The Red Pensil

I don’t deal with defeat very well. Particularly when it’s in the workplace and it involves pretty much making a fool of myself in front of my clients (employees). And it gets even worse when those particular clients have already demonstrated an aversion to HR and don’t have much faith in our abilities. You get limited opportunity to turn these people toward your favor, and a missed opportunity – one, in fact, that sets you back a couple of steps – is a giant blow… and it’s embarrassing. That’s exactly what happened to me on Friday. And I hate it. It’s not important to recount every detail of this fiasco. It had to do with a highly visible meeting with a group’s top executives who were counting on HR to facilitate a productive discussion. We had data integrity issues, we had technology issues…we just basically didn’t have our act together. They chewed us up. They were visibly upset. No one showed sympathy, empathy; just disgust.

You’ve been there…if you haven’t, you’re probably not doing your job. I realize success comes with failure. But how do you deal with it? How do you pick up the pieces and go on. I apologized, corrected the error, redistributed the data, and rescheduled the meeting. Then I thought about it a lot. I actually lost some sleep over it – something that happens rarely to me. There’s a part of me that says HR can not afford to make mistakes because the world is entirely unforgiving, impatient, and crabby. There’s a part of me that says I sure do wish we could all take a chill. I mean it was a data issue; no big deal…right? There’s a part of me that says this is just symptomatic of corporate America…it is what it is…screw it. And there’s a part of me that just wants to curl up in the corner, suck my thumb, and weep.

Have you ever encountered this? After reading it most of you are focused on one thing and one thing only: a misspelled word. (The rest of you are wondering why the hell you aren’t smart enough to find said misspelled word). There are twenty-one letters in this statement. And twenty of them are right. But one is wrong and that’s all most of us can really focus on. Humans are like that…a bunch of freakin’ downers. I mean, I came up with twenty letters that were absolutely spot on. But no one, I’m sure, will take the time to congratulate me on that. Thanks a lot, jerks.

It’s kind of how I feel over Friday’s debacle. Man we try hard. We really do. And there is so much that goes right behind the scenes every freakin’ day week-in and week-out. We’re used to being disrespected. We’re used to being second-class. And we’re used to being the unsung. But can’t we catch a break every now and then?

I don’t know, should we?

Image Credit: Kaptain Kobold (Flickr)

7 Responses to The Red Pensil
  1. Lisa Rosendahl
    February 7, 2011 | 4:40 am

    I feel your pain Charlie. Breathe. Today’s another day.
    Lisa Rosendahl´s last blog ..Exit a Funk and Sieze the DayMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Jay Kuhns
    February 7, 2011 | 5:54 am

    Thanks for opening up and addressing an issue that has happened to ALL of us. Every other person in that room with you has also had a misstep along the way, it just happened to be your turn. The reason you will still have the respect and support of those customers is because of your reaction. It meant something to you. That simple piece alone separates you from so many others who just don’t care. Keep the faith!
    Jay Kuhns´s last blog ..Open to Feedback PROVE IT!My ComLuv Profile

  3. William Gould
    February 7, 2011 | 8:24 am

    Anyone who is digging deep enough to make a real difference in his organization is going to screw up, and will have to take his turn over the barrel – it’s a reality of the ugly side of corporate culture. I’m with Jay, the fact that you did not catch a break is far less important than how you correct the course and move forward.

    It will be interesting to see who comments on your post. Anyone who has been there in a big way should be empathetic enough to respond. Been there and done that, my friend. Stay focussed and it will pass.

  4. Richard Sherman
    February 7, 2011 | 3:04 pm

    Oh man, do I understand and appreciate the frustration with the tight beam of focus, or the extra-pointy fingers that only see what went wrong without any appreciation for the work. I remember my long days working for a marketing company that took our clients’ products or services to events…event marketing. And like so many other businesses, the phrase we repeated again and again was “You’re only as good as your last event”. The client didn’t care if we knocked it out of the park for a hundred events, if we messed up the one we’re doing right now, then that’s who we are. I can bring proper resolution to a myriad of problems, but one wrong turn and that’s the standard that I have to start from again.

    Mel Brooks reportedly said, “As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.” So yup, we’re gonna do this again and again, and you dealt with it the best possible way. Appreciate you sharing it with us. As Lisa, Jay, and Bill have said beautifully – breathe, keep the faith, stay focused.

    Remember, I’m pulling for ya. We’re all in this together!


    (end quote thanks to Red Green)
    Richard Sherman´s last blog ..Bus Story- Hope Starts SmallMy ComLuv Profile

  5. Mary Ellen
    February 8, 2011 | 9:25 am

    Can I be the meanie here? Not about your mistake specifically, Charlie, just the general notion of how much grace we should give people.

    Everyone screws up sometimes. In most cases, striving for perfection isn’t even desirable. If you obsessed over that, you’d never accomplish anything.

    But if I’m your client (internal or external), and it’s my project that you botch, I’m not going to be pleased if you fail at something that’s a core part of your job. It won’t comfort me that you’re great 90% of the time.

    What percentage of time can a person fail at their core job and still be considered competent?

  6. Charlie
    February 8, 2011 | 12:32 pm

    Thanks everyone for the comments and support. Appreciated, as always.

    Mary Ellen, I think your question at the end is exactly what I’m driving at (and hence my comment in the blog post “I don’t know, should we?” I agree there is a threshold for how much incompetency can be endured…there has to be. I think employees are quick to confuse innocent mistakes with incompetence, though, when it comes to HR. Grant it, a generalization, and i’m not whining about it. But it’s true. So there needs to be the right balance of competence + patience + empathy + accountability. And that balance is not formulaic – it depends a lot on the who, the what, then when, the where. Thanks for playing Beelzebub’s advocate, though.
    Charlie´s last blog ..The Red PensilMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Kevin Bruny
    February 9, 2011 | 11:44 am

    Charlie, others have said it before me…we’ve all been there and the fact that you’ve shared these thoughts demonstrates your learning from this experience. It is hard to accept but we all do move forward and regain our step….as you’ve probablly already done by now.

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