So, you’ve made a big mistake at work. Screwing up at the office comes with all kinds of residuals, depending on the severity of the crime. There’s the guilt, the shame, the damage you’ve done to your reputation, not to mention the mess you’ve created from whatever slip-up you made.
We’re taught to separate emotion from our business-life in order to keep things professional. While this may keep things running smoothly and keep things from getting personal between coworkers, it can cause us to become detached from ourselves as well.
While trying to walk the line between being professional and truly working toward improving ourselves, we can often misconstrue how we’re supposed to react to our work-place blunders. How can we actually improve ourselves if we’re “supposed” to robotically brush things off and move on?
We say, ditch the ole’ norms, and work through the process that is conducive to progressive learning and growth.
- Take a deep breath. When we make a mistake at work, we tend to blow it out of proportion. We think that it is way worse than it is because we are out of our comfort zone. We’re not only worried about the repercussions of the mistake that we made, we’re worried about what others will think of us and the impact the mistake may have on our jobs and our future within the company. We’re worried about the possibility that we may have irreparably damaged our reputation at work and that is embarrassing and downright scary. Stop and breathe before you act. Things are probably not as bad as you think.
- Put things into perspective. As we stated earlier, when we make a mistake at work, we are likely to blow it out of proportion. Slow down and put things into perspective. Is it really that big of a deal? Who or what is affected by this mistake? Is it fixable? Do you need to include others to fix the situation?
- Own your mistake. The worst thing you can do when you screw up is run from the problem or point fingers. It’s important to take ownership of your mistake right away and take appropriate measures to work toward mending it. Tell your boss or supervisor and let them know what you processed through in step 2. Tell them what you did, what the consequences are and your ideas for solving any problems if applicable.
- Clean up your mess. Help to clean up the mess if possible. Your manager will be happy to see that you took the initiative to come up with possible solutions to the problem before coming to them, and will be even happier if they do not have to take the time to clean up the mess for you. However, if you are not confident that you can do it yourself, make sure to ask for help!
- Make a plan for prevention. Make a plan to prevent yourself from making the same error again. If you notice that this behavior is a pattern for you, make a solid plan for self-improvement.
- Make a plan for improvement. Sometimes when we make a mistake, we stumble upon a great opportunity. Maybe the mistake isn’t entirely your fault. Maybe there is a flaw in the system or product. Maybe the mistake you made highlights an important issue that needs improvement. If so, why not come up with a plan to improve the issue?!
- Make reparations. If the mistake that you made negatively impacted others, you should absolutely reach out and acknowledge it. Owning your mistake and acknowledging the fact that you tripped them up will not only make them feel better, but it will be a huge weight off of your shoulders.
- Give yourself a break. Last but certainly not least, give yourself a break! We all make mistakes. It can feel like you’ve really dropped the ball and let everyone down when you slip-up at work, but it is never really as bad as it seems in your own head!