What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work?
If you can bear it, close your eyes and bring yourself back to that moment … you know, the one right before you hid under your desk and hoped everyone would just think that you went home early because you were sick. Forever.
In your life outside of work, if you forget to put the cap back on the toothpaste or take out the trash on trash day, it stinks—sometimes literally—but I bet you don’t beat yourself up as much as you do when you make a typo in an email (horrors!), send out the wrong version of the report (noooo!), or suggest an idea at a meeting that falls flat (the humanity!).
Why is it that we think that the work version of ourselves has to be infallible? We leave no wiggle room for imperfection and allow ourselves to feel regret, disappointment, and even shame when we make an honest error.
Well, you know what? Pobody’s nerfect.
You read that right: Pobody’s nerfect. If it sounds like a philosophy fresh from an NBC primetime comedy, that’s because it is. Kristen Bell’s character on The Good Place accidentally ended up in heaven when she died. Because she’s an imperfect person in a “perfect” place, hijinks ensue. She’s finally able to win everyone over when she accidentally says: “Pobody’s nerfect.”
Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it’s also ridiculous the pressure we put on ourselves day after day. Once you embrace “pobody’s nerfect,” you can move on to fixing what’s wrong.
However, if you follow this tactic you must keep these three important things in mind.
1. Know your audience.
Head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, is a notorious stickler for punctuality. If you show up late for practice, you are off of the team. Similar no-excuses work environments abound and if you work in one, shrugging nonchalantly while saying “pobody’s nerfect” after your boss points out your spreadsheet error is not going to fly. Pobody’s nerfect can still help you with your internal monologue and your job confidence. Laughing at yourself can be healing … and allow you to proceed to number two.
2. Own your error.
You still have to claim your mistake, and then get busy figuring out its cause and a solution. Monopolize on the time that you used to spend cowering in shame, and use it proactively. And never shift blame to another coworker or try to dodge the work that needs to done to remedy the situation.
3. Learn from your mistake.
This is actually the upside to the whole infallibility business. If you look at mistakes as opportunities to discover how to do something better, you will grow as an employee and become an asset to your company.
Paradoxically, “Pobody’s Nerfect” can actually inch you closer to perfection—remember these wise words next time you make a mistake at work.
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