Owning Up - Counterintuitive Realization #1


When I make a mistake, there are two options: Owning up to it or passing the responsibility. 

Passing the responsibility is usually an enticing option. If there’s some reason why the mistake wasn’t my fault, or some external circumstance that caused it, it’s nice to be able to pass the responsibility on to something else. If I make mistakes it means I’m bad at my job, and if I’m bad at my job that means I might be let go. So it makes sense to pass the responsibility.

However, there’s a counterintuitive realization I’ve been having recently. 

Owning up to my mistakes is usually a safer option. 

A mistake is like a flaming potato. Obviously I don’t want to be the one responsible for the flaming potato, so I’ll quickly pass it to someone else who may have played a part in its ignition. But the potato is still on fire, even when I pass it. 

Owning up to the mistake extinguishes the potato. It’s no longer on fire. 

Owning up to my mistakes and taking responsibility has done a few good things. First, it brings closure to the problem. People no longer remember me as someone connected to current problems, they remember as someone who solved past problems. Second, it shows humility. No one wants to work with an arrogant person, so owning up helps me combat my own pride. And finally, it shows self-awareness. When I pass responsibility, there usually isn’t an opportunity to show understand how the mistake was made and how I’ll prevent it in the future. If I own up to it, all eyes are on me to explain how we’ll move forward and not make the same mistake again.

Owning up is scary to do the first few times, but once you see that reasonable people respect you for it, taking responsibility becomes a lot easier.

Joshua Reese