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6 steps to correct a mistake at work

by Jon White February 04, 2016

​Have you ever made a mistake at work? Whether you missed a deadline or emailed a spreadsheet filled with wrong figures, I’m sure you’re all familiar with that dreadful sinking feeling when it happens. But that needn’t last long if you follow these steps for dealing with mistakes:

  • Firstly step back and breathe a little

If you rush into anything on the back of the mistake it can often compound the situation. If panic has set in it’s likely your mind isn't working at full capacity - take a few seconds/minutes to think about it.

  • Own up to it

If you hold yourself accountable and apologise sincerely it can actually build trust.

  • Don't immediately blame others

In the heat of the moment this can cause a lot more problems in the long run and can massively erode credibility.

  • Don't put off the mistake or cover it up for any length of time

Of course it’s important to take a minute to compose yourself, but if you don't act quickly things can quickly spiral out of control and get a lot, lot worse.

  • Admit to it in person

Try to avoid email if at all possible; sincere body language can really help convey that you genuinely made a mistake.

  • Lastly, don’t beat yourself up over it

It happens to everyone and the way that you handle a mistake can be more of a defining feature than doing everything perfectly every time.

Sounds fairly obvious, but why is it worth thinking about?

A client of ours is known for relentlessly asking every single candidate "when was your last mistake?" In fact celebrating your mistakes (although obviously within reason!) can be an extremely useful exercise:

  • In taking a bit of time to learn about your mistake it can help you avoid making the same one again.

  • You can seriously strengthen creativity, innovation and process by finding the gaps where the errors have crept in and fixing them.

  • The way that you handle a mistake can provide an opportunity for earnestness and even innovation that wouldn't normally exist in an office environment. This helps cement relationships and show a more human aspect to colleagues.

So panic not - making mistakes should be part of a learning and development process and if we deal with them properly they can in fact be a source of opportunities.

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