, the perception and response to errors made by individuals is not so limited and altogether negative. The perception of errors is more of a continuum between two stances, error avoidance and error management. In the perspective of error avoidance, errors are viewed as an unnecessary risk. This is where the Current Issue Cover“culture of blame” comes in. It is characterized by a high importance placed on identifying the person responsible, rather than identifying the cause for the error.

In contrast, error management views errors as an inevitable phenomenon in corporate environment, which are impossible to avoid. Each error is recognized as a potential resource and learning opportunity. In this perspective, errors can support complex learning processes and expand possibilities toward further development and options for action. Contrary to problem-oriented error avoidance, the error management approach is solution-oriented and reflective.

Since organizations can learn from both good and bad outcomes, employers should reconsider how they perceive and respond to employee errors. A company can encourage employees to learn from failure by establishing a culture that supports employees and highlights the importance of communicating about errors. A constructive “learning from failure culture” should enable employees to talk about mistakes, deal with them constructively, learn from them, and, if possible, to take advantage of them. The goal is not about looking for someone to blame or ruminating on past mistakes. Rather, the goal is to reduce fear while increasing security and stability, ultimately leading to error minimization.

The article “From a ‘Culture of Blame’ to an Encouraged ‘Learning From Failure Culture'” from Business Perspectives and Research delves further into this issue. You can click here to read the article free for the next two weeks. You can also click here to sign up for e-alerts and receive email notifications for the latest research from Business Perspectives and Research!

*Image attributed to Project Morpheus (CC)
This entry was posted in Business, Employees, employers, Management, Teaching & Learning and tagged , , , , , by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, Management INK. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, Management INK

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 900 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, and Washington DC, our publishing programme includes more than 560 journals and over 800 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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