There are two things that should not go together in public: name, and a mistake. The combination of these two, when thrown into the public; means a death penalty for the name mentioned.
What would you do, if someone made a mistake? Will you kill the man? Or will you kill the mistake?
The Mystery of The Fan
From a modified true story.
One morning, John found that a fan was left turned on all night in the office. Nobody knows who left the fan turned on, people left that night with peace, not knowing the fan is still on.
But the morning came, to disturb the peace; John sends a company-wide message in a public messaging channel.
“Who left the fan turned on last night?”
John thought that someone will come up and admit it, but little did he knew, for the others and the culprit, he looks like a man holding a gun ready to shoot; in the public; in front of everyone. The culprit never showed up.
The problem disappeared, so does the culprit respect to John. But the culprit didn’t lose anything, because no one knew who did it.
Now, what would happen if the culprit admits it? Will he replied to John’s message; saying, “It was me, Sorry I forgot”
If he does, it means now he’s the suspect again if anything like this happens again, even though it wasn’t him who did it. Now John gave the gun to everyone else, pointed to the culprit.
Jane The Psychic
Now, let’s change the story. What if Jane, one morning founds that a fan was left turned on all night; and he (you thought Jane was a woman, don’t you?) knew John was the last one to leave that night.
“John, why would you leave the fan turned on all night? Are you trying to waste electricity!”
Yes, he did that, in public. It wasn’t just a gun pointed to him. He was already shot. Executed in front of the public, looking at the eyes of the passerby that ignored and probably despised him.
John is dead, so the next time Jane wanted help from him. He’d act dead and ignore Jane, because, for John, Jane already executed him.
But what if John didn’t do it? What if Jane is just a conman playing psychic and accused John? John will hate Jane for what he did, and he would even really leave the fan turned on one night just so that he can unleash his hatred.
Either way, the problem will be gone someday, the others might try to be careful not to repeat the mistake. But it wasn’t the problem that died that day.
Respect, trust, and peace — is dead too.
Those two stories above is an example of how to kill a man along with his mistakes. That resulted in the death of respect, trust, and peace amongst them.
We might be a manager, executives, or even just a father; that has power over the people that we manage. We can use that power to bring good or bring chaos.
This was all about how to give advice and correct a mistake. It’s not just the message that is important. The way we deliver it is also crucial.
To Kill a Mistake
Now, how can we kill a mistake; yet managed to not kill the man that wields it?
We have to ask ourselves. Is our intention pure? Do we really want to solve the problem and prevent further mistakes from happening again? Or do we really just hate that someone is being ignorant for not turning off the fan? Or do we really just want to finally find a reason to punish someone we didn’t like?
No matter what our message is if our intention was impure. Then impure is what we will receive too.
Don’t ever deliver advice in public if it was intended for a certain individual, no one likes it. There might be someone who can handle it, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
If we think, “well I can handle criticism in public” — Think again, because the other person is not us. We might as well advice ourself if we think the other person is the same as us.
Don’t Hold It
We might let a mistake pass once because we think it is not that bad. But if we waited for it to happen multiple times and we try to give advice then. The other person would backlash.
“I’ve done this before and it wasn’t a problem? Why is this a problem now?”
We can try saying, “well we let it pass before because we think you will stop”.
“So you didn’t stop before and now you are finding an excuse to be angry with me?”
The story might be different, as each person is unique. But the longer we let mistakes happen, the harder it is to solve later. Think of it as a tech debt that sums up.
Don’t start by giving our suggestion on what to do for the advice. But listen to the other person, understand his position and condition and why it happens.
Trying to give a suggestion without hearing the full story is an insult to the other person. Because he thinks we don’t care about him.
The Resolve of The Mystery
Now that we understand how to kill a mistake, what would happen if we implemented it on the story of the fan?
One day, Jane founds that a fan was left turned on all night. As a manager of the company and responsible for that building. Jane needs to ensure that electricity is turned off so it doesn’t pose danger and didn’t incur an unnecessary electrical cost.
Jane doesn’t know who did it, so he wanted to talk about it later to the public.
“It must be a tiring night for all of you, thanks for the hard work!”
“This morning, I found that the fan was left turned on all night. I know that maybe last night was rough and we were all tired. I want to let everyone know that electronic device when left unattended might be dangerous. So next time, let’s try to remember turning off all of the office's electronic devices.”
“I will put a reminder sign next to the exit so we all could remember to check”
No one is getting shot at this story, Jane advice is reasonable and actionable. It was not specific to a certain individual, and he certainly didn’t try to summon the culprit and shoot him in place.
But what if wasn’t a simple issue like the fan? What if that mistake is attached to a certain individual? A person that disturbing others, bringing a pet when there is a no pet policy?
This is a harder problem, and it requires a more careful solution.
A good rule of thumb for giving advice for certain individual: invite to private, talk about his goodness, listen to his situation, address the issue, listen to his reason, ask for his suggestion, listen on what he might want to do, and deliver the advice if his suggestion might not solve the issue.
This article is also a piece of advice. I hope we learned something from it.
Kill the mistake, not the man.