Whether due to poor communication, an overbearing work schedule, or forgetfulness, mistakes happen in the workplace. For the strongest employees, it’s not a common occurrence, but it is a certainty.
For the most part, mistakes like forgetting to send an email or double booking yourself are easily fixed and there is no need to trouble your boss with the issue.
Other mistakes, like the ones I will focus on in this blog, require you to repair the damage. They happen, and the way you go about managing the situation will say more about you as an employee than most of what you get right.
Here is how you can handle mistakes like a true professional.
1. Assess the damage and develop a plan of action
How bad is the mistake? What are the overall consequences? Think about how much time you require to fix it and whom you should notify. Give yourself a moment to calm down; when you discover a big mistake it can be easy to panic – that will not help anyone.
The next and most important step is that you have a plan of action before going to your boss.
Start brainstorming how you intend to fix the problem; think about the best possible solutions and some of the questions your boss is likely to ask you when you present them. It is important that you know how you are going to fix it before you go in.
2. Meet with your boss
This is the hard part -- telling your boss about the mistake. The key here is to explain exactly what happened. I recommend you do not omit any information and you ensure that you are humble and apologetic – do not lay blame, just tell the facts.
Immediately present to your boss how you intend to fix the problem and answer any questions they might have. Following your meeting, you should also follow up with your boss on any unanswered questions.
It is likely that your recommendation, if well thought out, will be adopted. Be prepared however for your boss to propose an alternative solution and if that is the decided upon option, run with it.
Keep your boss up to date on the important steps to fixing your mistake and alert everyone who may be impacted.
Be strategic and have confidence that your plan of action is the right one. After a bruising mistake, it can be easy to question yourself.
4. Learn from the experience
As I said at the beginning, mistakes are inevitable, even the ones that require a lot of work to fix. For the most part, assuming your mistake is one of human error and not a breach of moral code, they are forgivable.
Any organization seeking staff who never make mistakes will find themselves with an empty office.
The key is to learn; ask yourself what you could have done differently. While others may be at fault, the most successful employees are those who are self-critical and learn ways to avoid mistakes in future, whether it’s your own mistake or if you must figure out who you need to stay on top of.
If you come away from your mistake a better employee, it’ll be forgotten in no time.