Have you ever made a mistake at work? A really big mistake that has you worried about the consequences?
Not sure what to do about it?
We reached out to the community to ask other professional their experience and advice for this exact scenario.
Keep reading to see what they have to say.
1. Neal Taparia, Solitaired
The first thing that you need to do is come to terms with emotions. It’s normal that you’ll feel bad about making a mistake at work. Still, don’t beat yourself up about it for too long, as the emotions will keep building up. Instead, try to unwind somehow, for example, by physical activity, or talking to your friends and coworkers.
You might even feel like the worst-case scenario will happen, e.g. you getting fired. While this is entirely possible, think of all of your past mistakes. How did the situation play out? Did you manage to fix your error? Did your company suffer great losses because of it?
Look at your blunder from a perspective. Note that all people make mistakes. Being too hard on yourself won’t do you any good. For this reason, instead of whinging, look for a solution immediately. Do your best to make up for it. Not only will you feel better about yourself, but you’ll also show your employer or client that you care.
Make sure to apologise appropriately. Usually, sending a simple email that you’ve acknowledged your mistake and are working on a fix is fine.
Easy as 1-2-3: We all make mistakes—the key is to handle them professionally.
(1) Apologize. And don’t make excuses or try to justify what you did.
(2) Fix what you can.
(3) Ensure there won’t be a repeat down the line. Here’s a relatable example: If you realize you overcharged a client, offer them an open and honest apology, reimburse them for the amount they overpaid, and adopt a digital invoicing system to limit human error going forward.
3. Arno Markus, iCareerSolutions
Committing mistakes is normal. It is an excellent opportunity to learn and gain experience. However, getting up after you have done something wrong is important. Knowing what to do for you to gain back the momentum will make you feel better.
Admit it. Being defensive about what you have done will make things worse. Owning up to your mistake is a solid thing to do. It only means you are willing to face the consequences and rectify things that you can still change.
Learn from it. Don’t take it against you. Use it as your motivation to improve and be better. Take note of the things you have done to avoid repeating the same mistake.
4. Tina Bailey, Girls Gospel
In my experience, the best thing to do when you make a mistake at work is to own it. If you can fix it and there be no consequences down the line; that’s great. If not, you need to go to your supervisor straight away and be honest.
Chances are, they’ll be more accepting of the mistake if you own up and have a couple of ideas on how to “fix it”, rather than you lying about it and the mistake ending up costing them money.
As an example, when I worked in a call centre, I realised I’d been giving customers old information when they called in, as a page on the business website hadn’t been updated.
I went to my supervisor and explained that although I had received the update via email, the website we used on calls hadn’t been updated. I suggested I ask all other advisors if they’d been doing the same, and then spend the day calling all customers to explain the error and relay the correct information. My supervisor was annoyed so many mistakes had been made, but thanked me for bringing it to her attention.
In the end, I had to call back over 50 customers and was off my regular job for 2 days. If I hadn’t told her, that number could have reached 10x that before customers called in to complain they’d been misinformed.
5. Travis Blanchard, Splash Bytes
I’ve found that the best thing to do first when you’ve made a mistake at work is analyze first the impact of the mistake. If it’s just a tiny bump on the road that no one else will notice, it’s better if you go ahead and make the effort to fix it.
On the other hand, if you made a major blunder, the first step is to admit it.
Don’t wait for your boss or colleagues to notice and confront you about the mistake.
Mistakes at work are like exposed food – they will get bad over time and it will be smelled out by others. This has happened to me before and when my colleagues found out, I immediately regret not letting the cat out of the bag sooner. It looked like it was a cover-up and that I had no plan to let them know. So, own up to your mistake and admit it.
At the same time, you should offer a plan to fix what has been done. Maybe you can’t right away, but make sure that finding a solution is your next step after you’ve admitted your mistake.
Your boss will appreciate the initiative and he’ll be relieved to know that you’re working on getting back on track.
6. Nabil Mounem, Have Websites
Apologize, but don’t be too hard on yourself.
There’s a distinction to be made between accepting guilt and berating yourself. Admit your mistake but don’t punish yourself for it, particularly if it happened in front of others.
If you keep bringing up your mistake, it will become stuck in people’s minds. You want your manager to reflect on what you did when you made the mistake, not on the fact that it happened at all.
But be cautious about blowing your own trumpet.
Not only would bragging about how you fixed problems draw attention to your initial blunder, but it might also raise concerns that you made an error in order to save the day.
7. Jake Jorgovan, Lead Cookie and Content Allies
Humans tend to mistakes. Allow yourself to realize the mistake.
There is nothing wrong with feeling embarrassed or sad about the mistake which you have done. Try to analyze the situation and the root cause of the mistake.
Do not try to blame others for your mistake. Sit, think and come up with a solution to fix the mistake which you have done.
Make sure to apologize to your colleagues if they are affected by your mistake at work. Try to have a private meeting with your boss and apologize for your mistake when necessary.
Also, make sure to assure him that this mistake will not be repeated from your end in the future.
Do not be over apologetic. Not everyone in the office needs to know about your mistake.
Be apologetic only to the persons affected by your mistake. Concentrate on your future work and try to get back the trust not just through words, but also through your actions.
8. Brenda Neckvatal, The HR Lady
If you realize you’ve made a mistake at work, own it. Take accountability and don’t try to hide it.
Taking accountability for your mistakes will not only free your conscious, but you demonstrate integrity. Leaders respect people who own their actions and work through the mistake to repair it.
The process will likely be more productive because you’re not dealing with the drama and reactions of coworkers when you hide it or refuse to take accountability.
There will be a reaction to your mistake. You can count on that, because after all you made a mistake.
Don’t be surprised if you have to eat a little crow.
Once a solution or a correction is in place, you can start moving forward and get past it. It’s possible you may have that one coworker or boss who will take some extra time to remind you that you goofed up.
It’s a humbling experience but if it continues for an extended period of time, you’ll need to speak with that person and work to get past it together.
Most importantly, you need to forgive yourself for making the mistake.
That’s a difficult thing to do, but you need to put that burden down.
We are often our own worst critics and if you don’t forgive yourself, you may fall into the trap of being so concerned about making a mistake, that you’ll make more mistakes trying to be perfect.
That type of individual trauma will live rent free in your head for a long time until you’re forced to deal with it or change jobs.
9. Lance Wilkins, Call Outdoors
Own it, fix it, move on.
Mistakes in the workplace are inevitable. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t forgotten something, failed to meet the full scope of a project, or who hasn’t messed up with a client – it happens!
That said, the one thing that sets apart great employees from the rest is how they fix a mistake.
First, own your mistake. Don’t scapegoat or give excuses.
You made the mistake. Commit to remedying it.
Next, map out a plan for how you intend to fix it.
Even if you are unable to fix your mistake yourself, have a plan mapped out for how the issue will be remedied before seeking help, so that the groundwork is already laid.
Once you have fixed your mistake, move on. Don’t dwell on it or over-apologize – keep moving.
As I mentioned, mistakes happen, but it is better to accept that you made a mistake and work to avoid any in the future, than to remain stationary, consumed by your error.
10. Lauri Kinkar, Messente
Own up your mistake, but take a moment to analyze the possible solutions.
If you think there’s something you can do to correct it, act immediately. But if it’s too late to correct it right away, think of solutions to counteract the error.
Apologize to the person you think will be greatly affected by the mistake, but don’t overdo it.
Explain what you did and briefly apologize. Don’t make excuses.
Then, present them with a solution you came up with. Making mistakes is normal and what matters is how you handle them.
Another tip is to create a game plan next time to prevent the same mistakes to happen again. Determine what caused the mistake to happen and come up with a solution to solve it.
For example, you’ve submitted a poorly written report because of the lack of concentration because you were sleepy. To avoid this, make sure to take care of yourself and get enough amount of sleep.
Also, before working on something, do something that will help you clear your mind.
11. Luke Smith, We Buy Property In Kentucky
Unfortunately, we all make mistakes. Luckily, most mistakes can be resolved, if you’re honest and transparent about the mistake made.
Ethical mistakes are the ones that are hard to take back. Outside of that, anything else can usually be undone without too much harm.
If you make a mistake at work, confront the mistake head on whether that be with a client or coworker and sort it out as soon as possible.
Honesty is the best policy and things left for a while can fester into bigger problems. When you make a mistake and notice, take immediate action to inform the stakeholders involved and rectify the situation.
12. Angela Civitella, Intinde
The only thing to do after making a mistake at work is to take responsibility and fix it.
Where people go wrong is they try to cover it up or get away with it, but this only makes the situation a lot worse. Human beings make mistakes.
In fact, what every employee needs to remember is that the best lessons and the road toward success is built on a series of mistakes.
So next time you make a mistake at work, don’t bury it. Fess up.
Take responsibility. Apologize.
And finally, fix the mistake.
If that means asking for help or involving someone with more experience who can rectify the situation, put your ego aside and get help. Also, don’t beat yourself up over the mistake.
Learn from it and realize that it’s only going to make you that much better.
13. Zack Robbins, Beardoholic
Let’s be honest, mistakes can happen and they’re normal. They can be even good, as they aid the learning process.
In case you made a mistake at work there are a few steps to do:
– Don’t feel too guilty. It’s okay to feel bad after you made a mistake at work, but don’t let these feelings block you.
Instead, allow yourself to feel down briefly, acknowledge your feelings, but also make sure you’re ready to go beyond them to keep up with the good work as usual.
– Consider the objectives. After the mistake is done, make sure to make an objective assessment of how grave the mistake is.
List all the things that might go wrong due to the mistake, and embrace the worst-case scenario.
– Apologize, provide a plan on making it right, and ask for help if needed. Don’t try to hide your mistake – instead, approach your manager and tell everything honestly.
Make sure to provide some steps on how you’ll solve the problem, and don’t be shy to ask for help if you need it.
14. Sandra Henderson, LifeHacks
As an HR person and a counselor who always faces this issue with some of my clients, I always encourage them to recognize their mistakes and acknowledge their “lesson.”
This is the first step everyone should do.
Avoidance, denial, or lack of ownership of the mistake can only result in bad behavior at work and can possibly affect the culture within the workplace.
15. Forrest McCall, Don’t Work Another Day
Here are a few things to consider when making a mistake at work:
• Admit your mistake. Managers will appreciate the honestly you convert by admitting your mistake. It will also give them the chance to aid you in mending the mishap.
• Don’t hide it. If someone notices your mistake, it’s best not to hide it or act as if it did not occur. Instead, recognize your mistake and try to fix the situation.
• Learn from your mistakes. Once you’ve made a mistake, you might start panicking and try to forget about it. Instead, try to learn why you made the mistake and how you can avoid it next time.
16. Andy King, Jamjar.com
Making mistakes at work is an inevitable part of your career progression, it’s how we learn and get better at what we do.
Owning a mistake and understanding how to overcome the problems will be much more valuable to you rather than running away from it.
With almost any job or career path that you choose, human error is a part of it.
With that in mind, don’t become complacent but instead, look for improvements.
If you have a good management team, they should be understanding and realise that this is a moment for learning rather than overbearing negativity.
So, work with them to improve yourself and the processes that you use on a daily basis so that it doesn’t happen again.
17. Biron Clark, CareerSidekick.com
After making a mistake at work, the first action I recommend taking is owning up to it and correcting the mistake, including getting your team involved if needed.
Always admit to the error rather than trying to hide it.
This will prevent the problem from becoming worse, and your team will appreciate that you took an upfront approach.
Trying to hide a mistake will only compound your team’s frustration if/when they discover it.
After the mistake has been resolved, do everything possible to learn from the error, too. Talk to your manager if needed.
Ask team members what they would have done in the situation, or if they have any advice for you moving forward.
This will show your team that you’re committed to learning and improving and that you’re focused on ensuring that a similar mistake doesn’t happen again.
By doing this, you’ll regain your team’s confidence and show that you’ve maintained a good attitude throughout the experience.
*Everyone makes mistakes at work, but your team and manager will be looking for you to be upfront and accountable, and willing to learn from the experience. *
18. Dana Case, MyCorporation.com
If you make a mistake in the workplace, I think it’s important to apologize and acknowledge that you take responsibility in making the error.
Then, your apology needs to be followed up with a call to action.
For example, you may use a statement like ‘it won’t happen again.’
Moving forward, there should be an understanding that you have learned a lesson from the incident and are either working to resolve the issue or ensure it does not happen again.
19. Regina Stiffler, MS, LPC, Earthsong Counseling, PLLC
1) Do: Be honest. Own up to your mistake and tell your boss as soon as possible.
Hiding your mistake will only get you in more trouble.
2) Do: Use this as a learning opportunity. Figure out what led to you making the mistake and change what you can to prevent the same thing in the future.
3) Don’t: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that you are human and part of that is being fallible.
Everyone makes mistakes at some point.
4) Do: Consider your punishment. The way your workplace penalizes you for a mistake can tell you whether it is a job worth keeping in the future.
Ask yourself whether the punishment for your mistake is fair.
5) Do: Keep an emergency fund. Be sure to keep 3-6 months of basics in an emergency fund in the event that you get fired.
You will still need to pay your bills and some states will not pay unemployment if you are fired because of your own mistake.
20. Jana Tulloch, Tulloch Consulting
The only thing you should do after making a mistake at work is own up to it and look for ways to fix it.
No one is perfect, we are all human and we make mistakes, and it’s more about owning those errors and not hiding from them.
Often people worry about the ramifications of fessing up, about being disciplined or even fired, but often their fears are greater than reality unless the individual is working in an environment where they have witnessed harsh treatment for being honest or have other valid reasons for fearing reprisal if they come clean.
Depending on the issue at hand, there can be larger ramifications company-wide that the individual may not be able to see at the time, and raising awareness about a mistake can often help avoid the mistake suddenly compounding into a truly big problem.
Issues should be raised as soon as possible – don’t stew on it for days or weeks – and whenever possible, come with ready options on how to remedy the error.
It won’t feel nice to admit that you made a mistake, but it’ll be appreciated that you are humble and honest enough to come forward before the mistake causes too much damage.
21. Daniel Roberts, ThinkImpact
I have made several mistakes and still do while working as both an employee and employer.
As an employee, the first step I take is to accept the reality of my mistake without letting my emotional response cloud my mind.
This prepares me to apologize to whoever I was working for in the most honest, logical, and respectable way without going overboard.
After that, I am able to look into the mistake with much clarity, see where I went wrong, and figure out the best solution, at times this involves talking to a team member who has had and overcame a similar mistake in the past.
Finally, I make sure the fixes done doesn’t cost my employer an expense (if at all, it must be minimal) and I make sure the final result exceeds what we expected before the mistake.
This not only helps to earn back my employer’s trust but also gives me a better sense of accomplishment.
22. Snezhina Piskova, Oliver Wicks
The first thing I’d like to say is that mistakes are normal.
They often happen due to some inadvertent factor and sometimes, they are beyond anyone’s control. Sometimes, it’s a consequence of miscommunication, and other times, it’s negligence.
In industries where people rely on the expertise, a small mistake can have damaging consequences for the business, especially if due care isn’t taken to handle it appropriately.
The first thing to do, once an error has been spotted, is to “don’t panic”. A panicked response may easily worsen the situation.
What you need is a clear head for damage control, as well as nimble limbs to act quickly and correct the error.
Generally, internal errors are easier to correct but external errors may be a bit more tricky depending on the situation.
You must act quickly to correct the error by communicating it to the affected party. It is very important that they become aware of the error as soon as possible, so they do not act on it and further complicate the cycle.
This way, they can suspend whatever action they have taken on and thus not worsen the situation.
If it is an internal error, you want to take responsibility for the error, apologize and present your superiors with a well-thought-out plan to correct the error.
To sum up, be honest, take responsibility, and act as quickly as possible to fix the problem. Don’t spend time beating yourself up or panicking as that affects your good judgment and could lead you to further errors.
23. Bret Bonnet, Quality Logo Products
If you make a mistake at work, own it. Don’t hide from it.
People respect a person more when they’re not afraid to embrace their own mistakes.
As the owner of the company, I make a lot of mistakes. It happens.
I’m not afraid to share and discuss those mistakes with my team members. It’s how we learn.
Plus, I want my team to take risks.
If every mistake is ridiculed or punished, they’ll be afraid to take risks and the organization will suffer as a result.
Feeling better about making mistakes at work? Just follow the advice of our experts above and you’ll be feeling positive in no time.