Steps to Take When You Make a Mistake at Work:
Everybody makes mistakes, but when a mistake happens at work how you react to the situation can matter more than the mistake itself. Sometimes the mistakes may be small, like a spelling error, and don’t require much action on your part but other mistakes may have unintended consequences. Correcting your mistake seems like the natural quick fix, but that isn’t all that you should do when you make a serious mistake at work.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is important to truly hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your mistake at work. If a mistake happens you need to immediately let your leader know what happened. Trying to cover-up a situation will likely come back to haunt you and when it does your boss will worry that they have a credibility problem on their hands because you didn’t come to them and own the mistake. Taking responsibility demonstrates your candor and professionalism in times of crisis.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Taking responsibility doesn’t mean that you let this mistake destroy your self-esteem. If you’re a perfectionist you’re likely to be even more hard on yourself when you slip-up. Don’t become your own worst enemy or beat yourself up in your mind, that doesn’t do anything to fix the mistake or to stop future mistakes from happening. Take a mental step back and view the situation as if one of your coworkers or direct reports did it, would you chastise them the same way you’re talking to yourself in your head? Probably not. Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat someone else who made the same mistake.
Propose a Solution
When you’re taking responsibility and presenting the mistake to your boss don’t just drop a problem in their lap, offer a solution. Ideally you should have a solution when meeting with your boss to take responsibility but if time doesn’t allow for that at least let your boss know your next steps and what you plan on doing to be able to provide them with a solution. Your solution should address how you plan on fixing the mistake, ensuring that it does not happen again and any details about implementing the solution like cost or timeframe. How you handle fixing this mistake could show your ability to think clearly under pressure, solve a problem and think creatively to fix issues with processes or procedures.
Don’t dwell on the mistake or keep circling back to it in your mind. If your mind wanders back to the mistake just acknowledge it and remind yourself of the solution you’ve crafted and move on through the rest of your day.