A recent experience with an international, multi-billion-dollar Company has been quite enlightening, as to their very broad definition of: Mistake. Is the issue merely one of semantics? Or, is there a deeper taint on our societal moral code of behavior?
Is it a “mistake” to intentionally obscure the truth and deliberately tell lies to cover up bad judgment and hurtful actions? Or, is that an unethical breach of conduct?
First of all, a quick look at the definition:
1. an error or blunder in action, opinion, or judgment
2. a misconception or misunderstanding
vb -takes, -taking, -took, -taken
1. (tr) to misunderstand; misinterpret “she mistook his meaning”
2. (tr; foll by for) to take (for), interpret (as), or confuse (with) “she mistook his direct manner for honesty”
3. (tr) to choose badly or incorrectly “he mistook his path”
4. (intr) to make a mistake in action, opinion, judgment, etc.
[(meaning: to do wrong, err): from Old Norse mistaka to take erroneously]
Problems are opportunities in disguise. Mistakes are like that, too. We all have them (problems) and we all make them (mistakes). In fact, we learn by doing. So, the secret is to make lots of mistakes and embrace the opportunity to learn from them.
There is a difference, though, in the “Oh, oops” moments and the “I’m so very sorry” occasions. The first is when we make a mistake and no one else is affected by our defective actions, opinions, or judgments. The latter is when our poor choices hurt another person and we quickly ask their forgiveness, while offering to make them whole.
We learn to walk by falling down. Falling down is a mistake, if we’re desirous of walking. This kind of mistake, made in the process of learning, is of the first variety. As toddlers, we made the mistake many times, hurt no one (else), learned from it, and moved on to running.
One-on-One, as individuals, we know when the second variety of hurtful mistake is made. Generally, we recognize our folly and, immediately, apologize. Sometimes, we are unaware of the impact of our choices on another person. If that other person perceives a mistake by us, that becomes their reality and our opportunity to grow.
Relationships are built by caring about, listening to, and understanding the reality of another person. Many times, the catalyst for strengthening a relationship can be our unintentional mistakes. Mature individuals will freely communicate their perception of the impact of our choices on them. As a result, we bask in the happy moments and ask to mend the hurtful ones.
Why then does that dynamic change when an individual is an employee of a Company?
For the great sport of it, the next time you’re in an animated conversation with the representative of a Company, who is playing semantics with your emotions, and you have heard the words “mistake” and “process” one too many times, ask this simple question: “What is more important: your Company processes, or People?”
The silence will be deafening.
In that instant, a Company employee becomes an Individual, once again, and realizes that their Customer is an Individual, too!
With the situation re-framed as a relationship of One-on-One, the original “mistake” (to take erroneously) can be fixed. The stage is also set for the appropriate apologies of conduct less than ethical. If none are offered, the individual Customer will do business elsewhere; and, in time, the odds are good that the employee hiding behind the bureaucracy of Company processes will find themselves as an individual, one more time, without a Company and a Job.
Regardless of the semantics, mistakes provide the opportunities for us, individually, to grow. Mistakes will be made, guaranteed. They are the defining moments for each of us to do the right thing and build a dynamic relationship!