You made a mistake...now what?
Owning up to your mistakes in the workplace. We’re not talking about minor typographical errors in emails. You know these types of errors – they are the kind that at the moment you are made aware of them you feel sick in the stomach and break out in a light sweat. You may have sent an email to the wrong person, or – completely overlooked an important deadline or-missed a meeting because you looked at the
wrong date in your calendar.
I have made these kinds of mistakes a number of times – usually when I’m trying to juggle a number of balls, am under time pressure or have not made time to check my work properly. Or it might happen when you might be under particular stress in your home life, or your health may not be 100%. Whatever the reason, it is zero fun to go through the experience.
In one role, I had prepared material for my Manager and a key piece of information was not correct. I had not taken the time to double check that single item.
While that may not have been a cardinal sin in itself, my Manager had provided a presentation based on the [incorrect] information I had provided. I was mortified that I had put my Manager in that position. While not pleasant by any means, there are things to remember that help you work through the process of dealing with your own mistakes so that you come out the other side with not only your reputation intact but arguably more importantly - your self-esteem.
● Bring the matter to the attention of your manager as soon as is practicable
Don’t delay. As soon as you know and understand the consequences – raise it with your
Manager. Don’t even think about trying to hide it (some mistakes are impossible to hide).
Depending on the impact of the mistake, your Manager may not be pleased but raising the matter early brings you a level of respect for fronting up and owning up.
● Take responsibility for your part in the mistake
And whatever you do don’t make excuses or play the blame game if others were involved. There may have been mitigating circumstances but be honest about your part in the error. Plenty of others will be side-stepping responsibility and pointing fingers in similar situations but it is refreshing to have a dose of honesty and integrity in the workplace. That can come from you.
● Remember everyone is human, forgive yourself – learn from it and then move on
You may consider the step of confession is the hardest, but actually I find that this step is the most challenging. There is a temptation to beat oneself up over a mistake and dwell on it much too long after the event. If you are in a busy workplace, there is far too much going on that needs yours attention rather than wallowing in self-recrimination.
You are not the first person to make a mistake in the workplace and you won’t be the last. It is also in your best interests not to raise the matter again and to look forward and move on.
● Positive personal and professional development comes from treating your
mistakes as a reason to learn, grow and improve
Recognise your value and note the asset you are to your company. Mistakes and
imperfections are an important part of growth. In reality none of us would be any good at anything if we didn’t go through a learning process. Be vigilant, and take steps to try not to make that particular mistake again.
How you handle yourself in difficult times like this in the workplace creates your professional brand. Owning up and showing some vulnerability is an extremely powerful act and shows that you are teachable and willing to improve. Long after the finer details of your mistake have faded from the corporate memory – what will linger is your professionalism and your integrity.
● Remember you will in all probability, make a mistake in the future so move
forward with grace (and a sense of humour)
While we would like to kid ourselves into thinking that “I’ll never make another mistake
again in my job” – the reality is something will happen again. Carrying that humble thought in your figurative back pocket provides you with the freedom and ease to have some lightness about it.
Okay some mistakes are pretty serious – especially if they cost your company money – but we’re pitching these comments to those things that are redeemable – and most things ARE redeemable. So chin up – if it happens to you – look around the office and note that somewhere in the annals of time – each one of your work colleagues could tell their own stories – and some of them would tell you them while smiling. One day you’ll do the same.
DotPointz to remember when you make a mistake in the workplace;
● Bring it to the attention of your manager as soon as you know
● Take responsibility for your part in the mistake
● Remember everyone is human, forgive yourself – learn from it and move on
● Positive personal and professional development comes from treating your mistakes as
a reason to learn, grow and improve
● You are highly likely to make other (different) mistakes in the future – everyone does
– smile – keep doing your best