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Bad Art and the Benefits of Owning Our Mistakes at Work

by Lorraine Segal
February 2016

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

Lorraine Segal

What can bad art teach us about successful relationships in the workplace?

One of the big issues that creates conflict at work and interfers with harmonious relationships, is many people’s inability to acknowledge their own mistakes.

I confess that perfectionism is one of my own shortcomings. I still sometimes want to prove to you and myself that I am perfect and don’t make mistakes. In my faulty thinking, there isn’t an iota of space between imperfect and horrible, so admitting I did something wrong means I am a complete failure. Instead, I, like many of my clients, want to defend and pretend, because the consequences feel devastating. Of course, the reality is, making a mistake and denying it, is infuriating to co-workers and managers and often leads to conflict, resentments, and negative consequences.

I have learned over the years, to accept that making mistakes is a natural and inevitable part of being human. For me and my clients, the issue isn’t whether we make mistakes, but how we deal with them. Our response, in part, determines the outcome, positive or negative.

I recently discovered some glorious examples of accepting and honoring mistakes at the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA). This virtual and physical museum proudly showcases astoundingly bad paintings,colorful, curiously compelling, and full of dreadful errors. This art would never be in a juried show or get even a “C” in art class.

But for people like me, this museum is an invigorating antidote to perfectionism. We are invited to be amused at the bad art and simultaneously celebrate it. Just think if we could do this with mistakes or imperfections in our relationships at work or elsewhere!

When we can reframe the meaning of mistakes, be willing to acknowledge them and take reparative action for our part, they become manageable and actually support honest and harmonious relationships at work.

By the way—some of the artists featured at MOBA have become successful after being willing to flaunt their mistakes. We never know what blessings and new learning our “mistakes” will bring.


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 

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Additional articles by Lorraine Segal