Make a Mistake at Work? Post Mistake Dos and Don’ts

Mistakes are a part of life. They happen at the office, at home, and everywhere in between and the severity of their consequences will vary. Some mistakes will have immediate results while others can take weeks, even months to fully feel, but how you react to the initial mistake will be the true test of your integrity and personal strength. The biggest problem when a mistake is made is sometimes not the mistake itself but rather the timing of it and how quickly it is realized. By getting out ahead of the mistake, the damages can usually be mitigated and the mistake can be a lesson rather than a complete disaster.

After the Mistake

The minute you realize you made a mistake at work, you probably want to hide under your desk or use up your vacation days – but resist that urge. Figure out exactly what you did wrong, quickly, and start addressing the potential problems. The true test of how you recover from the mistake will be how you fix the problem. There are several steps you can take to regain the trust of your team and those in leadership over you:

  • Admit the mistake. It shows you have guts and integrity when you step up to the plate and say you were responsible. When you avoid the inevitable, the results can snowball in a negative way.
  • Accept responsibility. Don’t try to make the negative impact a group effort, even if you feel justified. The person to take responsibility will be the one who may bear the brunt of the consequences but it can also be the best way to demonstrate your own integrity.
  • Actively fix the mistake. If it’s a big one, you may not be able to fix it right away but offer a real plan for how you will make it better. Make a full effort to do what you can to lessen the negative impact, even if the damage is already done.
  • Always learn. In the quiet of your own thoughts, take an inventory of why you made that mistake. Were you distracted with your personal life? Did you try to rush through the project? Do you need to reeducate yourself on the proper techniques or methods? Maybe next time, take an extra five minutes to check over your work or read an email before sending.
  • Avoid the same mistake. It is only human to make a mistake and many times you can recover from it, regardless of the impact. Make the same mistake more than once and you may not be so lucky.

Everyone will make mistakes but you can recover from them. Sometimes the mistakes can be the stepping stone on which you grow and become a stronger person. This will translate to becoming a more effective employee and eventually a more understanding leader in future roles. Check out our related blog posts or contact our experienced recruiting team to discuss your career path.


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