Years ago, there was a guy on my staff the rest of the team absolutely hated. I defended him, and wouldn't let them fire him. It went on for months, causing friction between my best people and myself.
Their complaint was that he was lazy, sloppy, and they were having to do his work over again. Pretty straight forward reasons, right? So what was the problem?
He was good at sucking up, great at looking busy for short periods of time, and I was new to management.
The person I knew was bright, energetic, and friendly. We never worked directly together, so this was the only interaction I had with him. I couldn't reconcile the reports I was hearing vs. what I was experiencing personally.
And then, I covered a shift and actually worked next to the guy for 8 hours. You'll never guess: he was lazy, sloppy, and I was going to have to do his work over again. Only then was it obvious that the people who wanted him gone were irrevocably correct.
I'd backed myself into a corner. How was I going to save face and admit that they were right and I was wrong?
Admitting that you're wrong doesn't have to be that big of a deal. We're worried that we'll be rejected or shamed, but that's not usually what happens.
In this case, any face I was worried about losing was long gone: everyone already thought I was being naive at best. To hold out now, I was adding a second loss of reputation, which was my immature refusal to admit the obvious.
That's the crazy part: we're scared to admit mistakes, so we perpetuate them.
True strength is being able to admit a mistake and grow from the experience.
The best thing I could do now was begin recovering the reputation I'd lost. Once I came clean to my crew that I also wanted to fire the guy, we were on the same side again. We could bond over our terrible experiences. I could offer a genuine apology for not believing them in the first place. Hugs and high-fives ensued, along with a quick dismissal of the lazy guy. (Sorry, lazy guy. We should have fired you sooner, when it was less of a shock.)
Sometimes, we have to admit weakness in front of the people who's respect we depend on the most. Don't worry about it- despite what you might like to believe, they already know you're human.