The role of emotions in learning from errors in the workplace

Rausch, Andreas ; Harteis, Christian ; Seifried, Jürgen

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2016
Conference title: 2016 AREA Annual Meeting
Location of the conference venue: Washington, DC
Date of the conference: April 8-12, 2016
Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > Wirtschaftspädagogik, Berufliches Lehren und Lernen (Seifried 2012-)
Business School > Wirtschaftspädagogik, Lernen im Arbeitsprozess (Rausch 2016-)
Subject: 330 Economics
370 Education
Abstract: Theoretical framework: Errors – usually defined as the avoidable non-attainment of a goal – are considered a powerful source for learning in the workplace (Detert & Edmondson, 2006). With regard to error learning, feedback of any kind is necessary for detecting errors (Frese & Zapf 1994) and, thus, learning from them. This no more the case than when those making the errors are novices or students. Goal progression may or may not be directly assessable in the particular task or indirectly assessable by augmented feedback such as acoustic signals in machines, error messages in software applications etc. (Hacker & Skell, 1993; Frese & Zapf, 1994). For supporting these learning purposes, feedback from significant external agents, such as colleagues, trainers, supervisors, and customers, is of particular importance, particularly for novices and students. If this feedback is enriched with information on error causes, missed goals, and room for improvement, it becomes a fruitful source of learning (Authors, 2012a; Ilgen et al. 1979). However, errors are typically linked to negative emotions (Authors, 2012b). In coping with error situations, Zhao, Olivera, and Edmondson (2014) distinguish emotion-focused and problem-focused coping, but note that only the latter is supposed to foster learning from errors. Our empirical study investigates parts of the framework introduced by Zhao et al. (2014) and the proposed interrelations between emotions, interactions, coping strategies, and learning from errors in the workplace. Methods: In order to understand the mechanisms of learning from errors in the workplace, we used the diary-method. Diary-methods try to overcome memory biases by collecting data in near real-time. Thus, diaries offer a means of analyzing fluctuating data collected within participants' natural environments (for overviews, see Bolger et al., 2003; Ohly et al., 2010; Authors, 2014). Young employees, student trainees, trainees, and VET students of a well-established sporting goods manufacturer participated in our study (n = 22; 14 female, 8 male, average age = 23.5). All participants worked in commercial, IT or design departments. The participants were asked to record error situations over a period of two weeks in a paper-and-pencil diary. They collected a total of 99 error situations. Findings: Each diary entry required a description of the underlying task as well as the completion of several standardized items regarding the task, the error, error detection, attribution, emotions, coping approaches, and learning. In 91 out of 99 error situations, the error resulted in negative emotions. Shame was the most common negative emotion. In about 50 %, the error was detected by others. On a Likert-scale from 1 = learned nothing at all to 6 = learned very much from the error, the average score was 3.44. Statistical analyses revealed significant correlations between external attribution of an error and negative emotions and between negative reactions of significant others and negative emotions. Negative emotions correlate with emotion-focused coping while only problem-focused coping is correlated with the perceived learning from an error. Further analyses, implications for learning in the workplace, as well as limitations of the study will be discussed in our presentation.

Metadata export


+ Search Authors in

+ Page Views

Hits per month over past year

Detailed information

You have found an error? Please let us know about your desired correction here: E-Mail

Actions (login required)

Show item Show item