We’ve all made that cringe-worthy mistake at work that left us scrambling to figure out how we’ll ever bounce back from it. There’s a spectrum of work mistakes that ranges from “your boss will be a little annoyed” to “you’ve cost the company a fortune”, but most tend to fall somewhere in the middle.
Here’s how you can save face and keep yourself out of the unemployment queue when disaster strikes.
1. Own your mistake
Whether you’ve just realised you stuffed up an order or you cut 40 beams of expensive wood a few inches too short to get the job done, you’ve got to own up to your mistake. Tell your bosses right away. Yes, they might be upset with you, but you’ve got to bite the bullet as it will only get worse if they find out on their own.
Be honest and explain what happened. Take full responsibility and ask how you can correct it. If you can present a potential solution at the time you' fess up, that’s even better.
In addition to telling your boss what you did, you'll need to apologise to those affected by your mistake – there's no way around it. However, it’s best to be brief when you do this. Say what you did wrong and that you’re working to correct it and leave it at that.
There’s no need to go overboard or tell them repeatedly that you feel like an idiot.
3. Ensure it doesn’t happen again
You might think you won’t make the same mistake twice, but it’s still worth taking a look at what led up to your error to ensure it doesn't happen again. Were you rushing to hit a deadline? Did you stay up too late or have a few too many beers the night before? Was your mistake the result of careless reading?
Address any issues that contributed to your error, put safeguards in place if applicable, and if you feel it’s appropriate, tell your boss what you’re doing to ensure there won’t be a repeat.
4. Earn back everyone’s trust
After stuffing up, you'll have to over-deliver for a while - but this doesn't mean you need to hide out in your car on your lunch break until you've earned back trust. Instead, be consistent, do your job well, and people will eventually forgive and forget what happened.
Show them it was a one-off and that you’re valuable, and you’ll bounce back. Everyone has made mistakes, and people can be surprisingly forgiving if you show remorse and dedication.
5. Keep it in perspective.
It’s normal to feel upset with yourself when you mess up at work, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Make sure your emotional response is appropriate for your mistake. If your screw-up is more of the typo or scheduling error variety, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes at work.
If you let yourself fall into a rut of negativity or you feel nervous on the job, you’re only going to make even more mistakes – and your next one might be even harder to dig out of!
The bottom line
Making mistakes is a part of life. It’s how you handle them that will make or break you at work. Whether you’ve made a minor error that only a handful of people know about or your blunder made the headlines, see it for the opportunity it is. You can’t take it back, but you can still impress everyone by showing integrity and grace under fire. Who knows? It might even make for a great story one day!
If you want to be part of a workplace culture that appreciates employees who ‘give it a go,’ contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and get advice from the experts in labour-hire, temp recruitment, permanent and contract staff.