Handling & Moving Forward from Mistakes Made at Work

No one likes to make mistakes, especially at work. But we’re all human, which means that mistakes are inevitable. Instead of beating yourself up, focus on moving forward. Ultimately, it’s not the mistake that matters, it’s how you handle it afterward. Here are some tips for handling mistakes made at work:

Tell Your Boss

Your first instinct might be to hide the mistake, but this can cause more problems in the long run. Owning up to your mistake shows that you’re honest, committed to your work, and eager to learn. But how should you go about admitting it?

  • Take responsibility: Don’t point fingers at other people or make excuses. And don’t beg for forgiveness. Simply take the direct approach. Clearly explain what happened, and then apologize.
  • Suggest solutions: Your mistake led to some sort of problem that now needs to be fixed. Rather than dropping the problem in your supervisor’s lap, make a couple of suggestions for how you can fix it.
  • Focus on others: Your mistake may have led to trouble for customers, coworkers, vendors, or someone else. Show empathy for the people who were affected and focus your solutions on them. If appropriate, offer to speak with them directly about what happened.
  • Provide context: Beyond fixing the immediate damage, your boss will want to brainstorm ways to avoid the mistake in the future. Provide as much context as possible about the situation so that you can work together on a plan for prevention.

Rebuild Trust

Taking responsibility for your mistake will go a long way toward preserving your reputation, but it’s not enough on its own. In the days and weeks that follow, pay particular attention to professionalism. Make sure you show up on time with a positive attitude. Work hard and prove your dependability. Your mistake will soon fade into the background as you show your trustworthiness over time. This is also a good time to seek feedback from your supervisor. It helps to understand how he/she believes you can improve or avoid further mistakes.

Practice Self-Care

Mistakes are a part of life, but they tend to occur more frequently when you’re not at your best. Taking care of your mind, body, and soul will help you be more fully present and aware at work. Make a new commitment to practicing healthy habits, taking downtime, and working on any challenges you have outside of work.

After addressing your mistake and solving the problem, let go of it. Mistakes lead to growth, making you a better employee in the long run. If your manager gives you a hard time about it, you may want to reassess your work situation. Good supervisors help employees learn from their mistakes, and take the opportunity to build a more solid work relationship – especially in the first few months of a new job.

Mistakes happen…we all make them. Often times how you handle mistakes made at work is more important than the mistake itself. As with many things in life, it’s necessary to correct problems, ensure they don’t happen again, then move on and forward.

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