She felt terrible when the owner, her boss’s boss, ignored her when she said hello.

She couldn’t imagine what would cause him to ignore her this way. She knew that she wasn’t the most outgoing person in the department, (reserved is how she preferred to be described) but she did say hello.

In fact she said it more boldly than she had in the past. Was that the problem and why he ignored her? Or was it something else, something worse? She worried about it for days, slept in fits and starts, and finally, unable to live with it any longer, told her boss what happened. She asked if he thought she should send a written apology or, worst fear imagined and her work not deemed worthy, resign.

Her boss looked at her with surprise, slight amusement, and a head-shake of frustration. “I thought you knew,” he said, “Frank is deaf. He didn’t ignore you. He didn’t hear you.”

You probably have your own stories of misplaced guilt: Something goes wrong on your watch and you can’t shake the feeling that you are somehow to blame, even if you aren’t, and others will think less of you, even if they won’t. To relieve yourself of unearned and unresolved guilt, you apologize to everyone involved which results in your appearing to be at fault and at a loss to do anything about it.

What’s with all this apologizing? Stop assuming that “I’m sorry” is the proper response whenever something goes wrong. When you stop blaming yourself you can start owning the role you’re playing in what’s working and what can work better.

Stop playing the blame game. When you repeatedly call yourself or others out, you stymie solutions. When you stop blaming yourself and others and instead seek solutions, you give everyone space to own the role they’re playing in what’s working and what can work better. So lighten up. Mistakes happen. Work with those involved to figure out where the breakdown, omission or incomplete planning occurred and put a strategy in place that ensures the same error won’t happen again. Then inform your boss and anyone currently impacted exactly what is being done to resolve the situation.

What if you are to blame about what you did or didn’t do and procrastination made you do it, or you forgot to do it, or you didn’t know what to do, so you didn’t do it? In that or any case own the mess that’s yours to clean up, and now’s the time to do it.

Step up. If you’re not well matched to your job, find a job that is a match. If you don’t know how to do your job and are committed to learning how, say so, and get help. Either way, you’ll have a job you know how to do or you’ll learn how to do the job you’re in. Tell the truth without apology, own what’s yours to solve and you’ll increase your ability to achieve.

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Contact Joyce Richman at 336-288-1799 and joyce@joycerichman.com.