Last weekend, the Dallas Cowboys lost a close game to the Arizona Cardinals.  If you watched the game, you know how it ended (and probably have a bad taste in your mouth).  For those of you who didn’t see the game, here is a summary of what occurred.  

With two minutes left it the 4th Quarter and the score tied 13-13, Dallas is driving down field.  At about 28 seconds left in the game and still possessing 2 timeouts, Quarterback Tony Romo completes a pass to Dez Bryant to Arizona’s 32 yard line making a first down.  Rather than calling a time-out to run a few plays to gain a few yards for a shorter game winning field goal attempt, Dallas ran the clock down to 7 seconds before stopping the clock.  Then, a split second before his kicker kicks the field goal, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett called a timeout –but not before the kicker knocked the 49 yard field goal through the uprights.  Because Garrett called the timeout, the kick had to be redone and was missed.  The teams went to overtime where the Cowboys lost.

In the post-game press conference, Garrett refused to accept blame for any of the poor time management and decisions made in the final minute of the game. Moreover, with 24 hours to reflect on the events of the game (and every sports radio and television talk show critical of his decision), in Garrett’s Monday press conference, he did not accept blame nor did he concede that perhaps he should have made different decisions.  His explanations appeared, to some, to be of questionable believability.

And here is where the lesson lies for employers.  From time-to-time we all make mistakes. When an employer, with the benefit of hindsight, makes an obvious mistake in the manner or treatment of an HR issue, the employer should not attempt a cover-up or set forth explanations of dubious believability.  Rather, the employer should consider whether a sincere apology is in order along with taking steps to minimize or correct the mistake.  Of course acknowledging or admitting to a mistake may be used against the employer as an admission and can carry adverse legal consequences.  It may, however, help the employer avoid a lawsuit altogether. 

Garrett’s explanations for his game day decisions, in my opinion, did far more to undermine faith in his judgment and credibility than a simple acknowledgment of his mistake would have done.  Employers can learn from his mistake.

Follow me on Twitter @RussellCawyer.