You’ve made a mistake at work. You’re only human – it happens to the best of us. Whether you’ve made a minor mess up that requires extra time to fix or a major mishap that will take a while to unravel, it’s going to be okay!
You might be embarrassed, but you can move past it. These should be your first steps to minimizing damage and accepting that it does happen, but it isn’t the end of the world.
Your natural reaction is probably going to be panic. As your body enters the fight-or-flight response, you might get anxious, sweaty, and your heartbeat will rise as you try to figure out just what went wrong.
Don’t panic. Take a few deep breaths and try to look at the situation as calmly, and rationally, as you can. In your panicked state, it’s totally possible that you will just continue to make more mistakes trying to fix your initial screw up!
Don’t beat yourself up too much. Everyone is going to make a mistake at some point in their career, and most people will do so more than once. Don’t be too hard on yourself or beat yourself up over it, because that won’t do you any good! Does being a jerk to you really make the mistake go away? No? Then move on.
What Went Wrong?
At this point, you should be calm, and you should be done with your anger or bitterness towards yourself for the mistake. What is your next step?
Analyze what exactly went wrong.
What did you do that caused the mistake? Or, what didn’t you do that put you into this situation? What steps should have been taken in order to prevent this in the first place, and how can safeguards be put into place going forward so that this doesn’t happen again?
If you need to, write it all out on scrap paper to keep details fresh and relevant in your mind, because this is going to come up later when you talk to someone higher up on the food chain about the issue!
How Can You Fix It?
You know the reason something went wrong, now. Let’s look at how to fix it.
Can it be fixed? Is it an easy fix or a major one? What time involvement are we talking about, ten minutes or ten days? A month?
Write out possible solutions to the problem and the steps you need to take to get there. Being prepared is very important for our next step, which is…
Own Up to It
Look, someone is going to find out about your mistake at some point. Even if you fix it right this second, you can’t hide it forever. You need to own up to your mistake with your boss and deal with the consequences.
You have notes on what went wrong. You know how to fix it. And you know how to prevent it from happening again going forward.
Take all of your information to your boss and be humble and honest. Explain what went wrong, how you screwed up, and how you’ll make it right. If your step to find solutions wasn’t as fruitful as you hoped, ask your boss to brainstorm with you to fix it.
This is the most important step there is. Don’t make excuses, don’t shift the blame, and don’t dance around the problem. That also makes it the hardest step on this list, because no one likes to admit when they did something wrong.
If you come in prepared, with facts, and solutions, this is going to go much smoother for you.
You can bounce back from any mistake you make, as long as you follow these steps 100% and work to ensure that these mistakes aren’t happening going forward.