You know that feeling when you text the wrong person? That sinking feeling. Like your stomach just hit the floor. We all dread those moments. Mistakes are inevitable and worst of all, they have no self-control. They even have the nerve to happen when we’re at work. How dare they.
Raise your hand if you’ve made a mistake at work. Unfortunately--or fortunately--we all have our hands up. You’re not alone. Making a mistake at work is a given. And since that’s the case, it’s advisable to have a recovery plan for moving forward.
Here are five steps for picking yourself up after a mistake.
Step One. Don’t panic. Or more realistically, panic quickly, then get your life together. It’s going to be A-OK. You cannot move forward when there’s an emergency alarm blasting in your head. Take some deep breaths and recognize that mistakes happen to the best of us. You will move past this. Yes, it may be difficult. Depending on the severity of the mistake and the magnitude of the impact, it may take time to recover, but you got this.
Step Two. Fess up. One thing that quickly makes a mistake worse, is passing the blame onto someone (or something) else. “Uhh, the office cat ate my proposal.” No. Fess up. Take responsibility. Owning up to your mistake demonstrates professional maturity and indicates that you are not only disappointed about the mistake, but you are disappointed that you let it happen. It can be as simple as saying, “That’s on me.”
Step Three. Apologize. Once you take ownership, it’s important to apologize to everyone you impacted. One caveat, if you hit “Reply All” instead of “Reply”, do not “Reply All” to apologize. That’s a cardinal sin in my book, but I digress. In majority of other cases, it’s appropriate to take a minute to briefly apologize (without wasting additional time).
Step Four. Analyze what led to the mistake. Sometimes this is easy, like the “Reply All” mistake. Other times, the cause is more complicated. You read something incorrectly that led you down a rabbit hole to researching the wrong topic and developing a presentation for the wrong client. Regardless of the severity, it’s important to know why you made the mistake so you can prevent it from happening again.
Step Five. Make changes. What will you do differently as the result of this mistake? Steps 1-4 are nullified if you make the same mistake again. In addition, the effort to rebuild your credibility will exponentially increase as a repeat offender. Save yourself from this embarrassment and devise action plan to prevent the same error.
Mistakes are undoubtedly crappy. No one wants to make them. Take your time to apologize and focus on making things better. Pay attention to details, double-check your work, and prove you are reliable.