Mistakes happen. Mostly we don’t mean to make the flub. Sometimes, we just forget. Other times, we were not informed. Only in a small margin, do we do things we know are wrong and then ask for forgiveness later. Putting yourself ‘out there’ in an academic sense can be tricky and like life, mistakes happen.
Someone once said to me, “it’s sometimes better to seek forgiveness instead of permission” and they may be onto something.
Scenario 1: I had apparently made some administrivia errors the past few months without even realizing it. In fact, the person I was also working with was making the same mistakes (oops) and upon being ‘busted’ for our errors, we were sent a nice note, nothing harmful, to remind us. Upon receipt of this, I sent a note back saying, “my apologies if this caused any extra paperwork, i appreciate your patience.”
The mistake: small.
The paperwork behind it: minimal at best
The mistake: not intentional
Scenario 2: I booked a flight for a long weekend to see a friend during break. I had the vacation days. I am usually quite transparent about taking days off with my supervisor and in the midst of the end of the semester, I must have forgot to notify him. Of course, he asked for a group meeting on one of those days and I had to inform him I’d be out of town. I searched my email and did not find any record of communication. My mistake. It was a mistake because I had not even realized it. My supervisor was more than understanding, asking me to keep him abreast of my travel from here on out and that was more than fair. I once again thanked him for his patience and cooperation and compromised by letting him know I’d be available via email as he needed.
The mistake: small/medium
The mistake: not intentional, failure to communicate.
The moral of the story here is this: we don’t plan to make mistakes very often. For me, the travel communication was my fault and I am usually very transparent about my travel and my supervisor knows this. It is sometimes necessary to simply seek forgiveness because it’s too late to ask for permission. When I discussed it with him, he said it was no big deal and that he was glad I had taken a long weekend to head south to warmer climates.
Keeping those lines of communication open is key for ourselves, our colleagues, and our students. Sometimes, we must also just seek forgiveness and be ok with that. As the semester gets underway, we will find ourselves busy and forgetful at different points. We may need to seek forgiveness instead of permission.