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What to Do if You’re Failing at Your Job

Embracing your failure, and recovering from it

Failing is a very negative and uncomfortable word. People avoid failing because they cannot handle the possibility that they are a failure.

Inevitably, you are going to fail. How do you recover from it?

Acknowledge the problem

If there is a gap between your actual performance and your expected performance, then you are failing to meet the standards put in place for you. Own this. If you cannot accept this, you will never be a top performer. You don’t need to wave a sign about it, but acknowledge it.

Separate that acknowledgement from the slew of excuses that will inevitably follow. They might all be really legitimate, but none of them change the fact that the outcome isn’t in line with the expectation.

Work harder

The first step I always recommend is just turning up the work ethic a notch.

It is true that it’s better to work smarter and not harder, but figuring out how to work smarter isn’t always obvious. The first step I always recommend is just turning up the work ethic a notch. This usually isn’t the long-term fix, but it can give you more experience and more data points, which you’re going to need for when you start working smarter.

It’s also a really easy, super controllable way to increase your odds of success. (Remember, success takes a lot of hard work.) Finally, when you do ask for help, people are going to listen, because they can’t just blame it on laziness.

Learn from others

There is likely nothing in your career that you’re going to do which hasn’t been done before. If you have peers who are experiencing success, start paying attention to what they are doing. If there isn’t a peer, turn to the internet. There are endless articles and advice columns and case studies that can expand your skills and improve your outcomes.

Don’t wait for someone to tell you how to do it better, start asking the question for yourself.

Talk to your boss

Be proactive in your communication with your boss. Don’t wait for them to point out the problem to you. Impress them with your ability to be objective and driven. Even if you’re not delivering results, communicating effort can buy you time to turn the story around.

Your approach should highlight these things:

  1. You’re not where you want to be

  2. You’ve identified 3 things you think could be the problem and are working on them by doing XYZ

  3. You would love them to provide any additional insight/ideas on what needs to change


Failure is a part of everything. You have the power to own it and to change it. That is the key to success.


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