Have you ever dropped the ball on a work-related project? I have, and it feels awful, even when I’ve had an understandable reason — usually related to being overcommitted and swamped. At times, the workload has been self-inflicted, the product of taking on too much or not being able to say no.
Typically, dropping the ball means that we’ve let others down by failing to do our piece of a project or delivering an inferior work contribution, due to lack of sufficient time or attention. Folks who have a tendency to overcommit or who may not be the best self-managers can be especially susceptible to dropping the ball. This includes people who have a strong sense of responsibility.
So what should we do when we drop the ball? I’ve given this some thought and come up with the following advice, while fully confessing that I haven’t necessarily practiced these points to perfection:
- If you’re mortified and/or feeling guilty about dropping the ball, that’s good. It shows you have a conscience. Not everyone has that capacity.
- In many instances, a sincere, honest apology is appropriate. It shows respect for the folks you’re working with or for, and it may well make you feel better and relieved.
- If there are significant negative consequences — including practical, legal, or contractual ones — then owning up to the situation promptly is the best thing. It also may be possible to fix the situation.
- Reflect upon how it happened and how to avoid similar problems in the future.
Above all, forgive yourself. Hold yourself responsible for your miscue and try to do better, but don’t let it be the bane of your existence.
Similarly, if someone drops the ball on you, try to be forgiving, especially if they apologize and explain what happened. After all, they probably feel bad and embarrassed on their end.
Of course, if you or someone else is dropping the ball all the time, then there’s probably a deeper or more systemic problem.
Ultimately, being responsible is a good thing, and so is cutting some slack for ourselves and others now and then.