People have short memories.
I used to think that when I screwed up, people would remember forever. Or, at the very least, for an extremely long time. A long enough time that it might as well be forever.
But what I’ve found is just the opposite: When I’ve really messed up, I spend a little while kicking myself, and then a little while longer getting my ass kicked by others… and then things start to get better. Friends show up and offer support. Things get talked out.
And then more work comes along, and there’s another chance to get it right. If it’s a small mistake, it’s forgotten a day or two later. If it’s pretty big mistake, it lingers for a week.
But then it passes. People forgive. The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made — the biggest goofs — are things that friends and old co-workers now use as punch lines during happy hours. You remember that thing you did, Dan? Man, what a screw up!
Oh, the other part: You learn a lot about the people you work with when you screw up. Because what I’ve described is what happens when you screw up in the company of great people. They forgive you, and even help you move past your mistakes.
Not everybody is like that, though. There are workplaces that don’t forget mistakes — that punish you for them, that constantly remind you of them.
What I’m saying is: Screwing up is pretty good way to find out what kind of place you work at, and whether or not you want to be working with people who’ll punish you for screwing up.
That image of a small mistake comes via Flickr’s @tehlonz.