What To Do When You’ve Royally Screwed Up At Work (Part 2)

In last week’s post, First 5 shared three types of approaches people use when they mess up at work with a summary of the “just right” approach. This week, we wanted to delve a litter deeper and offer some concrete tips and practices you can apply whenfirst-5-icon-07 you have that “oh s$&%” moment at work.

Here are six steps that can help when you’ve made a mistake:

  1. Communicate. Talking about it may be the last thing you feel like doing. But it’s important to take responsibility for what happened because your supervisors need to know that you are ready to own up when mistakes happen. Admit what happened without making excuses or getting defensive. While over-apologizing doesn’t help anything, using words like “I know I screwed up and I get what a big deal this is” can help show your concern without overdoing it.
  2. Talk about why it happened. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes, people worry if they address the “why” of a mistake, it will sound like making excuses. But calling out what went wrong is actually helpful in figuring out how you can make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
  3. Find solutions. Before you even approach your boss with the problem, it’s important you think of at least two tangible solutions to help address it. For example, if you cost the organization money, come up with solutions of how you could help the organization cut and save in other departments or earn the money back. This shows you’re not only accountable for your mistakes, but it also demonstrates that you can handle pressure and problem solve when things go wrong.
  4. Rebuild your boss’s trust. This is the time to think about any corners you may have been cutting and stop them. For the next few weeks, try coming in earlier or staying a little later. Make sure to start slowly with tasks instead of taking on larger responsibilities, especially if your mistake was missing a deadline. Don’t take on more than you can promise to deliver, but show your manager and other people that you’re serious about working hard to help them get past the mistake.
  5. Forgive yourself. This is probably one of the hardest things to do, but facing your mistakes is important to helping you grow and move on. You made a mistake, but we all make mistakes. Dwelling on it will only make your performance worse. Instead, look at the failures of the people you look up to and realize it’s all a part of the learning process.
  6. Learn from your mistake. Ask yourself, how can I grow from this? If you forgot to do something, you know you need a better way to remind yourself and keep track of your tasks. If you did something incorrectly, you know you need to follow instructions better or ask for help when you need it. Analyze the mistake, how you could have avoided it in the first place, and implement a plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

To err is human, but it can be especially stressful when our jobs and reputation are on the line. Addressing your mistakes, however, and learning from them is a natural and even important part of everyone’s professional journey. It’s just a matter of letting yourself grow.

Feel free to share your examples mistakes you made at work and how you handled them in the comments below!



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