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We all make mistakes – but should you always own up?

Word on the street is that honesty is the best policy. So for honesty’s sake I’m going to admit that I’ve been attempting to learn yoga for two years but my efforts are hampered by my fondness for lolling about scoffing items from the top of the food pyramid.

Penelope whitson idealogIt’s an understatement to say my yoga poses are riddled with errors. And I can’t blame these mistakes on other people because it’s quite clearly me that is responsible.

While ignoring my yoga teacher’s instructions to ‘embrace not hate’ the poses, this morning I must have caught someone else’s wave of humility because I began to ponder the importance of admitting we make mistakes.

Making blunders in the workplace is best avoided – it’s work, we’re paid to do something and we should (in theory) do it well. However, we’re human and screwing up occasionally is one of life’s novelties. But how we deal with our whoopsies, accepting responsibility or trying to pass on the blame, reflects on us not only as people but as workmates.

Owning up to errors usually means you’re honest and hopefully also means you’re capable of taking responsibility for your work. I gather these are generally preferred qualities in employees. And in those who rule our offices and countries. But ... there are times when owning up might not be in your best interest. If your workmates and boss are supportive and decent folk then yes, ‘fess up. However, it's not motivating to own up if you know you’re going to get slammed for it, and have it used against you in the future.

Having said that, no one enjoys working with or for a person who never owns up to their mistakes. People also don’t enjoy working with or for someone who always blames others for their own slip-ups. Hands up who’s had that workmate. Mr ‘It’s your fault and I’ll tell everyone in the office this lie’. Don’t take this lying down – get up and demand they prove their fibbery. At the very least ensure their secret Santa gift is a used sock now housing weevils.

A mistake I did own up to involved a recently published book. It did have a contents page but sadly that contents page had no numbers. The author was not so much cross as scarily and deservedly furious. I was expecting a verbal spanking of mammoth proportions. And it never came. I was forgiven, my much adored boss preferring that I quickly got over it and went on to never do it again, at least not while at his publishing house.

A mistake I did not own up to – accidentally teaching a class of 12-year-old boys in South Korea how to misspell veterinarian. As I had enough trouble getting any respect from them as it was I decided, poorly, not to tell them the truth. I quit teaching not long after. They must be in their twenties now. I hope none of them applied to vet school.

We all make mistakes. Come on, own up. At the very least, admit what your mistake was while using a pseudonym.