Permission To Screw Up: Book Reflection By Jeannetta Maxena

Posted on November 23, 2021

Permission to screw up - Jeannetta

On November 18, 2021 ELGL members discussed “Permission to Screw Up” by Kristen Hadeed for the ELGL Book Club. We gave away six signed copies of the book to our members and asked them to write reflections on the book. Here’s the reflection post by Jeannetta Maxena, MPA. Senior Management Fellow, City of Fort Lauderdale. Connect with Jeannetta on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Permission to Screw Up explores Kristen Hadeed’s learned lesson on overcoming life’s blunders particularly mistakes in the workplace. We get caught up with wanting to be perfect. We live in a world where people use filters to perfect their pictures before they post it to social media because they want to show a perfected view of themselves. We have created a culture where people are afraid to make a mistake because they are afraid of losing their job. It is vital that we allow growth and professional development for employees. “To have any chance…companies need to make a significant investment in employee training” (p.23). Hadeed delves further into the importance of building leaders within our organizations and ensuring they have the “skills and confidence” to be successful in their jobs and in their future positions.

Lessons Learned

Organizations around the world strive for perfection and at times have unrealistic expectations for their employees. Further, many local government organizations’ mission statements include the word “Excellent” or “We strive for excellence” and this leaves little room for mistakes. Employees are afraid to admit their mistakes and may even try to cover it up. Permission to Screw Up changed my way of thinking because I have always wanted to get as close to perfection as possible especially in my work.

Kirsten discussed a moment that she let her intern take over payroll and her intern made a $40,000 mistake. However, that mistake was rectified, and the intern learned a life-long career lesson and eventually understood how to complete payroll efficiently. Hadeed mentioned, “Trust people with enormous responsibilities, allow room for mess-ups, then give them the chance to fix their mistakes so they can learn from them,” (p. 31). We all deserve to work for an organization that is fully invested in our growth and professional development.

I loved the story about Andrew who was interested in working for Student Maid, but he was not a student. Andrew was punctual and passionate, but he did not meet the minimum requirements. Hadeed gave him a chance anyway. I am hopeful that both public and private organizations learn to give job applicants who are eager and engaged an opportunity to work even when they do not meet minimum requirements.


The few critiques I have with Permission to Screw Up is that Hadeed’s story is very unique, and she has certain privileges that others do not. For instance, her parents are both well educated, and her father is a lawyer who helps her through a tough legal matter when her business, Student Maid was still very new. She named her company Student Maid Brigade without checking if any other businesses had the name. At one point, she was threatened with a lawsuit by another company with a similar name who was established before Student Maid Brigade. Hadeed eventually dropped the Brigade and Student Maid was allowed to continue as a business. This, however, would result in a huge loss for many entrepreneurs who did not have the help and guidance of her father who provided her with free legal consultation.

There was another story in the book, where Hadeed had to compete with other cleaning companies for a contract with large clients. She was not well prepared in presenting her company, but she walked away with seven offers. Minorities with ethnic features like dark skin do not have these privileges. We are often looked at as ‘other’ because of bias which can result in the loss of job opportunities. I believe it would have been highly unlikely for a person like me to come to an event ill-prepared and walk away with seven offers.

Concluding Remarks

Hadeed made further blunders like spending $1000 of her $10,000 loan on a sushi meal for her friends. I believe and I hope it was a mistake that she will never make again. I did enjoy the book though. I loved learning about the nuances of being a millennial with a business during the recession and succeeding when the world thinks you are the problem. Millennials get blamed for a lot of problems in our world and especially in the workplace. We are blamed for lackluster performance goals because we are thought to be lazy. The truth is millennials share a lot of the same hardworking traits as their parents, the boomers. Millennials are highly adaptable because we must be and we have overcome many obstacles like the Great Recession, COVID-19, extreme weather conditions due to climate change, and an uncertain housing market. Hadeed’s story is one of survival and I can appreciate a good survival story.

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