How to Overcome a Mistake at Work

Frustrated at Work_Compressed

Inevitably, you will make a mistake at work that will leave you with some combination of frustration or anger. It will happen. But before you start to go down the proverbial rabbit hole and consider yourself a failure, remember that everyone makes mistakes. Some are worse than others, and work mistakes can be especially hard to accept, but you can overcome them. Here are few things to do when you find yourself in this scenario:

Take a Minute

Before you start on a downward spiral, give yourself a minute (or two) to sit with what happened. Accept that you made a mistake, remember that they happen and don’t beat yourself up about it. If it happens while you’re physically in the office, consider taking a walk around the block, or finding somewhere you can take a literal breather.

Your first instinct might be to immediately spring into action, but your emotions are likely running high and you’re not thinking as clearly as you could. Give yourself time to regroup and then start to think about the next steps.

Brainstorm a Solution

Now that you’ve calmed down and accepted the circumstances, think about how you can solve the problem. Ideally, you can fix it yourself without involving others, but if not, come up with a concrete plan and clearly outline what needs to happen and who needs to do what.

If possible, come up with a backup plan, too. This way, you give your manager options to consider and show them that you’ve really thought about all of the different scenarios and outcomes.

Talk to Your Manager

Once you’ve put your plan(s) together, sit down with your manager or the appropriate person. First, tell them what happened in a calm but matter-of-fact way. Leave the emotions at the door and discuss the facts of the situation and apologize for your oversight.

Then, follow up with how you propose to fix the problem. Give them time to mull over what you’ve come up with or ask questions to clarify. While you’ll want to leave the meeting with a clear sense of the next steps, they might need time to think or discuss with other people. If that’s the case, set out to schedule a follow-up.

Put Your Plan into Action

After you’ve both decided on a solution, take ownership and get to work implementing your plan. How you handle hardship or difficult situations says a lot about you as a person and as an employee, so show your manager that you can handle both yourself and the less-than-ideal circumstances.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help or advice, though. You want to get this right, so speak up if you need a second opinion or guidance.

Let it Go

Now that the solution has been put into action, don’t dwell on what happened. Use it as a learning experience and then forget about it. Letting a mistake hurt your confidence and subsequent work performance isn’t helpful for anyone. Instead, talk about it, own up to it, learn from it and let it go.

So next time you find your heart racing and palms getting sweaty because you noticed an error you made, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Then, follow these steps to rectify and learn from the admittedly unfortunate situation.

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