Risk WATCH with Alberta Quarcoopome: rolling with the punches; a risk management tip

Alberta Quarcoopome

“You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.” – Maxwell Maltz

****This article was first published in 2014 and still VERY relevant***

Today’s topic is about how employees can cope with the consequences of making mistakes and learning lessons from them and moving on. It is about “rolling with the punches”.

The Meaning of “Roll with the punches”.

According to McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, “Roll with the punches” means any of the following: 

  • To absorb the force of a blow as in boxing.
  • To be able to deal with criticism and difficulties.
  • To adjust to difficult events as they happen.

The phrase is actually a boxing term that means to position your body or head in such a way as to decrease the force of impact of the opponent’s incoming punches. For instance, if an opponent throws a left punch, a boxer can ‘roll’ with it by moving his body and head backwards and to the right, so that way, even if the punch lands, it wouldn’t be as damaging as a full contact strike.

While the phrase remains as a relevant boxing term today, it has also taken on a new, figurative meaning, which is rolling with the heavy blows, or challenges, that a person experiences in work and life. Simply put, it can also mean to tolerate or ‘roll’ with the hardships you may unexpectedly run into, and for bankers, coping with the consequences of mistakes made on the job.

Making Mistakes and Encountering Challenges 

Have you ever made a big mistake on the job? What are some of the consequences:

  • Query….that is very minor. What do you think, leave you alone? Definitely not!
  • Suspicion…….expect it. That is how human beings are…even your supposed friends. Some will start “eyeing” you and shy away from you. Don’t worry, that is when you have to start counting your true friends.
  • Facing the Disciplinary Committee of the bank…the dreaded one. Sometimes some of the panel members understand how you feel, but well, well, the rules are there, even though some of them may need serious reviews.
  • An arrest by the Police, sometimes even going as far as being invited to meet officials of the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), and the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI).
  • Suspension from work
  • Demotion
  • Dismissal
  • Financial and Family challenges
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

The Period of Recovery

You are human, mourn your losses, but set a timetable for your mourning period. What happens next?

  • Blow off a little steam, cry if you feel like it. Gone are the days when they say men do not cry. Sometimes, when it is brief, it is refreshing to the soul. Talk to a confidant or mentor, or better still, your pastor.
  • Take a break, either a well-deserved vacation, go back to your family roots, the village, the beach, and have a change of weather, at little cost.
  • Be more spiritual. We have an all faithful God who never leaves us.
  • Set a time limit on your period of grief, however. Once you have allowed the moment to pass, now roll with the punches.

Practice successful recoveries and new strategies

The above recovery exercise will allow you to take an objective look at what happened, how you can re-strategize, and how you can avoid making the same mistake twice. Don’t start any blame game.

If you are returning to the same office after the event, you’ll be ready to face everyone you work with. Your co-workers and employers will be impressed by your ability to recover, and they will respect you all the more recognize that you are a human just like them. It will make you stronger. They will quietly be happy at your remarkable recovery. Prove to them that you cannot be broken.

  • Every time you make a mistake, look for the opportunity to learn.
  • Find strength in your mistakes and bounce back at an even higher rate.
  • If you have to look for a new job, don’t be afraid. Just put your best foot forward and rely upon those skills you’ve been cultivating.
  • Champion your successes to the world and you’ll advance your career. 

Quotes From Gaye Levy, (The Activist Post) 27/01/2013

I find the following extracts from Gaye Levy, a writer in the Activist Post, very relevant and I wish to share with you:

  1. Have goals. Even in difficult times, goals are important.  They don’t have to be big goals and, as a matter of fact, smaller, more manageable goals are far more attainable.
    2.  Turn difficult situations into avenues for personal growth. Learn from each challenge.  If you have a problem that seems difficult to solve, let your innate curiosity take over and educate yourself.  Become stronger through education, secure in the knowledge that no matter what your age, you are still learning and growing.

    3.  Trust your instincts and remember that you are capable of doing great things.  Instincts are developed from a lifetime of experience.  It does not matter is you are 20 or if you are 80.  You still have life experiences upon which to draw some conclusions and to help you make the right decision.
    4.  Maintain your optimism.  You can’t change what has happened in the past, so accept the past and begin to look forward to the future.

  1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Get out a pad of paper and make two columns; one for strengths and the other for weaknesses.  You don’t necessarily have to change, but from this list you can learn to understand and appreciate those circumstances where you will excel as well as those where you may fall short.  Use this knowledge as a tool for building your confidence and your self-esteem.

    6.  Don’t forget that time will heal.  It is natural to feel overwhelmed and stressed during a crisis situation.  But remember, time really does heal.  Take baby steps toward overcoming the bad situation, remind yourself that a month, a year, a decade from now, things will be different.

    7. Appreciate and accept change.  It is trite to say that change is good, because sometimes it is not.  But whether the change is good or not, it is a part of life and is often something that we cannot control.  The best way to cope with unwanted change is to accept it and adjust your plans accordingly.

    8.  Stay fit and healthy.  Take care of yourself, take some time for yourself so that you can enjoy simple pleasures such as a good book, some delightful music and the company of good friends.

    9. Be proactive.  Do something meaningful each and every day.  By doing something worthwhile each and every day, you will have a sense of purpose.

  2. Ask your self “what is the worst than can happen?” Dale Carnegie said:  “First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.”  To this day, that remains sound advice.

Very good quotes from Gaye Levy.

Final Words

As human beings, we will make some big mistakes on the job, and may go through some of the above procedures and emotions and occasionally suffer from victimization on the job. If you are able to withstand all these tests, and go through the recovery exercises, it will make you acquire a good risk culture and you will become an invaluable asset in your bank.

Mistakes are mistakes and are part of what is termed, “experience”. The most important is what has been learnt from it and how it is shared, to avoid other employees repeating the same mistake.

Dear readers, from the above tips, I hope that any mistake you make will make you stronger and you will   bounce back with full force. These mistakes when shared with others in similar roles in the bank, become eye openers.

As we enter the last phase of the year, I wish you more strength to finish hard. Remember, you make mistakes, mistakes don’t make you. They will continue to come but let us be more careful and roll with the punches.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or [email protected]

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343

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