Ugly work mistakes can happen, even if you woke up on the right side of the bed and on the most beautiful day of the year.
And then a major “Oops” happens to ruin it all for you and cast doubts in your mind about how your entire career could potentially come to a sudden end.
Work blunders can be instantaneous. You might have cc’d a client on an internal email where sensitive pricing information exists. You may have traveled to a business meeting that was a week late or early.
Work blunders can be cumulative in nature. You may have had a stressful week, or month, and had cut corners, or assumed when you should have double-checked. Various factors or circumstances eventually ended up in you costing the company clients, revenue, and credibility.
Never panic. Here’s what you should do or not do.
1-Adjust your mistake mindset
Making mistakes feels terrible, but the way we think about them can be key to future learnings, writes The New York Times.
An employee’s fixed mindset that tends to view mistakes as a sign of incompetence usually ends badly, while those with a growth mindset are more likely to be resilient in the face of failure.
A growth mindset is prepared to come up with new strategies and not dwell on fixed mindset reactions like anxiety or stress.
Cliché, but the best lesson you can learn is how to learn from your mistakes. That’s where growth happens.
2-Apologize (the right way)
If you need to apologize for your gaffe, do it swiftly and briefly. Something like “I made a mistake and I’m working on correcting it ASAP.”
Often, that’s the only sentence you need to say without making excuses or admonishing yourself. Don’t beat yourself up (like telling yourself what an idiot you are) and certainly don’t tell the boss that it was such a “dumb mistake to make”. The first is negative self-talk and the second is a permanent negative impression and a black mark on you.
Both no good.
3-Don’t blame others
Errors are usually born out of complacent attitudes or carelessness carried out by many teammates other than you. Even if you are left holding the bag, don’t make the additional mistake of blaming other participants in the mess up. You are bound to have someone say “it’s not my fault” or they could even accuse you of a cover-up. That will create internal strife and rift among peers and superiors, something bosses will avoid at all costs. Being upfront about it will demonstrate professionalism, a trait most employers greatly value.
4-Address the mistake
Be very clear about what you think you should do and what you expect the results to be to avoid future mistakes or fix the current one. Tell your boss how long it will take to implement and about any associated costs. Make sure to have a “Plan B” ready, in case your boss shoots down “Plan A.” Don’t miss the opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
5- Found out what happened and why
Assess the bigger picture. Is life unusually stressful at the moment? Are you fed up with the job, not getting enough sleep, trying to juggle too many clients, or preoccupied with other matters?
What did you do (or not do) that caused it? Is there something you could do differently to prevent similar failures in the future?
Analyze what went wrong and prepare a solution.
At the end of the day, the cheapest mistakes to learn from are someone else’s mistakes. But never be afraid of making them. No success is ever reached without them.