Tag Archives: one of those days

Avoiding Little Mistakes At Work

23 Feb

Last week I had one of those days where it seemed like everything I was doing was wrong. I went into a partner’s office to discuss a new matter when she FINALLY gave me some feedback on a brief I had worked on the month before. I realized two things while she was giving me feedback: (1) I am not as consistent and detail-oriented as I want and/or need to be, and (2) I have a hard time accepting constructive criticism. The mistakes that she pointed out where not major mistakes. They were the kind of mistakes you make when you have a lot on your plate, are time crunched, and are working too fast. My mistakes where things like not having the page number the same font as the body of the brief, not taking out a reference to a party that was not involved when I super-copied some text, and making sure that there wasn’t a page break where there shouldn’t be one. Thankfully the comments were not substance oriented, which would have upset me even more, but hearing a comment from your boss saying, “make sure to check the dates, remember it’s not 2011 anymore,” it makes you feel completely stupid and incapable.  

As I was reading the list of comments the partner provided to me, which was actually very helpful, I got a phone call from another partner, we will call him Jack, who wanted to discuss an assignment I had worked on for him. I can remember my heart pounding in my chest and my anxiety rising as I walked down to Jack’s office. While I am normally an anxiety-prone person, I typically don’t get anxiety from speaking to my colleagues. But this day was different. I just had that feeling that something else would go wrong. As we discussed the results I had found for him, it seemed like I couldn’t provide him with the answer he was looking  for. It wasn’t that I hadn’t spent time on the assignment or that I didn’t know what I was talking about, it was just that I didn’t know his personal style for discussing the particular type of matter. Basically I think I came to the meeting too prepared and rehearsed when all he really wanted to do was have a casual conversation.

The next day Jack asked me to sit in on a meeting with him and another colleague. The point of me sitting in on the meeting was so I could learn his style and see how the colleague spoke to him about her findings. Sitting in on the meeting was a great learning experience and really showed me that he wanted to help me grow, but it still stung. It made me wish that I didn’t need those tutorials. I learned two things with my interaction with Jack: (1) while being prepared is always good, being too prepared can sometimes backfire, and (2) learning how an individual works takes time and patience.

We all make mistakes at work, this I know, but I got so frustrated with myself because I don’t want to be one of those people. No, I am not a perfectionist, but I pride myself on my work product and don’t want anyone to ever think that I didn’t take enough time or put enough effort into a particular assignment. While I aim to be the perfect employee, last week taught me that in order for me to be the great employee and attorney that I want to be I will need to make some mistakes along the way. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and move forward, right? I mean, that is what life is all about. No one is perfect at anything right from the start. While feeling anxiety, depression, or anger regarding silly mistakes is good because it lets you know that you care, it is ultimately a waste of time. Rather than focusing on the mistakes and beating myself up about them I should be continuing to grow. I should be learning from my mistakes.

So, this week I have set new goals for myself. (1) Pay more attention to details, (2) Take things as slowly as I need to, (3) Don’t be so impatient with the learning process, and (4) try to take all constructive criticism constructively rather than personally.

Have you ever made mistakes at work? How did they make you feel? How did you learn from those mistakes?