What To Do When You Make a Mistake At Work

Let’s face it, mistakes happen nearly everyday at work. We’ve all been there. Sometimes you have so many things going on and are trying to get everything done in a timely manner that your focus wanes and you slip up. These mistakes are usually not life and death (unless you’re in the medical industry, then disregard this), but in the moment they feel monumental. You may feel that you let your team or supervisor down and maybe even that your reputation is ruined.

These are very common thoughts and could be detrimental to your psyche. If you’ve made a mistake at work, it is imperative to turn the negative experience into a positive one and realize you can learn from your mistakes. Chances are you’re not the first to make a mistake, and you will definitely not be the last, although you might think otherwise in the moment.

If you’ve made a mistake at work, there are some things that you should do in the aftermath. Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch has three things you should do immediately after you mess up at work.

Own Your Mistake

According to Welch, the first thing you should do is own the fact that you messed up. If you admit to your mistake, you have a better chance of figuring out how to make it right. On the other end of the spectrum, if you blame everyone else for your mistake your coworkers might lose respect for you.

Welch says, “Even if you aren’t the only author of the mistake – and you probably aren’t – you still have to take responsibility with your boss, colleagues and subordinates.” In doing so this, “is how we demonstrate that we’re grown-ups, that we get it and that we feel remorse.”

By taking responsibility of your mistake, all parties will be able to move on and get past it. Additionally, by owning up to it you show remorse and can get a second chance.

Get To The Bottom Of Your Mistake

In order to learn from your mistake and hopefully not make it again, the next step is to understand why and how you made the mistake. One way you can do this is by asking your supervisor for some guidance and advice on how you can do things differently. This might be a bit uncomfortable for you at first, but it might be the easiest and most direct method to learning from your mistake.

Welch echoes this sentiment, “[this process] will definitely take you out of your comfort zone. It’s also going to show your organization that you have the guts and integrity to grow in ways that ensure your error never happens again.”

Rebrand Yourself With a Win

One of the best ways to get over the mental anguish that you’ve been dealing with after making a mistake and to have your colleagues and bosses forget about it, is to knock the next task out of the park. If you follow up a mistake with a job well done, or a major win, you will likely get back into the good graces of everyone involved.

The ways you can do this vary. Maybe you come up with a new project that can bring in additional revenue to the company, or you close a big sale for a key account. Either way, you can use this opportunity and “win” to show that you’re still an asset to the company and can bounce back.

Wrap Up

Everybody makes mistakes, regardless of the magnitude. While you generally want to avoid the big mistakes, the smaller ones are bound to happen. Once you change your mindset to realize that mistakes happen and it usually isn’t the end of the world to viewing mistakes as a learning experience, you will become more productive. Just remember, as Welch says, “Everybody screws up sometimes. But one mistake isn’t the end of the game for you unless you let it be. There are three ways back to the winner’s circle. Grab them and run.”

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