The art of admitting faults

There’s this one story I want to tell you that I experienced personally, I initiated myself and that definitely changed my mindset until this day.

Right after the wall came down in Germany I left service at the armed forces and moved from Berlin to Halle, heading from my parents to the girl-friend I had back in that days. After a few days living together with her I realized that I would have to do any job in order to get the bacon home, and I successfully applied to the telegram services at “Deutsche Post”. That was because I was trained in “blind type writer typing” and because I knew (from service at the armed forces) how teletype writing was used back at the beginning of the 90th. Luckily, I could start this job within a few days.

Every day we swapped the tasks: Someone of the team had to teletype messages, others received and handled incoming telegrams from other destinations.

Sometimes, there were codes on telegrams like “lx” for a congratulation or “lt” for a mourning note. For “lx” we were forced to use a decoration envelope, for “lt” a mourning one. Examples:

That one day I was on duty to handle the incoming telegrams. You guess what happened, don’t you? For a moment when I was unperceptive, the unimaginable happened and I certainly managed to get the congratulation cover delivered to a widow who just lost her beloved husband.

This crone stood at the desk the very next day complaining. Monika, the desk clerk, came up to our department asking what the heck was going on there and how this could happen.

At this very moment I would have had the chance to hide and to deny everything: nobody would have recognized that it was me doing this failure, and I could have left Monika alone with her client.

Instead, I somehow found the balls to get up, and I confessed that I was the one who took that misdeed. I took all of my courage and declared that I will follow Monika to the desk and so I did.

Monika led me to the desk and left me alone with the unhappy client. I explained what actually happened in (technical) detail, confessed my fail and expressed my deepest apologies as well as condolences.

The widow listened to me very carefully, didn’t even wink an eye, nodded, understood and then left the post office without any word. I went back to my department, very close to tears; and today I know that I did the one and only right move in this situation.

This situation really happened, it is not a fake story. My point is: try not to be a coward, be brave and face your fecking failures, even in work life! This goes for a single person as well as for companies. Companies are run by people.


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