Let's face it. If you're in the game and playing to win. you're going to have some failures. Sh*t that goes sideways.
I like to think Teddy Roosevelt had it right at the turn of the last century when he gave a speech widely known as "The Man In The Arena". It goes a little something like this:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
TL;DR: People who aren't making sh*t happen shouldn't be allowed to criticize. At worst, we shouldn't listen to those who have never put themselves out there via risk-taking in their own careers.
It's easy to play it safe. But that's what gives birth to boring careers, tract housing and underfunded 401ks. Whether you're playing to win for a greater cause or you just think careers and the rewards that go with them are the ultimate scoreboards of life, Roosevelt's "Arena" is as true today as it was in 1910.
If you're in the arena, it's going to get messy. Failure will be in your neighborhood.
So let's talk a little bit about the spin cycle necessary when you do fail, or when your underperformance isn't widely known, but could be held against you by your enemies, or at least those who view you as standing in the way of their own career progress.
Scenario: You're working on an important project. Things aren't going well and some of your co-workers understand (correctly, I might add) that an important client contact has grown to dislike you (this could be either an external or internal client). It seems that in repping the best course of action, you try to play hardball with this individual when they were blocking your progress, and they didn't take kindly to being told what to do/leveraged/semi-threatened. Now the words out on the street by those in the know - you're in trouble on this project, and while it likely won't destroy your career, it certainly doesn't help.
To make matters worse, you've got people in your own company/department gossiping about this personal sh*t show that you're at least partly responsible for. As with most gossip, it starts among those who would most like to see you fail and who haven't done 1/4 of what you've done for your company (see Teddy's speech).
Still, it's a problem. You've underperformed, and people are talking. The good news is that the people who matter most in your career (your boss, perhaps your boss's boss) aren't yet aware.
That's what this post is for. You've got a choice to make, and here are your options:
1--Do your best to muddle though the situation and hope it doesn't explode on you, taking the equivalent of your right leg from a career perspective at your company.
2--Get to the person you wronged and try to make it right.
3--Execute on a policy of no surprises to your boss (as well as proactive disarming of those who would position themselves as your enemy), hitting him/her with the reality of the situation and generally getting in front of bad things.
Most people choose option #1. Just play the string out and hope for the best. The weakest view option #2 as the best path, but for purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming you blew that person up for a good reason - they were being unreasonable in their blocking of what needed to happen, etc.
It's option #3 that most true Alphas use - getting in front of bad news and taking the leverage away from all who wish them harm.
I'm reminded of this art by this post from Jeff Bezos of Amazon (No Thank You, Mr. Pecker) - which details the fact that the National Enquirer was blackmailing him under the threat of releasing partially nude and totally nude photos of him that he supposedly had sent to his girlfriend/mistress - to influence him to call off his investigation of why his personal life had earlier come under much scrutiny.
I'll let you go read the Bezos post. As it turns out, the richest man in the world is probably a bad person to blackmail.
But back to you and me, and our more pedestrian careers. When things go sideways and sharks are circling, it's probably always best to get in front of the bad news with the people who control your career - for the following reasons:
A--The cover up always feels worse than the actual situation.
B--When you tell those that matter, you can control the narrative.
C--Important people with power (those that control your career) hate surprises and being embarrassed.
Do you really want those that want to stick it to you to control that initial narrative? Of course you don't.
You got sideways on a piece of work. Nobody died. Be a player and march into the office of power, let them know about it and tell them what you're thinking about doing to fix it.
Then ask for their advice. People who believe in you love to be asked for advice when you're having trouble.
Game. Set. Match. Haters who watch others (you) play in the arena - be gone.