Mess up at Work? Don't Do This...

Upset female office worker reading unpleasant message

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We all make mistakes on the job, but it’s how you handle it afterward that matters. Handling your workplace slip-up the right way can make or break how big a deal it is. Keeping your small mistake from turning into something huge is all in what you do - and don’t do next.

This is what not to do to make your mess up at work even worse.

  • First: Don’t lose your cool - The fastest way to lose control of the mistake is to lose perspective. Sure, it may feel like the end of the world in the heat of the moment, but chances are, it’s not. So, take a deep breath and try not to freak out as you consider:
    • How easily can this be fixed?
    • Who does this immediate impact?
    • Will this have a long-term impact?
    • Has anyone else made this mistake before?
    • And for perspective ask yourself, How would you feel if a coworker made this mistake?
  • Don’t go overboard with the apologies - Owning your mistake is good, but overdoing it with the “I’m so sorrys” can do more harm than good. Try to include your plan for fixing the situation and then be ready to stop talking about it, even if you’re still obsessing on the inside.
  • Don’t try to hide your mistake - Trying to delay or keep others from finding out about your slip-up is even worse than over-apologizing. So don’t let your ego get in the way and try to be open and honest.
  • Don’t keep making the same mistake - Make sure you’re learning from the error so you can prevent it from happening again.
  • And finally, don’t beat yourself up - It’s so easy to be overly critical of yourself when you mess up at work, but you’re better off trying to get out of your own head. Show yourself some compassion and channel your energy away from obsessing over the problem and into finding a fix, then let yourself move on.


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