how to bounce back from a mistake at work

Did you make a work mistake? It happens. We all make mistakes. People make them every day. Even the best of us slip up here and there at work.

Perhaps there was an embarrassing typo in an email you sent to the head of your company, you forgot to send an important file and missed a deadline, or perhaps it was something more important, like choosing an unsuccessful strategy or taking steps that caused your company to lose a customer.

Making a mistake can be embarrassing, worrisome, and can have you questioning yourself. Sure, these are natural ways to feel. The good news is you can recover from a mistake.

recover from a work mistake

7 tips to recover from a mistake

Mistakes happen. It’s how you handle them that matters most. So, don’t drown in self-pity. Make things right, make changes, and show your colleagues, manager, and company how you’ll get things back on track. If you make a work mistake, use these tips to get back on track:

1. take responsibility

The first thing you need to do is own the mistake. This can be difficult, but it’s a very important first step toward making things right. Avoid making excuses and blaming others or extenuating circumstances. This is all too common. Take ownership – people will respect you for it.

2. genuinely apologize

People are generally understanding when a mistake is made. If you think an apology is needed, make it genuine. Immediately contact the person(s) affected and tell them you are sorry for what has happened. Keep it short and to the point. There is no need for long justifications or an explanation of the things that led up to the mistake.

3. offer a solution

It’s how you handle the mistake that matters. Once you notice you’ve made a mistake, start to think of ways you can rectify the situation. Going into your boss’s office to tell them you made a mistake is one thing, but telling them you made a mistake and then offering a number of potential solutions for how you can fix the issue is a better approach. They will appreciate that you not only owned the mistake and apologized, but you are already trying to fix it.

4. keep things in perspective

Don’t go overboard and beat yourself up about the fact you made a mistake. Keep things in perspective and consider the severity and impact of the mistake. What’s the impact? If it’s minor, accept it and move on. If it’s more serious, then you may have some cause for concern.

5. look at the processes that led to the mistake

This is important. Making a mistake is forgivable, but making the same mistake two or more times will not be as accepted. Once you’ve come up with a solution to fix the mistake, look into the steps that let up to the mistake happening. Was there an oversight? Did you skip a step? Were you rushing your work and forgot to review it? Was there something you could have done to prevent the mistake from happening? Understand how the mistake was made.

6. determine how to prevent a re-occurrence

If you don’t want to make the same mistake twice, you need to understand how to prevent it from happening again. For smaller mistakes, this may be obvious; but for larger mistakes, it may not be immediately apparent. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk with your boss and colleagues about ways to prevent the mistake from happening. If you are making the mistake, others could make the same mistake as well. Collaborate with others to create a game plan to avoid and manage the mistake in the future.

7. commit to earning back trust

Trust can be lost when a mistake is made. Even if you’ve taken steps to correct the issue, there may be some underlying trust issues that need to be addressed. Saying you won’t make the mistake again is a good start, but actions speak louder than words. Prove to those affected that you have learned from your mistake by doing a great job. Even the biggest mistakes can be forgotten over time.

Making a mistake is part of your career growth and development. It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and be a better professional going forward. Making work mistakes is common. It’s how you handle the situation and improve for next time that determines what kind of worker you are!

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