Congratulations! Here you are on a website filled to the brim with advice on how to avoid screwing up, and you still managed to find a way to screw up. Now you’re wondering what to do next, and your first instinct is to hide. Most of the time, depending on your individual karma, your first instinct will prove to be hideously wrong. Or how else did you end up in this mess to begin with? See what I mean?
The first thing you need to be sure of is if it’s really your fault that the boss is angry. If it’s something you can easily deflect, then hiding can work against you. The instinct to hide is an understandable one. If you allow some time to pass, the boss will have time to calm down, and then you can find an opportunity to explain and avoid having a stapler thrown at your head. That’s the theory, anyway.
It’s not always wrong to hide. If your boss can be described as "usually a quiet man who lives alone, and no one would ever think he would harm a fly", that is your tip that you probably should hide, because that is how the neighbors of serial killers and "crazed gunmen" always describe them after they’ve been caught. I just wouldn’t want to take that chance, and neither should you!
If you’re a gangster and your boss believes the answer to every discipline problem is to cut off fingers, that’s another good reason you may want to consider getting away for a while. Like forever, with a new identity and a new face.
Then there’s the problem of opportunity. If you work in a bank, you’ll have limited hiding options. If you try to hide in the bathroom, you’ll have to put up with noxious smells, embarrassing noises, and "kill me now" levels of gossip. Hiding in a break room is out because that’s the first place your boss will look. And hiding under your desk will only lead to hours of spinal realignment therapy later.
On the other hand if you work on a construction site or in a shipping yard, you’ll be able to skip around undetected for hours. But even though you can do it, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should, as I’m about to explain.
The reason hiding is usually counter-productive is that it gives your opponents (and you have them, even if you don’t know it yet) a free opportunity to assassinate your character. This is not something you should allow to happen.
Avoiding an irate boss may help in the (very) short term, but in the longer term it will usually create more problems than it solves. For example, by avoiding confrontation, you are also potentially allowing the problem to grow instead of solving it. Assuming it is a problem that can be solved. Most problems can be, even if it seems impossible.
Of course, no advice can cover every possible situation. If the boss is angry because you’ve just embezzled millions of dollars, you probably should be hiding. Send us a postcard when you get to Brazil.
For most other types of situations, it’s usually better to face the music. Hiding will be seen as cowardly, and it makes you look guilty as hell. Yeah, I know it’s scary, but you have to trust that most of the time anger can be diffused without serious consequence, as long as you know how to conduct yourself.
Here are a few simple rules:
1. Don’t Smile
This one is a really hard rule to follow because the natural response when we feel stressed and intimidated by another person is usually to smile. Often it is almost impossible to control this primal response, and the more you try to suppress it, the worse the problem gets. What you need to do is think of something terribly sad and depressing so you’ll forget that you’re nervous, and you’ll find it easier not to smile. If you do smile, things will get a lot worse very fast.
2. Don’t Make Excuses
Wow, another seemingly impossible rule! But, it’s vital that you avoid the temptation to open with an excuse. Excuses make you seem weak and undermine your authority.
3. Don’t Shift The Blame
Blaming someone else might seem tempting, but it’s not advisable. When you accept responsibility for a problem, you get more respect from the boss unless the boss is not worthy of his position. In which case, you’re better off being out of there anyway.
4. Be as Prepared as You Can Be
Just because you’re not going to hide away doesn’t mean you jump straight in to confess before you’ve properly prepared yourself. Be sure of what happened and all the circumstances surrounding the issue, so you can explain it properly.
5. Say Sorry
Some people have an immensely hard time saying sorry, especially if they’re required to be sincere while doing so. Really it’s not such a bad thing to do, and it helps improve your image. The important thing to keep in mind is that if you work in a submarine, you’ll probably have to say sorry very quietly.
6. Propose a Solution
If the problem is not a dead end, you can probably salvage yourself by coming up with a solution to the problem, or at least giving the impression that you can solve it. At the very least, it will buy you a little more time to jump before you’re pushed. If the problem really is a dead end with no solution possible, you should take the opportunity to say that you have learned from the mistake and you’ll do better next time.
Problems in the workplace are an inevitability for anyone who has a position of responsibility. The truth is most people are given more responsibility than they can cope with and they’re not always given sufficient training and preparation to handle everything that comes up on the job.
Being competent as an employee is not about avoiding mistakes, but about how you handle those mistakes. The worst thing is to ignore mistakes or try to cover them up. Actually, no, the even worse thing is to try to make it seem like someone else is responsible for the mistake.
Remember that every mistake is a learning opportunity, and try not to focus on the consequences of the mistake. Your primary outlook should be to take a pro-active stance and resolve the situation by whatever means are available.
You’ll make a better impression in the long run by showing integrity and responsibility in the face of adversity. The only real issue with this is when the face of adversity is red, filled with rage, and attached to a body that is holding a stapler ready to throw at your head.
The only other advice I can give you is that it’s better to avoid screwing up in the first place. On this site, you can find plenty of articles to help you avoid being in that unfortunate position. Then the only reason you’ll have to hide from your boss is when he finds out what you’ve really been doing in the photocopier room, but we’ll save that one for another article.
Do you prefer to hide or face the music? Your thoughts and comments below pelase...