Strammer Logo
How Can Failure Improve Our Work Performance?

How Can Failure Improve Our Work Performance?

Failure Leads to Success

From the beginning of our lives, we have been taught to see failure as negative. It is true that when we fail, we feel discouraged and frustrated. Even the fear of failure can be so negative, that it keeps us from trying. However, what we always forget about failure is that it can bring positive outcomes. But how?

The right mindset can help. We must have a positive and resilient attitude towards negative situations and failures. This requires us to develop a growth mindset, which is not easy. People with this kind of mindset believe that there is always room for improvement and to develop existing or new capabilities. For them, failure is just a chance to be/do better.

At the same time, trying to overcome failures brings many lessons, like persistence and resilience. An interesting research from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has shown that past failures can predict our long-term success.
Researchers examined scientists who applied for funding and got it early in their careers and other who applied and did not get it. Over the following 10 years, they analysed in both groups the number of papers published and how many times they were cited. The ones who did not receive grants were published 6,1% more often than those who received it.

This study seems to shed some truth and light on the saying that failure is a better teacher than success. Failure can open doors that we would not consider if we were successful and, in some cases, leaves room for creativity, innovation, out of the box thinking, etc. Competitive and cutting-edge companies are those that encourage their workers to experiment new approaches.

According to a survey from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, only 80% of small businesses survive the first year and one-third of them are not in business after 10 years. This shows how often failure can occur. We need to understand its lessons as early as possible in our lives and careers.  Even employers should keep in mind that it is ok for employees to fail or make mistakes. They need to help workers overcome and learn from them and jointly find solutions. This is often a good way for employees to be aware of their actions. It is an opportunity to understand how to work effectively in a given situation or what could have been done differently. This may imply giving training or coaching to workers. It will bring positive changes and strengthen capabilities. As they work through their failures, they develop better habits. This can really help strengthen work performance.

At the same time, a healthy work environment, good workforce communication, ongoing feedback, and developed active listening skills can be key to avoid mistakes at work. They enable the workforce to work together across multiple areas and facilitate the interactions between employees and their superiors. Therefore, it is important to work on our communication skills and to know how to effectively ask for help. The issue nowadays is that people are afraid of being perceived as incompetent or lazy just for asking for help. However, asking for help can strengthen work performance and improve productivity and effectiveness. It is fundamental that, when asking for help, employees are factual, specific, confident and show gratitude. Not knowing how and when to ask for help can make us lose crucial information, support, or even advice. Asking for help at work can be crucial in avoiding mistakes.

All things considered; one should know that failure does not always lead to success. As we said, we need to have the right mindset to face it and get the right outcomes from it.


  1. Why Failure Leads To Career Success, November 2019, Forbes
  2. How Successful Leaders Recover from Failure, January 2019, BUSINESS NEWS DAILY
  3. How Early-Career Setbacks Can Set You Up for Success, October 2019, The New York Times