6 Things to Do When You Make a Big Mistake at Work

By Chelsea Babin

If you’ve just made a big mistake at work, don’t panic! Instead, follow these 6 steps to handle the mistake professionally, responsibly, and quickly.

1. Assess the Size or Importance: Not all mistakes are a big deal. However, some small mistakes can turn into major problems down the line. When you’ve identified a mistake you made, take a moment to assess the size and importance of that mistake. This will help you gain some perspective as you move on to the next step.

2. Tell Your Boss Immediately: Bringing a mistake you made to the boss’ attention can be intimidating, but it’s incredibly important. Remember, if you wait to bring a mistake to your boss’ attention, they could find out about it from someone else. That will put you in an even worse situation.

3. Analyze and Problem Solve: If you can go into your boss’ office with a few proposed solutions to fix what’s happening and prevent it from happening again, that’s a great idea! But, make sure you give your boss space to help you analyze and problem solve. They may have their own ideas for solutions that they want to put into action. They may also want to include other relevant coworkers or teams in the analyzing and problem-solving phase.

4. Identify the Cause and Accept Responsibility: If you’re trying to deflect by moping, blaming others, or making excuses you’re handling this situation in the least professional way possible. Once you’ve identified the cause of the problem, accept responsibility for the actions you took that led up to this mistake. Then, if there are also processes in place that need to be adjusted to prevent similar mistakes from happening, you can make that adjustment a part of the solution you propose. But refusing to accept any responsibility is never a good idea in these situations.

5. Accept Help if Needed: When you’ve done something wrong it’s hard to own up to it but, sometimes, it’s even harder to accept help from others. A lot of people feel like if they made a mistake alone, they alone should fix it. But that’s not always the case! Be willing to accept responsibility and accept help if you really need it.

6. Learn and Avoid Repetition: Commit yourself to improving, let your boss know how you’ve learned from this mistake, and avoid repeating it in the future. This is crucial if you want to repair your reputation in your boss’ eyes. You want them to trust you, you want them to have confidence in you, and you want your reputation to be restored. Learning from your mistake, avoiding repetition of that mistake, and putting in more than your due diligence to prevent further mistakes in the months to come will help you regain trust and keep you from getting fired.

Making a mistake at work is never fun. But, with this 6-step guide, you’ll be able to handle the situation professionally and prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. Good luck!

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