Owning up to Your Mistakes at Work

It can feel like the absolute end of the world. You’ve made a huge mistake at work. It’s not something you can sweep under the rug or quickly fix so no one noticed. This is gigantic. Now you feel like running away and changing your name so no one will ever know it was you. Mistakes, big and small, happen to all of us. It’s not the mistake you made that matters as much as what you do in the aftermath. Here are some ways you can own up to your mistakes, fix them, and learn from the experience.

Accept Responsibly Immediately

It’s human nature to experience a mistake and immediately say we didn’t do it. We learned that behavior as a child and would blame any mistake on siblings, pets, or even imaginary friends. But just because that’s innate behavior doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. When you make a mistake, the first step should be owning your responsibility.

Understand the Ripple Effect

Mistakes come in varying degrees. Simple mistakes are easy to fix and don’t affect many other actions or have a lot of consequences. Other mistakes could cause a huge ripple effect radiating out from where you’re standing. You need to let anyone who might be affected know what happened and what your next steps are.

Create a Prevention Plan

Once you’ve worked out a solution and corrected the action in whatever way make the most efficient and effective sense, you need to take a step back. Now is time to create a prevention plan. This may feel reactionary, but it really is a necessary part of the process. You need to assess what happened and figure out a way to prevent similar situations in the future.

Control the Narrative

It’s also up to you to control the story about what happened. That’s not to say that you should lie or sweep it under the rug, but accepting the mistake and sharing details about how it happened, why it happened, and how preventable it will be in the future will help others know that they can trust you. This is your mistake to own, so own it fully.

Understand the Lesson

Lastly, it’s imperative that you understand the lesson that your mistake taught you. It’s not failure that’s a problem, it’s the way you react to failure that will impact the way you grow as a professional. When you make a mistake, what can you take away from it? Not to avoid responsibility, but to truly learn how you can improve yourself for the future.

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