Experts find lessons in their most memorable on-the-job blunders.

Making a professional mistake is easy, but getting something positive out of it can be a challenge. PT bloggers ( share the workplace wisdom they learned the hard way.

Observe Carefully

My biggest blunder was thinking that the norms at my new job would be like those at my old job. When you start somewhere new, you need to do what children do—they "hover." Researchers have found that those who try to jump into the middle of a game without knowing the rules are unpopular and often fail. Successful kids first observe what others are doing, and then subtly insert themselves. —Heidi Reeder, Ph.D., I Can Relate

Check Your Work

I wrote about the work of the Stanford economist David Tomz in my most recent book. Problem is, his name is Michael Tomz. Never underestimate your own capacity for error; never trust yourself; never lower your guard. Check, double-check—and then check again. —John Whitfield, Ph.D., People Will Talk

Show True Colors

I have always been fascinated by the psychology of dress but hid it from fellow clinicians for fear they would not take me seriously. When I pitched PT, I accidentally did not delete a website link to my secret passion. My mistake led to an offer for a regular blog, a book, and a TV show. I learned to never hide who you are. Revealing it might give you the world. —Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D., The Psychology of Dress

Accept Imperfection

While I was waiting at the front of the room to give a talk at an APA meeting, my new phone suddenly started ringing—once, then again, and then a third time—to the tune of the cancan. I am still teased about this, but now when students commit the same social faux pas in my classes, I'm much more understanding. —Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., Fulfillment at Any Age

Act Equitably

Out of a desire to be liked, I used to make several unfair exceptions to rules (e.g., arbitrarily increasing vacation time for certain employees), which caused significant conflict. Now, when facing a professional decision, instead of asking myself who will or won't like me for it, I ask myself whether or not it's fair. —Alex Lickerman, M.D., Happiness in This World

Be Prepared

A foundation invited me to lecture on "women and World War II." I assumed I would be addressing a dozen young feminist scholars in a small room at a library. Wrong. My audience was hundreds of mostly male WWII veterans. Half the audience left, disgusted. I had been so anxious about the assignment that I hadn't prepared. And, consequently, I bombed. But it's liberating to have a professional nightmare come true. You learn that you survive.



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