We often talk about “fear of missing out”, but I’ve found that “fear of making mistakes” is a much bigger issue in the workplace. I’ve worked with project teams where this fear of making mistakes resulted in in lack of communication and frustration on all sides. If we are not willing to make mistakes, how then do we learn and grow? How will we solve the complex problems?
Fear of making mistakes has significant impact to communication among team members. Those resources that are afraid to make mistakes tend to be less forthcoming with details and information. If only positive or complete information is shared, project management and team dynamics become very strained. As the project manager, I want to hear all of it. Help me understand the true status – what’s working, what isn’t, what the next steps are and how you anticipate the changes to the schedule. I’m not there as a passive participant. I am part of the project team, one that team members can rely on to help minimize issues, remove obstacles and ultimately celebrate success. I can’t do that effectively when members only share limited information.
Unfortunately this problem gets more complicated as time goes on. The resource is afraid of making a mistake, so withholds information. This leads to frustration on behalf of the project manager, who may be required to escalate. This makes the resource more nervous, so even less willing to share the low points. Without the proper communication, timeframes, effort and quality of work all come into play.
The onus of identifying this problem and mitigating the circumstances falls to the project manager. The project manager may need to set of separate touchpoints with the specific resource, and review the individual tasks. Targeted questions on next steps, and precise estimates will need to tracked very regularly. Additionally, feedback, especially on areas that aren’t working or need improvement, will need to be clearly documented. All this needs to be handled delicately as I found the resources who experience fear of making mistakes are usually working really hard. The lack of communication makes it difficult for the project team to see the results.