Embarrassment at Work :
Stress with an Audience

If you’ve never been on a bike, how can you teach someone else?

Ironically, the one thing we have in common as co-workers (and as humans) are our imperfections. And yet, we spend endless energy keeping these painful memories hidden from each other. The very thing that could teach another or help someone through a difficult time (i.e., understanding exactly what they are going through and advising them on how you got through the same situation) is something we rarely share.

If you can truly say that you have never been embarrassed, hurt, criticized, or made a mistake in the workplace, then how can you be a resource to teach or assist others when they experience these situations?

Without experiencing professional anxiety, doubt, stress, rejection, and other uncomfortable (or downright painful) moments personally, then by definition you would be unable to give accurate, useful, and clear direction to others when they experience similar issues. You have no idea what they are going through; therefore, you cannot act as a resource for providing insight out of these dilemmas.

Appearing perfect, strong, and all-knowing doesn’t serve your co-workers nearly as well as showing them that you too have made mistakes and have worked through them. In fact, I would suggest that to withholding your “trials and tribulations” from others who are in need of counsel is very close to arrogance. You may get to feel superior momentarily, but in the end, you have not acted from a superior place.

In trying to appear as if you never err, you have robbed someone of the information they need to learn, grow, and perhaps pass on the same wisdom when someone comes to them with a similar problem. Even in the worst-case scenario, you will provide comfort to the other by showing that you, too, have made mistakes and that they are not alone.

By being willing to demonstrate through your words and actions that talking about, and learning from, mistakes is a necessary part of long-term career success, you allow others to share their experiences too. It takes strength to admit that you are not perfect. It takes kindness to share your humanness with another who is in dire need of direction during a painful time. And finally, it takes knowledge to provide the information the person needs to repair or improve when the co-worker has “made a wrong turn.”

Show others that it is okay to be human, make mistakes, and learn from them. Pretending to be perfect never taught anyone anything, except to close-off from others and hide who they really are. I doubt we will find the latter behavior under the heading of “great leadership.”

Look for ways to help others who are struggling today. When someone comes to you with a problem, share your own similar experience and how you overcame it. Use your painful memories as a way to help someone out of a situation that is causing them pain today.

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Arrgh!! Not rated yet
This topic is very timely for me. I have had two situations where I was making presentations with "important others" in the room and some jerk would ask …

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