Handling a Slip-Up at Work

It happens to the best of us. Sometimes we make a mistake on the job. These slip-ups can range from a minor, yet embarrassing, “Whoops!” to more a serious and potentially career damaging “Uh oh!”

Regardless of the situation, remind yourself, this isn’t the end of the world. You may need time, but you can overcome missteps by following this seven-step strategy.

  1. Don’t Panic
    When disaster strikes, your first instinct will be fight or flight. This is human nature. However, don’t give into these emotions. They will only get you into more trouble. Take a deep breath, stay calm and move on to Step 2.
  2. Accept Responsibility
    Admitting you messed up can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if your error may have a negative effect on your career aspirations. Nevertheless, you need to take accountability. Be open and honest about your shortcomings, and absolutely DO NOT try to place blame on others. At this point, you need to be the bigger person.
  3. Put Things in Perspective
    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Yes. You could lose your job, go broke and end up living in a cardboard box on the street. But, is this scenario all that likely? Even if you are fired, you probably will find a way get back on your feet more quickly than expected. Some of the world’s most successful people, from J.K. Rowling to Steve Jobs, experienced major setbacks before becoming household names. You too can prevail.
  4. Give Yourself a Chance to Recover
    Understand this process may be painful. You may feel terrible about yourself and as though you let people down. And, some of your colleagues may be less forgiving than others. Give yourself a day or two to feel bad. Then, get up, brush yourself off and focus on what to do next. You don’t need to expend energy on something you can’t change.
  5. Make a Game Plan for Next Time
    Identify what led to this error. Were you rushing through your work, multitasking, not paying attention to details, ignoring directions or just being stupid. Instead of letting history repeat itself, learn from your mistake and take steps to prevent this from happening again.
  6. Apologize
    Say, “I’m sorry,” to anyone involved swiftly and briefly. You don’t need to grovel, justify, offer excuses or publicly beat yourself up. Simply recognize what you did wrong and, if you wish, concisely explain how you are working toward a solution.
  7. Earn Back Respect
    The best way to show you are genuinely sorry is by doing better next time. You may need to be on top of your game for quite some time before you regain people’s trust. However, if you are truly dedicated and committed, your slip-up eventually will become a distant memory.

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