You Made A Mistake At Work? Here’s How To Turn It Into A Win

4 min read

You made a mistake at work? Here’s what to do next

It is 3.27am. Your eyes ping open and you jerk upright in bed. A light bulb has just gone off in your brain and you have ‘the fear’. As your mind ticks over, your realise…
“The email I sent to the client at 1am said we would charge 5%… instead of the 6% I agreed with my boss!” Nooo!
“The presentation I sent to the MD wasn’t the final version!” *Groan*
“I forgot to finish the urgent client proposal today – there’s no way the exec team will have time to sign it off tomorrow!”
Sooo, you made a mistake (or two) at work…

The fear response is all consuming: blood and adrenalin rushes through your veins, and cortisol kicks in as you assess how bad the repercussions will be. Your mind jumps, immediately to the worst case scenario and then, nausea: “This is it. Yep. I’m going to get fired. OMG, my career is over. I’m going to turn into a cat lady with no income, no friends, no life. ”

Sound familiar?

Calm down! Of course you can recover from this raft of mistakes. In fact, turn it around. See it as a fantastic opportunity for you to show off just how clever you are and how awesome you are in s*** circumstances.

Here’s a three step process to help you do just that (with grace and dignity) like a boss.

Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. And eventually we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth. Richelle E. Goodrich

 Form a plan and ‘fess up

Quickly assess the options available to you to rectify the mistake. DO NOT try to cover it up – focus on the external (customer) and internal (stakeholder) impact and think about how you can return them to the best position, as quickly as possible.

Communication expert Andy Bounds tells us that our brains are wired to consider two options: fight or flight. But, in the modern world there are always more than two options.

Get ready to shine!

Here are a few ways you could deal with scenario 1, above: “The email I sent to the client at 1am said we would charge 5%… instead of the 6% I agreed with my boss!”

Give the client a call, explain that you made a mistake, apologise and confirm that the price is actually 6%. If it’s within your remit, offer them an upgraded service (or the like) to enhance value and recognise the potential inconvenience caused by the mistake.  If this strategy is likely to damage the client relationship, consider Option 2.

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.  John Powell

Explain to your boss/internal stakeholder that you made a mistake (it was 1am after all). Outline all the options for your boss and explain the pros and cons of each. Be sure to offer your own recommendation and explain why this is your preferred option. For example, you could ask for sign off for the 5%, acknowledging that the business would foot the cost of the mistake, but that it would preserve the relationship with the client.

This shows humility, initiative, an ability to problem solve and perform when s*** hits the fan.  It’s a great opportunity to be creative and show that you can think ‘outside of the box.’

Mistakes are the best way to learn and grow

Be sure to raise the mistake with your boss the next day or the following week. You don’t want this to come up as a ‘surprise’ agenda item at your annual review.

At the start of the conversation, acknowledge that you are disappointed that the mistake occurred, but that you learned from it. Explain what you learnt from it and that it was valuable because you have proved that you can perform well in challenging situations. Be sure to ask, “what would you have done in the situation?” Then, finally, ask for feedback. “How do you think I handled the situation?”

Mistakes are a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow

Over time your brain will learn that mistakes aren’t necessarily negative, and your recovery will get faster through practice. Need more convincing? Here’s why mistakes are a fantastic opportunity to grow. There is solid evidence supporting a growth mindset.

Give yourself a break

Let’s be honest, the following day will probably be a bit of a downer. You’ve been thinking about it all day (and night), you’ve done your apologising, you’ve sorted the situation out and you’ve mentally beat yourself up. It’s time to move on!

Practice a little self care by enjoying a long, relaxing bubble bath. Or head out with your mates for an instant pick-me-up. With a glass of prosecco in hand, they’ll reassure you that you haven’t wrecked your career, that you’re fantastic at your job, an amazing asset to the team and, most importantly, an awesome human being. Tomorrow will be an epic day. Onwards and upwards!

Kat x

Did you make a mistake at work last week? Did you freak out? How did you fix it?
Meet Kat

Kat Hutchings is a Career Coach who helps driven women to achieve success on their own terms and find their perfect-fit career move. Visit her website, she’d love to hear about your career challenges.

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You made a mistake at work? Here’s what to do next

You made a mistake at work? Here’s what to do next

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