So you made a mistake at work. Maybe you forgot to follow protocol or you blew a big sale. Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world. While you can’t change what happened, you can still turn the situation around in your favor if you handle it properly.
If you made a business blunder, here are a few moves that you can use to save face:
- Own up to your mistake: First things first: admit that you were wrong. Don’t try to hide the error or pass the blame. Proper acceptance allows you to think rationally, and understand where you went wrong. It also gives you a better idea of your available options and how to frame the situation to your boss or supervisor. Be prepared for admonishments or other consequences. Whatever happens, know that at the very least, your superior will admire your honesty and integrity.
- Be part of the solution: You can’t change the past, so why not affect positive change going forward? You now have an opportunity to prove yourself under the pressure of a past mistake. Do whatever it takes to see if you can fix the initial error – call back the customer, apologize to your co-worker, offer to re-work the presentation, etc. If you find that it’s too late to fix and the moment has passed, then focus on future developments. Reconciliation is an ongoing process. Make sure to have a plan of action and a concrete solution before talking to your management.
- Learn from the error: Your reputation may be momentarily tarnished, but the experience you gained is ever lasting. Workplace learning is a bumpy road; no one ever said it would be without challenges. Extract the essential lesson from the experience and make it part of your business strategy.
- Move on: Don’t be crushed by self-doubt or fear of making another mistake. You can’t live in the past. At the end of the day, you should be little wiser. Chin up and get your business face back on. Make sure that if your blunder was because of a system, versus a careless error (for example, forgetting what a customer wanted because you don’t use standardized order forms), change the system. Make sure that you are set up to succeed in your job – nothing is as important.
There’s a popular job interview question that asks: “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake or did something you would approach differently if you had the opportunity…” The interviewer, of course, is testing to see if you’re honest with yourself and if you can learn from your mistakes.
A candidate that claims to have never made a mistake is undesirable in the eyes of the employer because knowing failure is a necessary part of achieving success.
While initially challenging, your workplace blunder can be turned into an opportunity for learning and self-discovery. Use the experience as a springboard rather than a sinking pit – you’ll find yourself back on your feet in no time. Unless you burned down your workplace, you have every chance to recover and come back better than before. Good luck out there!