Making mistakes is part of human nature. It happens to everyone, all the time, and it will happen again. The truth is that some people are better equipped to handle their mistakes than others, and some can push past them and not let them impact their lives. When you make a mistake at work, it can be especially hard for some to carry on normal, especially if you’re someone who cares deeply about doing the best job you can.
No matter how much of a perfectionist or how self-conscious you might be about your work, making a mistake doesn’t have to feel like a catastrophic thing. You can turn it into a learning experience if you handle it the right way.
The first thing you should do is give yourself the chance to feel bad about what happened, but only for a moment. It’s okay to have these feelings, and they can actually inform how you handle yourself going forward because you’ll naturally want to avoid feeling that way in the future. But don’t get too stuck on it. Give yourself a moment to be upset, embarrassed, or even panicked about your mistake, and then start taking steps to fix or move on from it.
When you make a mistake, one of the best ways you can own up to it is to have a conversation with your supervisor about it and be completely honest. Take the initiative and set up a meeting with them, rather than approach them in front of colleagues. In that meeting, take some time to explain what happened as calmly as possible. You can certainly apologize, but you don’t want to get too intense with that. It’s better to say sorry once and pledge to make it right and then spend the rest of the meeting talking about ways to do so.
Once you own up to your mistake, come up with steps to take that can help you fix the situation and allow yourself to look inward and reflect on why you made that mistake. So often, mental health and even things like lack of sleep inform our performance at work, so it’s important to recognize when you might need to take stock of where you’re at. One of the best things you can do, whether you’re struggling with your mental health or not, is to give yourself a break. Take your lunch break or a short breather and have some time to yourself to recalibrate before getting back to work.
It’s also important to remember your co-workers when you make a mistake. They’ve all been there in one way or another. Reach out to them for help when you make a mistake, whether that’s covering for you while you step away for a minute or helping you fix the mistake you made. Remember to thank them for helping you as well.
Ultimately, the best way to recover from a mistake at work is to let it go. When you acknowledge and apologize for what happened, take steps to fix the mistake, and give yourself a moment to reset, you can start getting back to work in a normal way. Try not to think about it too much after you’ve rectified the situation, and definitely don’t let it get in the way of doing your job. You can allow the mistake to inform your workflow going forward, but you shouldn’t spend any real amount of time harping on what happened. Chalk it up to a learning experience and call it a day because the truth is that there will always be mistakes being made in a work environment. The fact that you made a mistake is much less important than the way you handle that mistake.
— Article by Sean Kelly. In addition to being an analyst researching the latest industry trends for College Recruiter, Sean Kelly also co-founded a nonprofit local news publication in Savannah, GA called The Savannahian.