Recently, a maid was cleaning at an art gallery and cleaned a bucket she thought was dirty. It turns out the bucket was actually a work of art, valued at more than a million dollars. Although most of us haven’t claimed such a costly mistake, most of us know the feeling of messing up at work. Once you get past the panic and fear, here are 5 steps to follow when you make a mistake at work.
1: If you mess up, fess up: Come clean. Admit your mistake before someone admits it for you. Apologize and recognize the extent of the impact of the mistake – it’s better to be too sorry than to be perceived to not be remorseful enough. Be sure to include everyone who could be affected by the mistake – its best they hear it from you.
2: It’s a shame to blame: Never blame someone else for your mistake even when others have been involved. State the facts clearly and unemotionally (not always easy to do when you feel upset). The truth will come out so don’t play the blame game and point fingers – you can demonstrate what a good team player you are by taking responsibility for your actions while defending others.
3: Making it right: You may not have the opportunity for a ‘do over’ but you can think of all the possibilities for correcting your mistake. Making mistakes isn’t what’s critical; correcting mistakes and getting on with the task at hand is what is most important. Focus on the solution, not on the mistake.
4: Don’t be stunned if you’re shunned: Everyone reacts differently when things go wrong. If your mistake caused grief to someone else, they may be angry and need some time to cool off. Admit your mistake, try to make it right and let whoever is upset be upset; they’re entitled to their feelings and unless they’re being rude or abusive, let it go.
5: Forgive but don’t forget: Forgive yourself, for you are human – each one of us screws up from time to time. Don’t try to forget what happened but focus on what you’ve learned; how you handled the mistake and most importantly what you’ve discovered about yourself is key. It’s in the time of reflection where we truly develop. You’ve already analysed how it happened so you won’t make the same mistake twice. Don’t let it consume you – none of us have any extra energy to waste, so please don’t let this mistake take any of yours.