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Bouncing Back After a Mistake at Work


“Every one of us has made a mistake at work.” “No one is perfect.” “It happens to the best of us!”

No matter how many well-meaning phrases people share after a workplace mess-up, we still want the office floor to open and swallow us whole. While our instinct may be to hide our heads in the sand, doing the opposite may be what’s best for our careers long term.

What are the best ways to fight the urge to close our door for the day and bounce back from a mishap?

Own Up to It

Speaking of instincts, fight the urge to defend yourself, or worse, pass the blame to someone else. People can see straight through it, and no one likes a coworker who isn’t truthful or throws someone else under the bus. Swallow your pride and make a mental note of how not to let it happen again.

Try to Fix It

Chances are, you realized the problem and knew the potential solution immediately. Apologize once (sincerely!) and to the necessary people. Don’t try to hide the mistake, but there’s no sense in announcing it to anyone who doesn’t need to know. Fix the issue as quickly and efficiently as you know how, and if you don’t have a clue, ask for help!

Learn from It and Leave It Behind

Each of us should be constantly tweaking and improving our style of work, so try to chalk it up as a learning moment you’ll likely laugh about one day. Try not to beat yourself up about it and put it behind you. Most likely, others have already forgotten about it. It’s also a good practice to extend the same grace to others when they make a mistake as you’d like yourself.

Debby Carreau of Inspired HR says, “The mistakes you make won’t ruin your career, but how you react to them can.” An employee who can rectify an issue and bounce back adds to your value in the workplace and is something to be proud of! Try not to let the fear of making your next mistake hold you back from taking valuable steps in the future. What good is surviving the mistake if it doesn’t make you better?