We do it all the time-—make a decision and then rethink it. Sometimes, we completely reverse it. Most decisions are personal and small. Will you go to your high school reunion? Will you join a gym? Will you spend vacation with your parents? Other decisions, such as buying a house or changing jobs, are bigger and can have a bigger impact.
In the workplace, decisions carry their own consequences. Each day, you probably make many small decisions, most of them so routine that they are barely noticed. Some, however, may have the capacity to enhance or threaten your career progress if they aren’t handled correctly.
For example, making decisions about a new hire or terminating an employee are big decisions. Staff turnover is expensive, and insufficient staffing can derail a project. As a result, it’s generally useful to have more than one person interview a potential employee. Doing so can provide additional insight to help you with the decision. Likewise, talking with human resources or your own supervisor before deciding on a termination is almost always a good idea.
If the candidate you select for that critical position does not make it through probation, your judgment may be called into question. But, retaining an employee you feel won’t succeed in the long run, simply to avoid the embarrassment of having made a mistake, is an even bigger mistake.
As a supervisor, a manager, or even as the boss, you want to make decisions that are evidence based and well thought out—you want to hedge your bets. Despite the thoroughness of the research the recommendations of others, or your own best guess, you will make some bad decisions during your career. How you manage these mistakes is almost always more critical than making them in the first place.
•First of all, it’s important to admit to the mistake and reverse the decision as soon as possible. Righting a wrong decision is always better than living with a decision that you know is wrong.
•Explain your reversal to your boss or your staff. Make your explanation as simple and as complete as you can. Don’t blame others. If the final decision was yours, admit it and admit that you were wrong.
•Lay out your plan for going forward. Discuss what happens next and when. What will be different? What additional data are needed? What is the timeline for course correction?
Then move forward. Dwelling on a past mistake serves no purpose. What counts is how you convert that mistake into success.