Unintended consequences from failure

In the article “ Can You Handle Failure? ” Ben Dattner and Robert Hogan (2011) reflect on data collected from over several hundred thousand managers to determine how failure will affect one’s behavior and surroundings in the workplace. While everyone handles failure differently, Dattner and Hogan (2011) believe many managers perceive and react to failure inappropriately. Dysfunctional reactions to failure from managers will cause unintended consequences which will lead to additional “ problematic events” in the future and often strain workplace relationships (Dattner & Hogan, 2011).

The authors conclude there are eleven personality types which will lead to dysfunctional reactions to failure. These eleven personality types represent approximately 70% of the U. S. population (Dattner & Hogan, 2011) and can be grouped into three categories to describe how people will react to failure; extrapuntive, impunitive and intropunitive. Extrapunitive personality types are people who are “ prone to unfairly blaming others” (Dattner & Hogan, 2011). Extrapunitive people rarely take responsibility or blame for a failure.

Impunitive personality types are people who “ either deny that failure has occurred or deny their own role in it” (Dattner & Hogan, 2011). Intropunitive is the least common category but is still problematic. An intropunitive personality type “ often judges themselves too harshly and imagines failure where none exist” (Dattner & Hogan 2011). In order to combat these personality types and overcome these tendencies, the authors state one must cultivate self-awareness, cultivate political awareness and embrace new strategies.

Cultivating self-awareness means an individual must recognize how people are reacting in the workforce and react accordingly. This is also achieved by reflecting on past events and jobs that you have handled in your career and being able to recognize how you have handled them. Cultivating political awareness is more situational based on the environment in the workplace. This involves “ finding the right way to approach failure within your specific organization, department, and role” (Dattner & Hogan, 2011).

While embracing new strategies the manager should listen and communicate, reflect on both the situation and the people, think before they act and search for a lesson. In my opinion, the authors provide a good framework on how to handle failure and how it will affect others in the workplace. However, the authors do not spend enough time providing information on the data used to come up with their hypothesis. The authors do not talk about the method they used to collect data or how the information was collected.

For example, the data they use for the article was only mentioned one time and their methodology behind collecting the data is unknown. In fact, the only reference to the data they use was in one sentence which states the data was from “ several hundred thousand managers from every industry section”. The article would have been more credible if they would have provided additional information on data that was collected and how it was collected.

Additionally, I think the authors used confusing and inappropriate examples throughout the article. For example, the authors described three high level executives, Tony Hayward, BP CEO, Richard Fuld, Leman Brothers’ CEO and Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, while describing the extrapunitive and impunitive types. These are three very accomplished business executives who were very successful within their industry. They weren’t CEOs of fortune 500 companies because they were terrible managers.

Yes, they mishandled certain situations which led to their dismissal but it doesn’t prove their management style was unsuccessful. The authors also mention women are more likely to be intropunitive because of “ their socialization and other cultural influences” (Dattner & Hogan, 2011). This statement could be interpreted as sexist.

The authors could lose their credibility among female readers because they don’t provide data to back this statement up. “ Can You Handle Failure?” is a well written article that provides the reader insight on failure and a roadmap to navigate failures in the workplace. The authors provide the reader with valuable suggestions on why it is important to handle failure appropriately and the cause and effect of mismanaging failure. However, the authors need to provide more information on the data they used to form their hypothesis. While the article is still effective, it would have been more credible if they discussed the data they used and how they collected it.