Helping employees cope with failure

crying employeeSometimes, even our most talented employees meet with failure. While the experience is never pleasant, dealing with failure constructively is an essential element of success. Discouragement can cut future productivity unless employees are able to absorb the setback and move on.

As a manager, you can help guide your well-meaning employees through the coping process. Here are five steps to take:

1. Feel the failure. Let disappointed employees experience all of the emotions generated by a setback. Give them the opportunity to vent frustration, regret or anger by giving them a chance to talk about it. Recognizing the strong feelings that accompany a defeat is the first step in recovering from a “crushing” blow.

2. Put the failure in per­­­spective. Not every situation is the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series. Encourage employees to resist the “end of the world” syndrome by viewing the results of their failure as objectively as they can.

3.  Identify the causes. Work with the employee to learn what he can do to increase his chances of success the next time. Rather than dwelling on what he should have done this time, focus on specific actions he can take to improve his performance and keep the same mistakes from happening again.

4. Reinforce the determination to succeed. Encourage dejected employees to recognize everything they did right. Repeating those steps will give them a good foundation for success next time. Remind employees that avoiding the risk of failure provides little opportunity for growth.

5. Move on. Don’t linger on disappointments. Help the frustrated employee plan his next moves right away. To get him back on track, give him a quick assignment with a high chance of success.

Final note: As a supervisor, one of your most important goals is to make your people successful. Take the time to help them put their setbacks in perspective and turn disappointments into opportunites for growth. Your people will appreciate your support during a difficult time—and reward that support with their future accomplishments.