From sending an email to the wrong person to making a mistake that damaged your company’s credibility, we’ve all slipped up at work. It’s part of life, but that doesn’t always make it easier to recover from when you feel as if the whole office is watching.
Nobody enjoys making mistakes, but usually they will teach you a valuable lesson. You may feel as though your career is hanging by a thread, but there are ways to recover with your dignity intact – and maybe even with a reputation as a quick-thinking, natural problem solver.
Hold your hands up. Don’t try to hide your error in the hopes that you can fix it before it gets spotted – covering up mistakes will cause more issues down the line if they are discovered. You don’t need to tell the whole office, but flag it up with your line manager and any colleagues who may be impacted by it and who may be able to help.
Think of a solution
The top priority should be to either undo the mistake or, failing that, find a way to salvage the situation. Although your first reaction may be to panic, it’s important to stay calm and keep your mind as clear as possible in order to think through your plan of action. Once you’ve got this in place, present it to your colleagues to show you are taking ownership of your mistake and trying to minimise the impact.
If you want the way you handled the mistake to be more memorable than the mistake itself, you need to handle it graciously. Don’t point fingers or reel off excuses – apologise to whoever may have been affected by your error. You don’t have to grovel or berate yourself, but show that you acknowledge what has happened and the impact it might have on others.
The best way to move on from a mistake is to be proactive. For example, if it highlighted an issue in your organisation’s HR systems, you could suggest a solution to ensure it won’t happen again in the future, such as implementing new software. Going the extra mile with your work will remind your colleagues of your positive contributions to the workplace and help you to start rebuilding trust.
It can be easy to spiral into a negative mindset and convince yourself that you’ve ruined your career, but don’t hand in your resignation letter just yet! There may be consequences as a result of your mistake, but the best way to deal with them is to just accept them and move on. Forgive yourself for what happened and learn from it.