Normally, failing isn’t something to tout. But work-based mishaps are unavoidable. And instances of falling short can offer powerful insights about how to do things differently next time. Here are 12 job-related fails that fit the bill.
1. Get stuck in a rut
Falling into a workplace rut can happen so slowly it’s more like oozing. Getting your groove back takes work, self-awareness, and discipline. But after you’re back on track, you’ll know you can do it again, and you’ll be able to recognize the signs of its presence.
2. Lose your job
I lost my job three times before I was 30 through “downsizings” in totally different sectors: the federal government, the publishing industry, and then financial services. Getting laid off made me much more resilient and able to see the signs that so typically foreshadow workplace restructures.
3. Lose out when a finalist for a job
This humbling experience can ignite self-reflection. Pros see it as an opportunity to professionally and politely ask for feedback.
4. Take a career detour that doesn’t work
This is risk-taking, and there is plenty of growth in that. If you don’t take the opportunity, you won’t know. (No lingering doubts for me: I’m just not cut out for selling bonds at an investment bank.)
5. Trust a colleague who burns you
Instead of getting bitter about this one, use it to become better at assessing who has your back and who will stab you in it.
6. Be lied to, or misled, by a manager
Same theme, here. But the consequences can be much bigger. One way to deal with this one is to reach out to leaders, elsewhere, who do play fair, for counsel or advice.
7. Quit when you don’t have the next job lined up
Not. A. Good. Idea. Especially, if you are about to get engaged to your girlfriend (which is a long story that involves my now-husband and me living 14 time zones apart for four months after he popped the question.)
8. Alienate the office manager
These folks have more power than many office workers might realize. Stay on their good side or try to make amends if things go awry.
9. Make a mistake
The goal is to make that mistake only once. Then communicate to your boss what you learned and what you’ll change so it never happens again. A pattern of huge mistakes is a fail that gets you fired.
10. Work for someone you can’t stand
This is incredible training for how to maneuver a transfer to a different department or office. It’s also excellent motivation for a targeted, well-executed job hunt.
11. Take a job you don’t like
Sometimes you’ve got a hunch even before you start. Other times, the distaste isn’t clear until you’ve been wearing the work-ID tag for a while. No matter, after it happens, you’ll vet potential offers with more skill.
12. Take a calculated risk that backfires
Success in business is saturated with the stories of entrepreneurs or others who dared and failed.
Unfortunately, I have either personally experienced, or witnessed, each one of these on-the-job fails. I am convinced that they gave me insight and provided an opportunity for growth.
Any job fails you’d like share?
Becky Gaylord worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Sydney, Australia, before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. You can read Becky’s blog Framing What Works. A version of this story first appeared on the 12 Most blog.