I've yet to see punishment work as an effective response to failures, errors, mistakes. Whether it's with pets or people, punishment is so....unproductive as a tool for learning. (Politicians in DC may be the exception to the rule. I'm still pondering that.)
Why? A. the correct way isn't learned in the process of administering punishments; B. learning is made more difficult when preceded by punishment. Receptivity tends to shut down very quickly with negative stimulus; C. you can rest assured that the next time they make a mistake you won't be informed.
Did you do this on purpose is a great post at Running A Hospital blog that deals with this issue. And he profiles how this question is used when errors are reported by nursing staff. Obviously, it's unlikely many will answer 'yes'. So what do you when they say 'no'? Answer this way:
Well then it is my fault.... Errors stem from systems flaws.... I am responsible for creating safe systems.
Now, that's tough. You have to be very strong, with a solid crew of well-adjusted people to do that. That crew and you would operate on the basis of trust and transparency. You trust them to do their best, to be accountable for their actions and to share their mistakes with you. They trust you to work with them in creating a system where they can flourish, deliver outstanding service and in the event of the inevitable errors, be treated with dignity and respect, like an adult, and correct the system.
I've worked in groups where the leader emphasized the systems. Systems fail; people don't. I liked it. It worked. We grew together, made lots of mistakes and in a spirit of openness and transparency, worked together to create better systems.
It takes a very strong, well-rested, broad thinker to handle errors in this manner. And in this group, eventually, the strong were promoted and with them went this approach. Soon people were mentally fatigued and soon became un-disciplined in not reaching for the low-hanging fruit of frustration: blame someone.
As a leader, I always tried to remind everyone that A. mistakes happen; B. it's ok a mistake happened; C. I've made worse. I'll tell you about them, later; D. you do a great job; 'perfect' isn't part of the job description; E. let's see what's happened and what we need to do to fix it.
But I like this question: Did you do it on purpose? And the culture of trust and transparency, with accountability and responsibility, that's created with the follow- up answer of Well then it is my fault.... Errors stem from systems flaws.... I am responsible for creating safe systems.
And if you're still attached to righteous punishment...here's a follow-up post title: What about punishment?