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How to Recover From a Mistake at Work

Picking up the pieces after a mistake at work can be difficult. In fact, it may be tempting to just find another job, skip town, assume a new identity- you get the idea. But don’t start clearing out your desk just yet. There is a path to recovering from a mistake at work, depending on how severe it is.

A mistake that resulted from disobeying your boss, or from violating company policy in some way can be especially difficult or impossible to recover from. These mistakes do not generally fall under the “honest” category, and should probably result in your moving on and being smarter next time.

The good news is that it is possible to recover from most other mistakes, especially if your general rapport with the office is good. Pamela Ernhardt, via CNN Money, points out that, “If you’ve built strong relationships all along the way, and if people generally trust you and think highly of your work, you can usually recover even from a very big misstep.”

Good news! So how do you start making amends?

Stop trying to get a visa for Timbuktu, and apologize already. Ernhardt encourages a sincere apology to those who were affected by your mistake. Don’t try to shift the blame around, or say negative things about your coworkers. Remember, business relationships are going to get you out of this mess! In your apology, identify how the mistake was made, and explain what steps you will take to keep it from happening again. Show that you learned from the experience, and are now a more seasoned employee for it.

After that, it is important to move on. This is, of course, easier said than done. Avoid obsessing about your mistake by taking a few steps. First, work to identify the errors that led up to your big mistake. Were there early warning signs that you ignored? Was there a lack of experience in your team, or a communication problem? Fix these things, and then move on. In the first few weeks after your mistake also feel free to ask coworkers to double check things if you are nervous. A second set of eyes is always a good thing, and most colleagues will appreciate your trust in them as well as your willingness to move forward. Best of luck!

How do you deal with mistakes at work? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by dingler1109

Kristin Anderson

Kristin has a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys long walks, kitchen adventures, and making puns.

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