Don’t open a Pandora’s box with your mea culpas

Some things are best saved for a tell-all book or a confession at the pearly gates

It happens to the best of us. A seemingly meaningful directive or statement of purpose makes all the sense in the world, but shortly thereafter, it becomes apparent you may have started a landslide of negative sentiments or flat-out screwed up.

Once you have that aha moment, it’s time to regroup, rethink and walk back your promulgation. Apologies can be very effective if they are made with alacrity and they correct or completely rescind what you said or wrote that proved unready for prime time.

An important caveat: When walking something back, be judicious with your mea culpas as they may open a Pandora’s box that unwittingly rains more grief upon you.

Once you know something has gone awry, keep your retraction short and simple. If you were lacking all the facts when you made the initial statement, say so without blaming everybody and his brother for your misstep.

Many suffering from self-recrimination tend to say more than is needed or appropriate. I painfully remember when I was a child and got caught with my hand — literally — in the cookie jar. When challenged, I not only admitted to the most recent blunder, but for all similar transgressions, hoping I’d get a lighter punishment by being overly forthright.

My youthful naivete of self-incrimination was along the lines of confessing, “I’ve only done this 10 times before.” Suddenly, the recent offense was dwarfed by the frequency and magnitude of prior errors of omission. The end result was that I was immediately labeled as a serial cookie thief.

Sure, you should feel bad for previous lapses of judgment or discretion. But that was then and this is now. Revealing old news that also went south on you is much akin to digging a deeper hole that is harder to climb out of. Unless past mistakes are relevant to the current issue, it is best that they stay in the past.

Don’t confuse being the boss with being perfect. If you’re not periodically coming close to stepping on potential land mines, you’re probably not taking enough chances to improve your business.

When making amends, explain what went wrong and why. Amplify your mea culpa, if necessary. Apologize if appropriate. Then, move on to fight another day. People remember the last thing said and done. Layering more information than is pertinent will cloud the message and defeat the original purpose of fessing up.

Bear in mind that in this column, I’m referring to errors of judgment or timing. Not nefarious, deceptive and inappropriate actions that have no statute of limitations and could land you on the front page of a tabloid or as the subject of something viral on the internet.

If your conscience is troubled by past deeds that are now irrelevant, save them for either your memoirs or a confession at the pearly gates, whichever comes first.

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”