Skip to content
Big Think+

Don’t lose employees to the blame game. Conquer failure together.

Failures are going to happen. That’s just the way things are. Beyond the thing that didn’t quite manage to work out, though, there’s more that can go off the rails, says foreign policy advisor and author Victoria Coates in her Big Think+ Video “Balance Blame and Support.” If you reach out to the person responsible in the wrong way, she says, “they can almost shut down at that point and assume they’re going to be fired or assume their path at the company has ended. And then they’re looking for another job and you’ve lost a useful tool.” Fortunately, it doesn’t have to go this way.

Partnering a solution

“If you trust your employees and you trust your hiring process, you can help them through failure,” says Coates. She has some suggestions for how to pull this off.

First of all, act promptly, making sure to “immediately communicate to them that ‘Yes, this is a bad thing,’ and, ‘Yes, we’re going to have to deal with it,’ but then there is going to be a tomorrow.” Moving quickly in this way prevents bad feelings from gaining strength as an employee anxiously awaits the fall of the axe.

It also conveys that you view the failure as a problem that you both are going to work through together, as teammates. This approach conveys “both the sense of responsibility, but also a comfort level that this is not going to be the end of [the employee’s] trajectory.”

Pain hurts

Of course, failing is rarely fun, and everyone hates finding themselves in the position of having done so. Still, Coates insists, when a failure is seen as an opportunity wrapped inside a disaster, it can be a valuable learning experience. As a bonus — and paradoxically — failure can also offer an opportunity to strengthen the bond between the person responsible and the company, and you.

Join the #1 community of L&D professionals

Sign up to receive new research and insights every Tuesday.