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Business Advice
5 min read

Why Some Resort To ‘Covering Up’ Their Failures

Everyone makes mistakes. We are only human and I have never met a perfect person yet who is incapable of making a mistake. I made several mistakes in my home today. I decided on an impulsive whim to make some buns and in my excitement I forgot to add the sugar.
Written by
Joanna Clare
Content Manager
Published on
May 8, 2024

Everyone makes mistakes. We are only human and I have never met a perfect person yet who is incapable of making a mistake. I made several mistakes in my home today. I decided on an impulsive whim to make some buns and in my excitement I forgot to add the sugar. I also left my sweeping broom outside in the rain instead of in the shed so it got soaked and therefore I was unable to perform my daily ritual of sweeping away the leaves that blow in abundance in the direction of my house - (I am surrounded by woodland!)  

In my home I am accountable only to myself so if I make a mistake, it usually only affects me and I have no need to cover up my shortcomings. However, if I make a mistake at work, it becomes a very different scenario as I am entrusted to do a job properly and if an error is made, it can have far reaching consequences. As soon as I notice an error or I am informed of an error then after a wave of initial panic and shame, I will do my very best to rectify the situation and to never allow a repeat to happen. I am quite a perfectionist anyway and I like things done properly. I also admire like minded people and those who are, for the most part, honest and hold high morals and values.

Unfortunately, in some working environments, the instinct to conceal any shortcomings can prevail over being transparent and while many companies preach accountability, the reality can reveal a different story. The question is simple. Why do some organisations feel the need to cover up their failures?

The fear of damage to reputation is very real. In this day and age, everything is interconnected in the world and news travels fast. A singular failure can completely tarnish a good reputation and ruin it for the foreseeable future. Managers may choose to brush their failures under the carpet to avoid negative publicity and to try and safeguard their integrity. However, this can backfire which leads to long term loss of trust and credibility.

Sometimes, companies will want to project an image of success and stability in order to attract investors and secure funding. Admitting to failures can obviously cause many financial problems and even legal repercussions. Therefore, leaders may decide that to preserve financial interests, it may be best to opt for secrecy which is unfortunately at the expense of transparency and accountability.

A major reason for covering up failures is due to the way that internal politics and power dynamics can play out and result in a culture of dishonesty and lies. Employees may fear retaliation and repercussions or even being ostracised for speaking out against superiors and thus challenging the hierarchy. This fear encourages compliance which perpetuates a cycle of becoming silent and concealing the true facts.

Sometimes, personal gain can act as an incentive to conceal failures. Those in power may choose to prioritise bonuses and promotions over ethical considerations which lead them to manipulate data, withhold information or tell lies to protect their best interests.

The lack of robust systems for accountability and oversight creates a breeding ground for cover ups and untruthfulness to thrive. In environments where checks are not carried out adequately, individuals or groups have free rein to conceal serious failures without fear of detection or consequences. Without strategies in place to encourage transparency and whistle blowing , organisations remain fully susceptible to corruption and ethical breaches.

Organisations must prioritise creating a strong culture of integrity and honesty at all times, prioritising ethical conduct over short term gains. Covering up failures undermines trust, damages reputation and impedes positive organisational growth. Full honesty and transparency creates accountability within a supportive culture of continuous improvement. This ensures that there is trust amongst colleagues and promotes open communication which ultimately leads to  increased productivity and organisational advancement and success. Speaking out and continuing to do so, never letting others use their authority to intimidate is a very powerful message as it takes great leadership qualities and courage to speak up when others remain silent.

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