What to do and say after you mess up at work

Thursday November 21 2019
distressed worker

Like in other spheres of our lives, we are bound to make mistakes at the workplace. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


Like in other spheres of our lives, we are bound to make mistakes at the workplace. Poor judgment, disorganisation, misunderstanding, lateness, and lethargy are all factors that can cause us to err while executing various tasks at work. The results of such mistakes can be anything from being reprimanded publicly, a strained relationship with your colleagues, or in extreme cases, being dismissed from work. While the goal is to try as much as possible to avoid making mistakes at work, this article offers suggestions on some of the steps you can take to remedy the situation when you realise that you have messed up while on duty.

Avoid sideshows

When you make a blunder, it is normal to experience feelings of embarrassment, shame and disappointment. Allow yourself to experience these feelings but do not let them linger for too long. The emotions will help you put the situation into perspective, but it is important to understand that a thoughtless emotional response is not required. Be measured in your responses and work towards solving the problem at hand. Avoid getting into sideshows.

Own up

In other words, take responsibility for the mistake you have made. Experts say that one of the regular responses after one has messed up is to try to justify their deeds. However, justifying a mistake makes the problem bigger than it is, and makes your apology ineffective. The sooner you admit to the error, the faster you can move on to the next, more important stage, which is coming up with a way of making things right as soon as possible.

Acknowledge the gravity of your mistake


Weighing the magnitude of your misdeeds will help you know the kind of ramifications to expect. When you appreciate the negative impact which your mistake will have on your company, it will be easier for you to absorb the repercussions without feeling as if your superiors are witch-hunting you. The point is, if you project the damage that your mistake can cause, it will be easier for you to understand why those around you are so displeased with your actions.

Have a plan

If mistakes are what make us human, then learning from mistakes makes us superhuman. Once you have made a mistake, it is important to have a plan of ensuring that you do not repeat it. Whether the gaffe has extreme repercussions such as getting fired, or a stern warning, take steps to prevent the same from happening again. Do you need to ask more questions regarding your future assignments or learn more about your role? Taking measures to keep the error from happening again is an important way of showing that you have learnt something from it.

Rebuild your reputation

Making a mistake could dent your reputation and cloud the image you may have built as a reliable person. You need to understand that everyone makes mistakes — from Henry Ford to Bill Clinton. You should not allow one mistake to derail you or to deter you from your career goals and aspirations. Forgive yourself and remember that you have built a consistent reputation as a good worker. The occasional mishap need not define you.