She walked down the carpeted hall holding a report that had taken several weeks of late nights, and she knew it was good. A tiny smile played at her mouth as she thought of her recent promotion and of how much the team would be impressed with this, her first report.
As she entered the plush conference room and began handing it out, she suddenly felt nervous — even more nervous as she watched her boss slowly leaf through it.
Franklin finally looked up and said, “This looks good, Marie, but where is the Linderman section?”
Marie asked, “Linderman?” and her face flushed a bright red. Their initial meeting had been long, and only near the end had Franklin mentioned including Linderman’s area of the state.
Annabelle, senior member of the team, incredulously asked, “You did not include it?”
The others dropped their eyes to the table.
Marie’s voice was quiet, as she said, “I, I remember we, well, we talked about it, and I just, uhm, forgot.” This last was in a whisper.
Franklin looked angry. Marie knew how much he hated to fall off schedule. He abruptly stood, knocking back his chair.
“Take twenty-minutes!” he barked. The others followed him out, leaving Marie alone. The silence was overwhelming.
“Can I help?”
Marie looked up, eyes brimming with tears.
“What happened?” asked the young man, as he handed her a tissue. Marie could not stop the words, as they came spilling out.
She finished by saying, “And I feel so embarrassed, more than embarrassed.”
“Ashamed?” he asked.
“Yes, ashamed. How could I have forgotten such an important section of the report?”
“A feeling of shame is quite common after a big mistake.”
Marie blurted, “Who are you?”
“Dennis,” he answered. “I am a psychologist the company occasionally brings in to support marketing. I was in the office across the hall and saw Franklin stomp out.”
She quietly said, “Marie.”
Dennis smiled and asked, “Do you know that you have never been wrong, Marie?
“Oh, come on,” she said, “You cannot just ignore this disaster; besides, everyone makes mistakes.”
“Of course we do, and the mistake you are making is in believing that mistakes are wrong, even shameful.”
“But I feel so awful; I mean, I let these people down.”
“Yes, you did let them down, but it is society that has taught you to think that what you did was wrong.”
Marie gave a quick shake of her head and said, “Well, okay, but so what?”
“Ah, the so what is the choice now before you. You can continue to wallow in the blame and shame, or you can take responsibility and do everything possible to make it right.”
Marie looked away. A full minute passed before she nodded to herself, turned to Dennis and said, “Thank you.”
The team began returning.
Franklin entered last and sat heavily in his chair. He leaned forward, and his anger was still apparent.
He said, “Without Linderman we are behind schedule. Now, Annabelle, I want you to…”
Marie stood up and said, “Excuse me.”
She could feel her hands trembling and clasped them in front of her.
Forcing herself to look at her boss, she said, “I want to apologize…” Her voice cracked. She cleared her throat and tried again.
“I apologize for my mistake, and I have a solution. The first five sections of the report will have us on schedule today and tomorrow.”
She paused and then plunged ahead.
“I will complete Linderman tonight and tomorrow night, and we can use it, along with the last sections, on the final day.”
Franklin sat back. He remained silent.
Slowly, he said, “Yes, ok, that could work. Are you sure you can handle it?”
She hesitated, then nodded and said, “I can do it; and again, I apologize to all of you.”
Sitting down, she realized that an inner glow was replacing the shame, and she sent Dennis a silent thank you.
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