4 Effective Ways To Overcome Failure As A Manager

4 Effective Ways To Overcome Failure As A Manager

Managers may be able to excel in their careers but most of them struggle to survive when things go wrong. Grabbing new tools and strategies to triumph over a situation that arises out of the blue is not easy. A few may get lucky and recover from their failures; however, some may not find a way out of their trouble until the damage has been done. Isn’t it the hard way? It’s true. To make matters worse, failures can often occur due to the lack of clear and tangible cause. For this reason, you must identify what made the failure happen, and what can be done to prevent an occurrence in the future. So here is a full guide with up-to-date tips on how to recover from failure as a manager. With time, you will be able to recover from your mistakes and make your life more fruitful.

What is to fail as a manager?

Failure is a specific type of human experience. The most accurate and widely accepted definition of failure is a state or condition that results in not meeting a desirable or intended objective. It can be viewed as the opposite of success. It is an act or instance of proving unsuccessful or lack of success. For a managerial position, failure refers to proving unsuccessful in controlling or directing a team or a department of a business. It also includes not being able to formulate plans, ideas, or strategies as expected within the role or not being able to execute the already formulated ones. Not being able to cater to the needs of the employees and stakeholders also comes under the failures of a manager.
Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently – Henry ford
After witnessing failure, a manager does undergo a 6 stage process before actually starting to recover from the failure. These stages are as follows:

Stages of failure as a manager

A manager’s experience of failure typically goes through the following stages

Stage 1: Shock and Surprise

After observing a failure (manager’s lack of planning) managers do assume that their mistakes were the sole reason for this. The first thing they do then is that they panic and stop all their ongoing work to focus on figuring out what happened.

Stage 2: Denial

This is when a manager does not recognize that they have failed. They may insist on continuing with the same strategies and methods even though they are not working. Denial can sometimes appear irrational, but it is used as a defense mechanism against situations or circumstances that are painful and overwhelming for managers. It refers to failing to acknowledge an unacceptable truth which in this case is a failure.

Stage 2: Anger and Blame

When managers reach this stage, they become resentful towards their team or organization for preventing them from achieving success. They may lash out at those around them, trying to control them or even force their way through. Further in this stage, managers try their best to blame the failure on someone else. They do this to save themselves from facing the possible outcomes or consequences of failure.

Stage 4: Depression/Recovery

When a manager reaches this stage, they might feel demoralized and lose motivation. Some symptoms show that the manager has reached this stage. Those symptoms include having low self-esteem, feeling hopeless, helpless, lost, and alone, and having continuous low mood or sadness. It’s not surprising that experiencing feelings of failure is often linked to other health issues. It can take some time for them to recover from their failure and return to their regular workload.

Stage 5: Acceptance

This is when managers come to terms with the fact that they have failed. they do come to understand right away that some things are not in their control, and that they are not alone. If this stage was reached, then successful recovery can be made, and moving on from failure can occur.

Stage 6: Insight and change

This is when managers start to realize the lessons they have learned from their failures. This can lead to changes in their strategies and methods, as well as a renewed focus on achieving success. This stage is all about managers taking valuable insights from their failures and then using them to bring the required changes in the way they manage. This will not just help them recover from failure but will also help them to possibly avoid them the next time. After understanding what is failure and its stages, it is important to understand what causes it. That goes as follows-

Causes of failure: Why do managers fail?

As you have probably noticed, there is a wide range of causes for the different kinds of failures that can occur in a managerial role which includes-

Performance and abilities

Through observation, you will be able to tell whether the actual work that is being done by your team members fits within the company’s style of working. This confirms not only how good they are but also where and why their strengths emerge. Therefore, if there is a lack of fit between what needs to be done and who does it may lead to failure for both manager and employee as well as for an organization in total. For managers themselves, it is possible that their ability to direct, control, manage conflict, plan, etc. does not fit into the requirements of a managerial position. This may occur due to inefficient or insufficient training or irrelevant background. This case too has a very high potential of taking a manager and his team towards failure.

Mistakes in judgment

A very common cause of failure of a manager is misjudging. It can be a simple misjudgment of your team’s potential or market demand for a product. As managers when you use these misjudged data or ideas into formulating ideas for your team, they are highly likely to fail. These mistakes by managers can also create external pressures. This can come from customers, shareholders as well as neighboring competitors – all outside of your control. In addition, it is important to be aware that there are several things that a manager simply cannot control. For eg. how rapidly an industry grows cannot be accurately judged or analyzed by a manager. But, everything within the organization lies in their hands, and they have the responsibility for judging and analyzing them without mistake.

Not taking initiative

All the factors that are under control cannot in themselves speed up an organization. Therefore, it is always better for a manager to force action than to wait and see what might happen. This can seem unethical as it puts more pressure on teams if they do not work effectively or efficiently anymore, but in reality, you need the organizational momentum in your control. Otherwise, no one will get their act together and will lead you and your team towards constant failures.

Playing too safe in fear of failure

This refers to not taking any risks at all in the fear of failure. A manager can never bring great success to the organization if he/she doesn’t take risks. Taking risks might have chances of failure but not taking risks at all takes away the very possibility of success. Therefore, playing too safe is also one of the biggest causes of a manager’s failure.


Rigidity is the inability to adapt, and it is one of the major causes of failure as a manager. It means absolute adherence at all costs and not much flexibility in work methods or techniques. Rigid managers might go off course with their team’s activities while they operate under their business plans. They do that without ever opening up certain options for them. They try to force down their beliefs and ideas to their employees and never do they entertain any suggestions or discussions. If managers do bring rigidity in the workplace, it cannot evolve in any meaningful way. Also being rigid and not allowing others’ suggestions or alterations in their idea only increases the chances of failure for a manager.

Sheer bad luck

Failure as a manager sometimes can also be an outcome of sheer bad luck which refers to things that aren’t in the manager’s control. Examples can be sudden changes in government guidelines, market fluctuations, etc. Most of the managers may take these failures as something they can do nothing about and move on. Even external pressures are very low in these cases as they too believe that nothing could have been done against it. After realizing what all can cause failure, it is also important to understand how a manager can recover from failure.
One of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people’s excuses for failure – Robert townsend

How to recover from failure as a manager?

1. Realize you have faced failure

This may be the most important step. The manager has to accept a fact that his behavior or any decision he made led him and his team into failure. This is something that kills all of us emotionally. At the same time, it allows one to decide how does he want to deal with this particular situation from now on forward.

2. See what went wrong and fix it

There are several things to be done at this stage. Firstly it is seeing what led your team down and fixing that part of the cause, coming up with a strategy for future decisions, or avoiding these situations altogether in the future. Secondly, it requires managers to see if any warning signs were there before the failure occurred. Knowing that they couldn’t deal with all problems upfront might reduce their remorse and help them recover faster from such cracks.

3. Reframe failure to learning

This stage requires more time than the rest. However, it is where the manager’s life gets back on track after failing to learn from failures and do better in future challenges. When managers acknowledge that they have failed, then progressing forward through lessons learned will be a positive step for them to take. Many successful business leaders adopt this approach. Those who learn helpfully, often become more resilient in future failures. They do feel safe knowing that they have learned something which will equip them for any looming encounters. Those who do not submit themselves successfully to this process of learning from failures may find it hard to bounce back into success after several further failures. It makes it a lot easier to recover for the managers if they do take failures as learning lessons as learning from failures is what ultimately leads you to success.

4. Move on

Last but not least, after recovering from failure as a manager there is no better than you move on. That moment allows the manager to learn more about himself and his team that he can use in future challenges. Moving on can be a bit more difficult if there was a huge loss or a very bad outcome of the failure which occurred. Still the realization that the past can’t be changed and avoiding the same situation in the future is the best can do helps a lot in moving on.


It is very common for managers to fail but them bouncing back stronger is not that common. The reason behind managers not being able to recover from failure is that they see business failure as heart failure, something no one can fix or recover from. Whereas these failures are more like engine failures. It may bring losses, delays, and disruptions but once you find the cause and fix it, it will not just be easy to recover, but the knowledge gained will also help you to avoid the failure or recover even faster in the future. We have listed almost all the causes which may fail a manager and we have also given steps to recover from that failure. If a manager can avoid all these causes the chances of failure will drop down drastically. Still, if a manager ends up failing, the 4 steps of recovery will help them bounce back stronger in their role.

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How to react to failures as a manager?

As a manager, it’s essential to react to failures constructively and supportively. This involves acknowledging mistakes, identifying the root cause of the loss, and developing a plan to address it. It’s also important to provide constructive feedback and support to the team, emphasizing learning and growth rather than blame and punishment. Encouraging open communication, collaboration, and creativity can prevent future failures and promote continuous improvement.

Which is the most common reason for failure as a manager?

The biggest reason of failure of managers is a lack of training and development. Growth is a lifelong process in managerial roles; hence it is important to constantly upskill and learn more to avoid failure.

How failing as a manger could affect employees?

The failure of a manager can hurt team morale if the manager does not use healthy ways to overcome it. On the other hand, using the failure to set positive examples for the team can help a lot.

How to stay motivated after a failure?

It is critical to recognize that failure is a part of your journey, just like success. A team will face ups and downs, and growth is all about making the most of the learning opportunities that come with failures.

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Author: Deeksha Sharma

Deeksha, with a solid educational background in human resources, bridges the gap between your goals and you with valuable insights and strategies within leadership development. Her unique perspectives, powered by voracious reading, lead to thoughtful pieces that tie conventional know-how and innovative approaches together to enable success for management professionals.

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