Last week I received an intriguing email inviting me to the first ‘F-up Night’ in my hometown, Glasgow. Once I got over my amazement that the subject title of the email didn’t push the invite straight into my junk folder, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go along.
The concept of a F-Up Night is the antidote to ‘normal’ networking events. As anyone who has been to networking events knows, people tend to put on their best faces, best clothes, and present the ideal impression of themselves and their organisation or business.
‘We are really busy, but I love what I do’; ‘Business is thriving and it’s less of a job and more of a lifestyle for me’; ‘My colleagues are like family to me’. We’ve all heard the clichés and the more we hear it, the less genuine this type of networking seems. This is where F-Up Nights come in.
Rather than presentations coming from people at the top of their games talking about knocking their ‘goals out of the park’, the evening consisted instead of hearing where things have gone wrong in the workplace and what we can all do to learn from our mistakes.
It was held in the basement of a bar in the city centre of Glasgow. The basement setting was somewhat apt as, to me, this represents the underground movement feel that F-up Nights are trying to convey. Immediately upon arrival you felt as though you had signed up for a sort of secret society and that we were the lucky few to discover this type of event, before anyone else catches on.
You were handed a drinks voucher (great for calming the nerves) and also a post-it note for writing down our own worst f-up (not so great for the nerves). We then had to post our notes onto a ‘Wall of F-Ups’ for all to see.
We then heard from the event’s organisers about the origins of F-Up Nights, which date back to 2012 and started in Mexico City. This global movement and event series has spread like wildfire in recent years allowing professional to meet up and reflect on professional failures, in a relaxed and informal environment.
What came next was a series of ten-minute presentations from a diverse range of people who were willing to share their warts and all F-Ups in the workplace.
We heard from a woman who was part of a helicopter mountain rescue team on a mission to save a climber’s life from dangerous conditions on a Scottish mountain. She described her frustration, and short temper, at the pilot in his hesitation at landing the helicopter. She admits that her insistence on him landing could have potentially been a mistake and could have put the rest of the crew in danger.
Another story came from a woman who was senior within a large blue-chip company and had organised a large-scale event. She believed it had been a huge success until the management told her otherwise. She soon receives her marching orders and leaves her company and career behind.
After hearing these stories of mishaps and misfortunes, the atmosphere of the event had relaxed from the initial apprehension. No surprises then, when the event’s organisers began to read directly from the F-Up wall that each person who had something read out aloud confessed to it being their own F-Up – myself included!
Although the event was fun and light-hearted, I reflected afterwards about how powerful it had been in allowing professional people (many who did not know each other) the chance to open-up in an authentic way and share their failings at work. It seemed much more real than many networking events I have been to.
To allow people to come together in this way and be honest is surely also better for people’s mental health and well-being? The chance to share F-Ups, learn from mistakes and laugh at each other’s stories is a cathartic experience and I applaud the organisers for allowing this to happen.
Mike Findlay is book review editor at Psychreg. He is a Glasgow-based writer and communications professional. Connect with him @MikeFindMedia.