Everyone makes mistakes. We’ve all heard that statement, and yet when we make a mistake at work, we often panic. What should we do in this situation? Should we correct the error and bring it to someone’s attention, or should we walk away, hoping others miss it? I guarantee that you have employees struggling with this question every day.
The truth is that the answer depends on the mistake. We can correct some errors within our work processes without issue. However, there are mistakes made at work that can be serious. Some mistakes made at work that can be serious. Some mistakes can endanger a client relationship or cause legal problems for yourself and your employer.
Upon discovering the error, don’t react right away. Instead, analyze the situation by asking some essential questions:
- What was the mistake?
- What steps led to the mistake?
- What are the actual consequences of the mistake?
- What can we do differently?
- How can this be prevented in the future?
If the mistake is something that you can address, act immediately. If the goof is not fixable, come up with a couple of solutions to the problem before stepping away from your station.
In my opinion, the essential step to take after a mistake is to admit the error. Your boss should be informed as soon as possible once you discover the misstep. If you try and hide the blunder, you will end up looking dishonest, which can be career suicide. Be upfront, demonstrate professionalism, and prove good character by stepping forward and admitting the issue.
Apologize if necessary, but do not make excuses or try to justify the situation. A simple statement is all that is needed: “I made a mistake, and I’m working on correcting it ASAP.”
Embarrassment, shame, and worry are normal feelings to experience in this scenario. Take a deep breath. You will get through this and have a chance to enhance your reputation in the process. How you choose to move forward will play a significant role.
Allow yourself to feel awful in response to a stressful situation. Do not dwell on those emotions, though; let the feeling pass and find a solution to move forward. There are few jobs where making an error is a life-or-death situation.
Refrain from negative self-talk. Ask for constructive feedback from others after they’ve reviewed the situation. Use the error as a chance to learn and grow. If you learn from the circumstances, you will not repeat the mistake.
There may be consequences for some of our mistakes, but our mind often exaggerates and distorts the “could be” consequences. Whatever the result is, accept it and be at peace. If you are typically a high performer and the error is unintentional, chances are you will be fine.