Last Updated on February 16, 2021

How To Bounce Back From a Failure At Work

How To Bounce Back From a Failure At Work

Let’s be honest and get this out of the way right from the beginning: failing sucks but failure at work can be even worse because it’s in front of people you typically see almost every day. Yet, it is inevitable for all of us to experience failure at work. And as more problems arise that greatly affect our lifestyle, many of us have been facing failure more than expected.

We’re continually making more and more mistakes—way more than any of us I’m sure would like to admit. These situations are worsened even further when the people we work with call attention to our failures at work. It can be very challenging to cope with these mistakes and failures, but doing so is an important part of growth. So, I’m going to give you ways on how you can bounce back from a failure at work.

1. Failure at Work Isn’t Uncommon

The first thing to understand is that failure at work is by no means uncommon. Just like you, everyone else is making mistakes as well. Our work lives are simply moving too quickly, the requests are piling up one on top of another, and it seems like we’re never able to catch up—let alone get ahead. These mistakes, errors, and failures at work are made inevitable by these circumstances.

The pressure is enough to make anyone crack, so don’t waste your time feeling ashamed when you make a mistake in your workplace. Learning to accept failure at work as an inevitable part of the process positions you well to begin overcoming the negative feelings and aftermath of these situations.

If you’re struggling with personal mistakes or failures, just remember that mistakes or failures can serve as lessons for us to learn and become better.


2. Overcome Negativity Associated With Failure at Work

If you’ve ever failed at work, you know that your ego can take a bit of a shot in these situations. That’s a universal truth. But as I just mentioned, learning how you can manage these breakdowns and the negativity associated with failure at work can help you bounce back quickly and get you back up on that horse so you can crush it next time!

This process will help you manage the disappointment and potential embarrassment associated with a failure at work and ensure that these negative emotions don’t drag you down for too long. And to do that—to learn to manage the disappointment and negativity that you typically feel following a failure at work—you need to explore what happened.

What that means is that you need to reflect on the situation that occurred. Identify the things that went well as well as the things that didn’t. Why did the things that went well went well? Why did the things that went poorly went poorly?

Answering these types of questions will provide you with important insights as well as an added degree of self-awareness. This will equip you with lessons that you can take forward to improve and become better the next time you take on a similar task.

3. Prepare for the Negativity

In addition to examining the situation, there are a few common emotions associated with failures at work. A few of them I’ve already mentioned previously in this article. Learning to be on the lookout for these types of thoughts and emotions following making a mistake or error at work—or in any other part of your life—will help you better cope with them whenever they do attempt to take a shot at your mental health.


These could be many things such as embarrassment, disappointment, identity conflict, feeling worthless and useless, feeling like you have no value to add, feeling like everyone around you is better than you are, etc. There’s probably an endless list we could come up with here because as humans, we—for some reason—love to beat ourselves up, especially given all our past mistakes and failures.

However, if you let this happen, these thoughts and emotions will run riot in your brain and do damage to your mental health. So, just as if you were preparing to go to battle with someone else, you’re going to develop your strategy to combat these emotions before they even present themselves.

Doing this will position yourself well to overcome these emotions. Don’t underestimate the importance of simply being prepared. I have one of the most valuable steps that I’ve personally taken that helps me to remain resilient following a failure at work.

If you give it a try and establish a plan or strategy that makes sense for you and relevant to your life and line of work, you’ll gain a highly valuable set of skills.

4. Reflect, Admit, Apply, and Repeat

Once you’ve made your new strategy, it’s time to begin trying to reflect on your current coping behaviors—you know, the ones where after you make a mistake you go and cry about it, get defensive, and then go eat a bunch of ice cream afterward in an attempt to console yourself. Yeah, you can’t keep using that strategy obviously—it’s not effective.


So, take some time to reflect on how you currently cope. Why do you act that way? Is it your attempt to try and cover up the internal insecurity that you have? Or is there some other reason?

Finding out your motivation style may help in this case. Take this free asssment: What’s Your Motivation Style? and learn about your motivatoin style and what works best for you when it comes to staying motivated. Take the assessment for free here.

Once you’ve figured out the reason, admit it to yourself and accept that this is how you’ve been acting in the past and that a change needs to occur.

From here, you can begin retraining yourself and shifting away from being defensive and eating ice cream to gaining self-awareness and growing from the mistake you make in life. This is a fundamental step to learning how to bounce back from failure at work. This is because once you’ve done this and gained that self-awareness, you can then begin applying the new strategies that you’ve just created for yourself and establish new patterns of behavior and habits that are much more beneficial to your personal growth and progress.

Then, the final step is to repeat the process. I would recommend that whenever you fail at work or make some mistake in another area of your life, you go through some form of this process of reflection and evaluation. Repeating this process will help you modify and adjust your strategies, and it can help you grow and evolve as a person.


5. Take Responsibility

We all know these people—the ones who, in their mind, are never at fault for anything, regardless of what role they played or how much they were involved in the outcome. These people are “finger-pointers”. They will blame everyone else before ever even stopping to consider how involved they were in the outcome.

I feel sorry for these people. Not only are they typically not very well admired by their peers for this behavior, but they also will end up progressing at a much slower rate than the rest of us who are willing to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for them.

Try your best to avoid becoming a “finger-pointer” whenever you make a mistake, especially when it’s a failure at work because nobody wants to work with someone who can’t take responsibility or be accountable for their own actions and decisions.

I get it, it’s not always easy to accept the blame and admit mistakes, especially when there are consequences for your actions. But that degree of accountability is very important to your personal growth and development.

Bouncing Back from Failure at Work

If there is one main message that I’d want you to take away from reading this article today, it would be that you can learn a lot about yourself from your failure at work and the mistakes you make in life. But to do that, you need to learn how to address and overcome the negativity associated with these mistakes and establish more effective ways of coping.


Learn to view these mistakes as opportunities for your personal growth and development. If you can do that, you’ll go far become successful in your personal journey!

More Tips on How to Deal With Failure at Work

Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.


Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.


Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.


Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.


Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.


So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via


[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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