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If You Mess Up, Fess Up!

"Confession is good for the soul." – Scottish Proverb

Doesn’t that sound wonderful: "Confession is good for the soul." But how many of us really believe that concept applies to the workplace? If we confess our mistakes, won’t it make us look weak and incompetent to our Boss, our Employees and our Customers? Isn’t it a better tactic to cover up our mistakes or blame them on someone else? I got news for you bunkie: that tactic doesn’t work anymore – if it ever did! Just ask Toyota.

Still need convincing? Here are the primary reasons you need to Fess Up When You Mess Up:

1. It’s just plain wrong to not fess up when you mess up! If you are an ethical person and you want to be perceived as a person with integrity, you have to admit your mistakes and accept the consequences of those incidents.

2. Everybody knows you messed up! Who do you think you’re kidding when you attempt to cover up your mistake or blame someone else for your error? In the Information Age, everyone has access to the information necessary to determine who is responsible for the screw up. And "they" will share that information.

3. You are sending a message that erodes respect and trust! Do you really want your Employees and Boss to assess your character and leadership abilities based on your attempt to avoid accountability or perpetuate a cover up (otherwise known as "lying")? And what do your actions say to Customers about what constitutes acceptable behavior in your organization?

4. It’s the cover up that will get you! Martha Stewart didn’t do the crime but she went to prison because she attempted to cover up her unethical activities by lying to a federal official – a definite no-no. Her failure to confess/admit her wrong behavior and her attempt to cover it up cost her 5 months in a federal prison camp. What has or can your failure to fess up cost you?

5. There is potential economic value in admitting a mistake! When doctors apologize directly to patients for the harm they caused, malpractice claims and malpractice litigation costs drop by more than 50%. While I don’t know what positive economic impact admitting your mistakes could have on your relationship with your customers and your employees, I do believe not doing so is definitely having a detrimental economic impact through lost sales and Employee turnover.

The Bottom Line: Every one makes mistakes. It is how we deal with those mistakes that matters. Like the ability to delegate, admitting when we’ve made a mistake is a trademark of a good leadership skill set.

Question: What are some of the reasons to Fess Up When You Mess Up I have missed?

Paul Glover Go to for more information about Ethics & Integrity in the Time of the WorkQuake™.