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If You Just Made a Big Mistake at Work, Here’s What to Do

To err is human. Everybody makes mistakes. But when a blunder happens at work, it can be embarrassing, humiliating or worse. Or at least it feels that way.

When it happens to you, take a deep breath. You will get through it – and there are helpful steps you can take towards recovery and damage control.

Admit Your Mistake

As soon as you realize you messed up, immediately tell your boss or project manager. If you try to hide it, you could end up looking a lot worse. Being up front about it demonstrates professionalism, a trait most employers greatly value.

  • Don’t point fingers. Even if it was a team blunder, own your mistake.

Keep It in Perspective

Make sure your emotional response is proportional to the severity of your error. Usually, it’s not a life-or-death situation.

  • Confront your worst-case scenario. Sometimes, the mind exaggerates and distorts the potential consequences of a mistake. This can stress you out to the point where you’ll make more blunders going forward. So, face up to your worst-case scenario, and then make peace with it.
  • Say to yourself, “Okay, I did something seriously wrong. And maybe I’ll even get fired as a result. (If you’re a good employee who made an honest error, probably not.) Even if that happens, I will survive. I am resourceful and creative, and I won’t let this derail my life or my career.”

Apologize Appropriately

Apologize for your mistake promptly, swiftly and briefly. Simply acknowledge your error, explain how you will correct it, and move on.

  • Don’t make excuses or offer justifications. People are usually so focused on their own goals, projects and issues that chances are they’ve already forgotten about what you did – or they soon will. There’s no need to elaborate or stretch it out.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. If you keep calling attention to your error, that’s what will stick in people’s minds.

What Would You Do Differently?

Find out what you need to change, to avoid making the same mistake again. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

  • Come up with a plan to rectify your error. Try to do this even before you approach your boss, but don’t waste time if you can’t. Instead, provide reassurance that you’re actively working on a solution.

Look Out for Number One

Was your blunder the result of your not being at peak performance level, perhaps due to lack of sleep or otherwise not feeling 100 percent?

  • Persistent lack of sleep will catch up to you. It can result in impaired attention, alertness and concentration. Some studies show that working while sleepy is just as detrimental as working under the influence of alcohol.
  • Other performance barriers include poor nutrition, dehydration, sitting too long and lack of exercise. Treat yourself like a pro athlete: Sleep, train, work, fuel, sleep – and repeat.

To help you take care of yourself, your performance and your career growth, turn to the professional staffing experts at PrideStaff Fresno. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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