On the Job Mistake? Here’s How to Move Forward

June 7th, 2013

In the words of the great English poet Alexander Pope, “To err is human.” What that essentially means is, mistakes happen. But how do you handle an on-the-job mishap that goes beyond a simple error and has potentially damaging ramifications for you, your boss, or even your company?

Job-related mistakes can feel devastating. And in fact, they may be quite serious, but they are not the end of the world. You can beat yourself up over them – but only for a minute. Then, you need to change your mindset from one of self-flagellation to one of ownership and proactive leadership. Take responsibility, take the right steps toward fixing things, and learn from it.

We like to call this a “correction plan.”

You Made a Mistake. Now What?

As soon as you realize your mistake, do everything in your power to make things right:

  • Be up front and honest. Notify the right people, including anyone else involved in the action or project that resulted in the mistake.  Admit your error, be mature and take responsibility.
  • Tell your boss, apologize, and encourage those who may share responsibility to follow your example.
  • Don’t make excuses. Focus on what matters most: what you’re going to do to fix your mistake. Even if you had a really good excuse for the slip up, take full responsibility and move on.
  • Do damage control in whatever way, shape or form is needed. Come in early, stay late and work through lunch if that’s what it takes. Make it crystal clear that you understand the seriousness of the situation and intend to rectify it.
  • Brace yourself for any repercussions and be ready to face the consequences.
  • Be patient. You may need to work extremely hard for a while – and yes, it will take time – in order to earn back trust.
  • Learn from your mistake. Evaluate what went wrong and what can be done differently the next time around.

Could It Have Been Prevented?

Just as mistakes are inevitable, hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to preventing them. But there are tactics to avoid or minimize future on-the-job errors:

  • If you need feedback on a task or there’s something you don’t understand, ask. You may want to set up a quick meeting with your boss or project leader for this purpose.
  • Get clarification up front on as many project details as possible.
  • Keep communication lines open. Don’t assume people know everything you know – or everything you think they should know – when they’re working with or for you. And take the same approach with your superiors.

Nobody enjoys making mistakes or suffering the collateral damage, but successful people learn from the experience and become better leaders as a result. So when the inevitable happens to you, handle it with the right “corraction plan.” In doing so, you’ll prove yourself as someone who can move past and learn from adversity.

Contact Select Group for further guidance in developing your leadership strengths, including how to effectively handle a crisis or damage control situation.

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