Made a mistake at work? Don’t let it ruin your career

We’ve all made mistakes at work – here’s how not to let a mistake ruin your career.

  • Don’t cover it up – when the realisation dawns on you that you have made a mistake at work, try not to panic and definitely don’t try to cover it up as that will inevitably only cause more problems and it will get discovered at some point. The best thing to do is recognise you have made a mistake, remain calm and think of how you can potentially resolve it.
  • Escalate – while you may have worked out a solution to resolve the mistake, don’t try to fix it yourself without talking to your manager first. Remember, your manager is there for a reason and you need to tell them if you have made a mistake. The best way to approach it it to ask to speak to them in private, explain as calmly as you can what has happened and why, apologise for your error and say what you feel could be a good recommendation to fix it and ask if they agree. Your manager may have a different take and want to handle the solution differently but it is important to discuss with them before you act.
  • Take responsibility – the way you deal with mistakes says a lot to your manager and your colleagues about you and your capabilities. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, it’s how you deal with them that is the key thing. Your client, customers, stakeholders will have respect for you if you apologise, explain how you will resolve the situation and the steps you are taking to ensure the same mistake doesn’t happen again.
  • Learn from it – a popular interview question is “tell me about a mistake you have made at work and how you handled it.” This tells the interviewer a lot about you and they are looking for you to be able to take responsibility but show that you have learnt from your error and moved on from it – no doubt it will have made you a better worker. Why not share the mistake you made in your next team meeting so that others can learn from your experience as well? It’s never fun admitting you have made a mistake, but your colleagues will respect you for it and it’s a great learning opportunity for everyone.

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them” (Bruce Lee)

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