The Art of the Mea Culpa

By Chad Broadus 

Unless you’ve been living in a shack deep in the Idaho woods, you probably caught some portion of Tiger Woods’s recent apology. And, like hundreds of my colleagues in the media, I’d like to take a moment to exploit his personal crisis for profit. I’m sorry. That was wrong of me, and frankly a little too honest. What I meant to say is I’d like to take a moment to use this as a teachable moment.

Really, I'm SorryAt some point in our work lives – through carelessness, overestimation of our meager abilities, or rank incompetence – we’re going to screw up. After we do, we need to come clean, and maybe even pull together the lessons from our missteps.

My Bona Fides 

At a job years ago, I’d noticed the video asset array backup had been failing over a couple of weekends.  I was concerned, sure, but I had my hands full juggling an Active Directory and Exchange upgrade while keeping up on a long list of tasks that made up my "real" job.  I knew I’d be able to take care of the backup in a few more days. Besides, it was a RAID array. 

You can see where this is going. The inconceivable happened. My 1TB array had a catastrophic failure, and all of the content the video production team had produced over the last two weeks was gone.

Be Painfully Honest 

After nature’s "fight or flight" chemical cocktail had run its course through my body, I went straight to my boss, the CEO, and told him exactly what had happened. I let him know I’d made a terrible miscalculation in deviating from best practices, that it was doubly bad because I knew better, and that it was likely that we had lost data – and a lot of labor dollars.

List Corrective Action

Before seeing him, I researched ways to recover data from bad drives and came across an expensive utility that looked like it might do the job. I suggested we buy it in an attempt to retrieve any data that might be recoverable. Thankfully, that little magic bullet worked. I was able to get back about 90 percent of the data. Still no picnic. It required an unnecessary and unplanned software purchase, and repeated labor dollars for the assets that had to be recreated.

Never Again 

After most of the data had been recovered, I returned to my boss’s office and apprised him of the resolution of the situation. I vowed this would never happen again, and let him know the steps that I’d take to make sure. Again, I let him know that I was grievously remorseful.

Your Turn 

Consider my cautionary tale your fire drill.

When you have to apologize, lay it all on the line. Take complete responsibility for your actions, be sincere, and don’t hide anything. Your boss will appreciate it. Providing you don’t make a habit of making mistakes, your honesty will build trust. As part of the apology, list specific actions that you will take to remedy the situation, and steps you will take to avoid a repeat in the future.

How I remained employed after my little SNAFU perplexes me to this day, but I’m betting it had a little to do with an appropriate apology, and I’m betting it will work for you should you ever find yourself in similar straights.

Chad Broadus is a tech professional and writer living in the Pacific Northwest

 

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