After having several jobs in a short period of time, between internships, temporary assignments, project work and my full time job, I know what it's like to make mistakes. In fact, I know a lot about navigating an office environment.
We all make mistakes at work. They happen. It's not easy when you're just starting out to be making errors, because it isn't very good for your self esteem in your position. However, if we handle the mistakes gracefully, we can learn from them and are more unlikely to repeat them.
Here are a few tips about handling mistakes at work:
Own Up to Them
If you make a mistake at work, own up to it. Deflecting, making excuses or blaming it on other circumstances or people will only be harmful. If you find yourself trying to find a way to hide it or get around it, stop and reorient yourself.
If you don’t own up to it and somebody recognizes that, it can make you look bad and reflect poorly on your teamwork skills and self awareness.
Usually, just a simple “my mistake” will work. If it’s a big, bad mistake, a more formal apology may be necessary.
Learn From Them
I would strongly recommend that when you make a mistake at work, you reflect on the error and think about how you could have changed the situation, what made you made that mistake, and what you can do next time.
For instance, if I was on a deadline writing an email and called the person by the wrong name, I might stop and think about WHY the mistake was made.
Was I rushed? Was I being lazy? Is there a pattern with the results of this exercise between now and previous mistakes? If there is, there might be a trigger. If I’m rushed, I make a lot more mistakes than if I have plenty of time. If I’m writing an important memo, I might make more errors because I’m nervous about sending it and making it perfect, so I overlook the little things. Maybe next time, I need to have somebody look over the email or memo prior to me sending it out.
Keep this in mind the next time you are doing a similar task, because making the same mistake twice can reflect poorly on you.
Apologize, Correct Yourself, and Move On
You may be embarrassed about your mistake, but if it’s a little mistake, chances are nobody noticed or cared. Things that might seem like a big deal to you may not even register on other people’s radar. Don’t make a bigger deal out of a minor error than you need to; simply apologize, correct your error, and move on.
Fix The Mistake (Don't Make Others Deal With It)
A little mistake will become a big deal to a different party if they have to fix it. Nobody should have to fix an error that they didn’t perform, so be sure to rectify the mistake as soon as possible to minimize any inconvenience to others.
Making errors at work can be embarrassing and many people become defensive or evasive when faced with a mistake that they made. However, the best way to handle a mistake is to own up to it, fix it, and be sure to learn from the mistake.
For more posts in the Career series, please see below:
- Why You Should Engage in Office Politics
- How to Have Awkward Conversations at Work
- How Companies Can Retain Younger Workers
- Why You Should Be Very Choosy With Your Job
- Get the Most from Your Work Benefits
- Is Job Hopping Good for your Career?
- How to Ask for a Raise
- Teach Your Coworkers How to Treat You
- How to Handle Mistakes at Work
- Don't Be One of These Annoying Work Personalities