• Dropping the ball is common as we all make mistakes
  • Bounce back by acting quickly and calmly to develop a solution
  • Communication and prioritization are key ways to prevent future mishaps
It’s a key project with a lot of visibility from executive management and the deadline is coming up.

You’ve already completed all of the due diligence, subtasks, reviews, approvals, sign-offs, etc.

All you really need to do is email the approved, signed and scanned contract before the 5pm agreement deadline to make it official for all parties.

As you’re working on one of your other smaller projects that’s due today, you realize how much of a mess your workspace has become from all the various crazy shit that has been piling up forever. Maybe now’s a good time to start.

So you spend the next 2 hours sorting out your space, catching up with your coworkers remotely, going over a spreadsheet you said you’d look at before, and other minor fulfilling shit.

You get into the zone with cleaning, organizing and decluttering your workspace. You get into a rhythm and pace that keeps you focused and productive - so much that you lose track of time.

Until your boss calls you at 5:30pm and asks if you forgot to copy them on the contract email.

And that’s exactly when your heart sinks.

You missed the 5pm legal deadline for the agreement to be official.

You just dropped the ball big time.




What Does Dropping The Ball Mean Anyway And How Does It Affect You?

According to the Farlex Dictionary of Idioms, dropping the ball is an idiom that means, “to make a mistake.” It also means “to forget about or neglect someone or something.”

The origin of the idiom is really obvious. It comes from sports where a player misses a catch during a key play and is also sometimes viewed as a major fuck up by fans and other players.

So in modern speak, dropping the ball means screwing up royally. Massively. Extensively. Epicly. Monstrously. And especially when there’s something important at stake.

Kinda like this forklift operator taking down an entire warehouse.

VIDEO: Forklift collapses warehouse
YOUTUBE: TzD Channel
LENGTH: 1:02
You get the point.

What’s important about ball dropping is that everyone and we mean everyone, every single person on this earth has dropped the ball more than once.

Because we’re all human.

So how are ways someone could drop the ball?

Here are some examples.

1) Missing Deadlines

This is the most common ball-dropping skill out there. Missing deadlines are horrible because people could have been banking on that deadline for various things.

It not only lets your boss down but also your team.

We do know that there are various reasons for missing deadlines including straight-up procrastination at work or maybe that you’re overwhelmed with putting out fires all day.

2) Not Showing Up

Most of us have been ghosted at least once in our lives. Blind dates, flakey friends and colleagues who dropped the ball are some examples.

However, at work, not showing up puts everyone in a difficult situation because not only did you drop the ball and your colleagues can’t do/have what they need, they may also get really pissed off at you.

Plus, it doesn’t go any good for your personal brand at work either.

3) Sending The Wrong Emails Or Texts


This is definitely one of the most embarrassing ways to drop the ball - sending a text to the wrong person. Or replying all when you really shouldn’t have.

Especially sensitive texts… Damn!

Then, there’s always email snafus and not understanding the etiquette of using cc and bcc for sensitive emails.

What Causes People To Drop The Ball then?

1) Poor Prioritization

It’s really no surprise that poor prioritization leads to failure aka ball-dropping.

If you have an important deadline and you decide that is a wonderful time to arrange your desk and call some colleagues, you’re bound to miss that deadline.

Unless you’re the Flash or something.

So, you’ve gotta learn to prioritize by learning to say no and setting solid boundaries to stop bullshit tasks and requests because everything can’t be number one.

2) Bad Communication

Like every other aspect of the workplace, communication is key to ball-dropping - or lack of communication thereof.

Without communicating with your boss the deadlines, expectations, workload, and different factors that could affect your output, you’re really setting yourself up for failure.

It will be inevitable that you dropped the ball in their standards no matter what because there’s no clear communication to even understand what those standards are.

3) Misinterpretation

You know how easy it is to misinterpret signs from your spouse which leads to cries of, "I thought you knew me!’?"

Yes, it’s just as easy to misinterpret or be misinterpreted by your boss, especially when you’re working for a new boss.

And that leads to a lot of hot mess.

4) Fear And Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are totally normal emotions that we humans face.

But when you let those emotions control you and how you present yourself at work, it could lead to various dropped balls. You’ve gotta be an adult at work, not some pouty kid stomping their feet.

You’ve gotta build up your confidence and skills to overcome challenges. This will allow you to recover quickly. 

5) Inexperience

When you’re inexperienced and especially when you don’t have the proper resources to train, ball dropping is almost inevitable.

It could be a small failure or a big one - but it would usually make you uncomfortable still. It’s really not your fault and all it takes is to get some more experience and improve your skills.

This means that there may be a little more ball drops on the way but you’ll need to learn from them to get better.

6) Toxic Work Culture Or Lack Of Fit

When your work environment and culture just don’t suit you, you become uncomfortable and stressed at work.

And with both negative emotions, you’re more likely to make big mistakes. And if it’s a toxic environment, it’ll definitely happen more often.

Sometimes lack of fit doesn’t have to do with toxicity. You just don’t vibe there.

So you may want to consider how you can make real connections and bond with those around you so that you’re more comfortable or you could move to a different team.

How To Recover After Dropping The Ball

Dropping balls wreaks havoc on our confidence if we’re not careful. It’s also deeply embarrassing and kills your chances of promotion.

But we need to understand that making mistakes is common and you’re not going to be an exception.

However, how you recover from that dropped ball may not be common and that’s what could set you apart, restore your confidence and help you bounce back fast.

Here are some ways to make you more confident and prevent the nastiness that comes after you drop the ball.

1) Pause And Breathe

Once you find that you’ve made a huge mistake, pause.

Do not panic.

Just give yourself a timeout and breathe.

Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and detach yourself from the situation.

Remind yourself of all your accomplishments and that this one mistake can’t clean those wins.

Open your eyes and go to the next step below.

2) Practice The Zero-Guilt Policy

Practicing the zero-guilt policy helps you to let go of the unwanted burden that comes with dropping the ball.

While it may be hard to feel zero guilt, this policy helps you to forgive yourself and quit beating yourself up.

It helps you understand that what’s done is fucking done!

You can’t turn back time or undo the damage that’s already happened when shit hits the fan.

Once you understand that, you’re able to detach yourself from the situation and stop yourself from spiraling into self-doubt and self-recrimination.

With this in place, you’re able to get much more done.

3) Act Immediately

You’ve had time to calm down and get your emotions in check. You’ve also managed to detach yourself from the problem.

Now is not the time to run and hide your head in a hole. You’re no ostrich.

Instead, the next thing to do is to act objectively and quickly. Here’s how:

Identify The Root Cause And Its Confirmed And Potential Impact
You need to identify what caused the problem to see if your solution should start from there.

This is especially important when the mistake is one that nobody noticed for a long time such as an email sent to a wrong address in which the wrong addressee never replied to flag the mistake.

You also need to identify the impact that problem has caused and could cause.

This gives you a wholesome map of how to craft a solution.

Develop A Solution
It may seem that you need to really rush in this situation but you shouldn't as it may make things worse.

Take time to think of what to do to solve the problems. What are the most effective ways?

If you missed a deadline - do you think it’s not time-sensitive and that you can complete it in the next 30 minutes? Or is it a big project that would need a full day?

The solution to both problems can be different. And you should develop the solutions according to the situation, your boss’ personality, and the time-sensitivity.

Implement The Solution Or Initiate Damage Control
Now that you’ve figured out the solution or initiated damage control if the mistake can’t be solved entirely.

Take action on repairing and/or recovering from the error so that no further damage takes place.

4) Get With Your Work BFF

After the solution is implemented and the adrenaline rush has faded, it’s important to blow off some steam and go over the solution with someone you trust - like your work BFF.

Sometimes, the situation may need more than one person to solve and you can involve them in getting things turned around. They can help you find additional solutions to get it fixed quickly.

The important thing is to not carry the load alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

5) Talk To Your Boss

Now is NOT a good time to hide from your boss, especially if you have an asshole boss.

Instead, you gotta man up and take responsibility for the mistake.

Then, you need to get them involved in recovering from the mistake. They can provide additional support and damage control. Taking ownership of the problem and telling them about the solution shows confidence and accountability.

Your boss is likely to trust you more once you do this because they know you’re mature enough to handle difficulties and they can trust you to turn difficult solutions around.

6) Treat Yourself

After the situation has been settled, you need to treat yourself to something you enjoy.

Now is a good time to indulge in some guilty pleasure because you deserve it 😉

With all the aftermath of stress and an adrenaline rush in full force, treating yourself to something that keeps you calm and happy is good for you and brings balance.

It could be something as simple as an evening shower meditation.

7) Assess Yourself

Once you’re calm and in your best state of mind, the next thing to do is to assess yourself.

What caused this?

How could this have happened differently?

How could you have acted differently to prevent this?

Did you have the right resources to prevent this from happening?

Could this have been prevented from happening if you had better resources or more experience?

Is my communication skills the problem?

How can you prevent this sort of mistake from repeating itself?

Answer these questions to prevent this exact mistake from repeating itself because it’s one thing to make a certain mistake once. It's quite another to make the same mistake twice.

How To Prevent Future Dropped Balls

You have assessed yourself and found your weak areas, it’s now time to work on them to prevent you from making this kind of mistake and various other mistakes.

Remember, you can’t always be perfect so little mistakes here and there may be inevitable.

However, you can prevent the big fucking ones from happening if you’re consistent with these solutions.

1) Identify The Cause Of Your Fuck Ups

To prevent something from happening, you need to understand why it’s happening and solve the problem from there.

Why do you keep making mistakes?

Is it the fear of future failure?



Work culture?

Lack of resources?

Are there other reasons that are not directly related to work such as mental conditions like ADHD or are you just cyberloafing all time?

It could be something as simple as motivating yourself when you’re not feeling it at work.

Once you have identified your why, these options below can help to tackle them.

2) Have Regular Check-ins With Your Boss

Have regular status updates during projects or check-ins during downtimes with your boss. This builds an effective communication mode between you two and fosters trust.

During the project, explain your progress since the last check-in, what you’re planning for the next phase and what issues you’re facing or could potentially face.

Your boss is bound to be very busy so this method will be more efficient if you develop all these beforehand and bring them during your status update meetings or emails so that all your boss needs to do is to approve it.

Where you feel you need your boss’ intervention, especially when you need to escalate issues, these status updates are good places to bring them up.

It’s also great to discuss any concerns no matter how little so that they don’t get blown out of proportion and become dropped balls.

3) Prioritize And Plan Your Day

Prioritization and proper planning prevent dropped balls like a blessing.

Planning helps you understand what you need to do during the day, week, and month. Because everything can’t be number one, you need to set a plan to get the most important things done first.

Even if you’re not the kind that likes to plan to a tee and follow a strictly timed schedule, a general outline of what you have to do and their deadlines can suffice. With these outlines and schedules, you can prioritize what to do and when.

This will help you avoid shallow bullshit work and only focus on the things that really move the needle on priorities.

When you stick to the plan, you’ll get in the zone with work and really start kicking ass.

4) Build Accountability And Transparency

Building accountability and transparency ensure that your colleagues and boss understand your activities and can point out errors. Plus, it minimizes all the blamestorming nonsense.

You can build accountability by setting expectations and following through with them, giving regular updates to the team as necessary, taking responsibility for your actions, and looking out for your colleagues.

It takes time but it's worth it.

5) Seek A Professional Coach Or Therapist

Sometimes, dropping the ball could stem from some conditions that are not work-related such as ADHD and anxiety.

This shouldn’t prevent you from being your best self at work.

Seeking a professional/life coach and therapist can help you navigate work with renewed confidence. It’ll also help you in those situations where you feel stuck at work.

In summary, preventing dropping the ball can be summed up by doing what you say you’re gonna do, when you’re gonna do it or at least, update the stakeholders.

Less Dropped Balls & More Home Runs

Dropping the ball happens to all of us, but you’ve learned how to prevent it from happening too often.

You’ve been communicating effectively with your manager and keeping to schedule.

Your colleagues are beginning to trust you more than before. You can tell because they always come to you for advice now.

Other managers seem to want you to work for their team. They don’t understand how you're so efficient. You’re like an office rockstar. 😉

And when you almost drop the ball, you catch it effortlessly because you’ve kept checks along the way that prevents any failures.

No more missed contract deadlines. You’ve learned your lesson.

From here on out, you’ll be on top of your game.

Feel Better,

more on cubicle life