Let’s face facts; we all make mistakes. Often, it’s something small, like forgetting to add an attachment to an email, and can easily be recovered. But, from time to time, your error may be a bigger deal, and you may worry about the damage to your reputation or the cost to the business.

When you do make a big mistake, it’s easy to worry about what is going to happen next. But, it’s important you don’t let your anxiety take over, as that can make things worse. So, before the stress builds up, here’s what you need to do to get things back under control.

Don’t Hang on to Negative Feelings

Right after a mistake happens, it’s natural to feel upset, embarrassed or frustrated by what occurred. However, those emotions should be fleeting, no matter the size of the error.

Holding on to negative feelings won’t help you move forward, so it’s important to release any built-up stress in a healthy way if you can’t immediately shake off the mistake. For example, consider going for a run, journaling about the experience or talking to a friend. This can help you get re-centered, making it easier to recover.

In most cases, a misstep at work isn’t a life-or-death scenario, and can often be corrected almost immediately after it occurs.

Take Responsibility

Trying to hide a mistake rarely works out, so it’s better to own up if it is something that will inevitably be discovered by others. If your error harmed someone or the business, apologize immediately, but keep it brief. You can simply say, “I’m sorry,” and explain you are working to correct the issue. Don’t try to justify or excuse your mistake, just admit it happened, apologize and work to make things right.

Then, do everything you can to repair any damage that may have been done. Exactly what is required from you will vary depending on the mistake, but make yourself available in case there is something you can do to help.

If there are negative repercussions, accept them with grace. After that, you will have to demonstrate through your future actions you can be trusted again.

Learn Everything You Can

Ultimately, a mistake can be an excellent learning experience. Review what went wrong, and then use that information to create a plan to ensure you won’t make that error a second time. For example, if you forgot an important deadline, consider how you can improve your processes to make tracking that information easier or consider using a new approach if your previous one wasn’t effective.

In some cases, discussing your plan with your manager may be beneficial, especially if the error harmed the business in some way. This shows you are working to improve and they can rest assured knowing you won’t let it happen again.

Normally, a single mistake won’t derail your career, but working hard to correct the issue and prevent it in the future can go a long way when it comes to mending your reputation and repairing any damage.


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