Messed up at work? It’s not the end of the world.

by | 30.03.23

Have you made a big mistake at work? Maybe a costly mistake that could damage your employers earnings, credibility or public image. Or maybe you made a mistake that simply makes you look like a complete idiot. Feeling embarrassed? Ashamed? Worried that your professional credibility is hanging by a thread? Take a deep breath, you can get over any mistake in life you make, everyone does, here’s some tips on how to do it:

Don’t panic

Making mistakes at work is a fact of life, whether you’re in the office or working from home. There are times when we all wish we had double-checked what we have done, reread an email before sending it or removed our foot from our mouths before speaking. Though it feels terrible, there is a lot to learn from making mistakes at work.

You’re not alone

You are definitely not alone. Making a mistake is just one of the challenging situations everyone faces. It ranks up there with having a conflict with a work mate, personal problems and dealing with a heavy workload. Once you acknowledge your error and take steps to correct it you will emerge wiser and more capable of handling greater challenges ahead.

Forgive yourself

After making a mistake on the job you are likely to feel embarrassed, worried or frustrated. Maybe you had a busy day, rushed your work and made a silly mistake. You’re mortified that your mistake will cast a shadow over your performance forever. I promise you it won’t. acknowledge what happened and then let it go – no-one is perfect.

Keep things in perspective

It can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you’re upset with yourself, but try to make sure your emotional response is proportional to the blunder you made. With very few exceptions – like if you are a pilot, surgeon or soldier – making an error at work is not a life-or-death situation and most mistakes can be resolved or corrected right away.

Confess and take responsibility

Although it’s important to understand why the mistake happened, this is no time for excuses. Take responsibility, apologise to all affected parties and promise to do better in the future. Avoid blaming team mates or circumstances although you may want to consider what led you to make the mistake in the first place. Owning up displays confidence in your abilities – so confess!

Do what you can to set things right

Create and communicate your plan to set things right such as volunteering to work extra hours to undo the damage you have caused. If you have caused a ripple effect that is now out of your ability to put right let your boss know you need help. When the dust settles follow up to see if there are any additional things you can do to ensure the same mistake doesn’t happen twice.

Avoid a next time

Create a game plan for the next time. Evaluate what you need to do to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen. Were you working beyond your ability? Were you rushing in order to meet a deadline and missing important details in the process? If you find an issue that you can address – do so. For extra measure tell your boss about how you are going to prevent mistakes in the future.

Take stock of what you’ve learned

This is where you can find the silver lining. This experience could reveal hiccups in your process or help you be more careful in the future. Ask yourself “what will I try to do differently?”. Ask your boss how you could have avoided this blunder. You may have thought you understood the process only to discover you do not. Think of yourself as someone who embraces lifelong learning.

Earn back trust

The best way to earn peoples trust and admiration is to constantly deliver great work. Do that and the occasional bout of forgetfulness or slip up here and there are likely to be quickly forgiven and forgotten. One mistake even a big one does not have to derail your life or career.

Get back to work or move on

Don’t dwell. This mistake was one moment in your career, likely amid lots of success. So get back into your daily work while applying your new insight. Focus on your ongoing self-awareness and improvement, while regaining faith in yourself and restoring it within your team. Failure is part of life and your response to it will demonstrate your professionalism and resistance.

So to summarise, get over your mistake, don’t let it define you. No-one is perfect, neither is anyone infallible. If you find yourself after making a mistake hating your job, or if you are sacked because of your mistake – move on. Get yourself a new job you will be comfortable in.

Good Luck!

Angela Burton