What To Do When You Make A Mistake At Work

By Mel Sim

How to own up, rectify it and keep your job.

You made a mistake. Big time. Now what?

First, take a deep breath. Making a mistake can be embarrassing and mortifying but guess what, it is somewhat expected of you, especially if this is your first job. The difference is how you ‘fess up and what you do after that will either make you rise above the situation... or look plain bad in front of everyone.

Here are six things you need to do when admitting it’s your fault.

#1 Yes, admit it
You made the mistake so you have to own up. That’s the basic moral teaching we all know even as little children. Being upfront about your mistake will keep your professional reputation and credibility intact. Being shifty or trying to cover up makes the situation worse.

#2 Don’t take your time
Once you’ve accessed the situation, immediately tell your boss the mistake as it could be time sensitive (and cost the company money the longer you wait!). Sitting on your mistake makes it seem like you can’t be bothered.

#3 Come up with a solution
Before you see your boss, make sure you have all the information pertinent to what happened and the solution to fix it if you have one. If you don’t, tell your boss that you’re working on it. If you can’t come up with a solution, let your boss know too so you can get some help if necessary. Plus, if you do come up with the right solution, you’ve demonstrated your problem-solving skills which could impress management.

#4 Don’t blame others
Say your team members are equally as guilty. But unless they are willing to admit their mistake, under no circumstances should you ever throw them under the bus in front of your boss. You either go in and apologise as a team or you take it for the team and shoulder all the blame. Don’t worry – if your team members are really in the wrong, your boss will soon find out.

#5 Say sorry but don’t beat yourself up
Say sorry – and then let it go. Don’t keep on apologising and bringing attention to the matter. Everyone wants to move on; so should you. Besides you don’t want to keep reminding your boss of that one time you made that major mistake.

#6 Be direct
No uhms, no I think, no I’m not too sure but... You need to let your boss know exactly what happened and why. Take full ownership of the situation; it makes you appear responsible. Plus, not knowing the full extent of the error will hinder others from fixing it.

#7 Use it as a learning lesson
Just like you’re expected to make mistakes at work, you’re also expected to learn from them. Remember, mistakes can lead to something better as you learn to try different methods or to not forget details. Plus, if you make the same mistake twice? Your boss may not be as forgiving as the first time.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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