How to Navigate a Mistake at Work

We’ve all been there; the moment you realize you’ve made a huge mistake that you have to resolve immediately. When you’re trying to figure out how to navigate a mistake at work, it’s important to remember that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes once in a while.

Making a rare mistake is not a problem as long as you handle it correctly. If you are perpetually making errors because of lack of attention to detail or carelessness, that is a separate issue that should be addressed, however making a rare mistake is totally normal as long as you navigate the situation properly.

Handling a mistake properly means taking the high road, taking responsibility for it, and making the situation right. Below is a list of steps of how to navigate a mistake at work professionally and with poise.

Take action immediately

The moment you realize that you’ve made a mistake is the moment you need to take action towards fixing it. Sitting around and dwelling on your error won’t make it better, and depending on what the mistake is, moving slowly could make it worse.

In some instances, taking immediate action could actually help you reverse the mistake. For instance, if you realize that you just sent something to print with a typo in it, call the printing press or whomever is in charge and explain the situation immediately. If you get to the right people in time, you may be able to stop the problem before it starts and get them the correct information before anything gets printed incorrectly.

Take responsibility for your errors and fess up to them

There’s nothing worse than a person who won’t take responsibility for their wrongdoing, and who tries to place blame on everyone else. If you made a mistake, it’s not a huge deal unless you don’t take responsibility and fix it. When you don’t take responsibility and you try to blame the problem on others, it becomes a bigger deal, and can turn into an office-wide issue.

If you handle your mistake appropriately, you will often be recognized for your quick thinking and your ability to jump on a situation and take the reins. In this case, the mistake could end up working in your favor in the long run. Most people understand that mistakes happen, so they pay more attention to the aftermath than the mistake itself. Make your mitigation process memorable, and people will remember how you remedied the situation instead of the fact that you created it.

Work quickly and efficiently

It’s important to get things sorted out as soon as possible, but if you’re not working strategically and efficiently, it’s not worth it. No one will care that you’re working fast to remedy the situation if your fast work is riddled with errors and carelessness. Quality trumps everything in business, so make sure that your work is efficient and free of errors.

Especially when you’re trying to navigate a mistake at work, you want to make sure that your next steps are near perfect. That means triple checking the information you’re putting out and taking note of everything you do. Document your process so you have it on file should it ever come up in the future. That way, if someone does question the mistake you made, you can easily outline the process you took to fix it.

Make note of what went wrong and take precautions so it doesn’t happen again

Part of making mistakes is learning from them, so it’s important that you assess the situation to figure out exactly what went wrong. After you’ve taken care of all of the cleanup and have gotten everything smoothed out, take a few minutes to reflect on what happened. Go through the steps in your head to see what went wrong, where it went wrong, and note how to combat this in the future. No one is perfect, and the best you can do is learn from your mistakes.

Move on

One of the most essential parts of how to navigate a mistake at work is to move on from it once it’s over. Once you’ve taken care of the aftermath to remedy the issue and ensure it doesn’t happen again, there is nothing else you can do. Try not to dwell on it, and do your best to move forward. This may be easier said than done, but it’s the truth. All you can do is your best, and sometimes mistakes happen. Take the high road, take responsibility, work efficiently, document your work, and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice. After you’ve done this, you’ve done your part. Once it’s over and done, let it go; you’ll live longer.


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