Management Anti-pattern: Fear of Making a New Mistake: One measure of a toxic work environment

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A picture is worth 1000 words. A good measure is worth more.

Short version: Having a boss measure how toxic the environment he or she creates is wrong.

Generalized: Toxic environments are difficult to report on from inside. Empower your employees.

Ultra-specific request of managers: One person who is afraid of making mistakes is too much. Consider this specific measure of your work environment and consider others in this series.

Part of being in a toxic work environment is that you are afraid to mention it. Yet, it is that very environment which is decimating productivity.

There are a large number of factors which contribute to work environments which are not healthy and which are counter-productive.

I am going to give you one measure along one of those axis you can implement immediately.

Create an anonymous voting booth.

The question for that booth is: “Are you afraid of making any mistake one time, not the same mistake repeatedly?”

Let the team vote. Allow a neutral person to count the “Yes” votes.

How many “Yes” votes mean you have a serious problem?


You might say, “Well, that one person is unreasonable.”

Maybe so. But a problem as significant as this needs work.

Recommended steps for a Yes answer:

  • Step aside.

It takes one Yes to this question.

Are you brave enough to allow someone to ask this for you?

Are you good enough of a leader?

Who am I?

As someone with over two decades of leadership experience in the tech world, I still make mistakes. I have a treasure trove of anti-patterns I’ve either seen or exercised myself.

In short, I know the good stories. Don’t assume my stories are from my current place of employment. Odds are they are not.

I’m a senior data engineer experienced in Python and various SQL flavors, a process improver, a leader/manager, and someone who wants employee experiences to improve.

I hope you enjoy reading the articles in the Leadership Anti-Pattern series as much I enjoy writing them.

Resident of Frogpondia.

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