Maybe you forgot to attach a document to your email before hitting send or maybe you made a mistake that simply made you seem like a complete idiot, like double-booking VIP clients, so they both showed up to your office’s reception area to meet with you at the exact same time. Feeling embarrassed? Ashamed? Worried that your professional credibility is hanging by a thread? Take a deep breath. You’re going to get through this—and maybe even solidify your reputation as a quick-thinking problem solver in the process. Here’s your recovery plan.
Allow yourself to feel awful about it
In response to a stressful scenario, like making a mistake at work, it’s natural to feel frustrated, embarrassed, or even distressed for, say, 10-15 seconds. But ideally, after 15 seconds, the feeling should pass. A tiny shadow of negativity may linger, but in general, you get over the mistakes.
Keep things in perspective
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you’re upset with yourself, but try to make sure your emotional response is proportional to the blunder you made. With very few exceptions, making an error at work is not a life-or-death situation, and most mistakes can be resolved or corrected right away.
Confront your worst- case scenario and let it go
In life, there certainly are consequences for mistakes. But sometimes, your mind exaggerates and distorts the potential consequences for your mistake, sending you into a state of agony and stressing you out, which, ironically, can cause you to make more errors in the future. It can be helpful to confront your personal worst-case scenario—whatever that may be—so that you can make peace with it and move on.
Apologise if you need to but don’t overdo it
If you need to apologise for your goof, do it swiftly and briefly. No excuses. No justifications. No verbally flogging yourself. Just acknowledge the error and move on. Honestly, people are usually so preoccupied with their own goals, projects, and issues, they’ve probably forgotten all about whatever you did wrong by the time you reach this step!
Create a game plan for next time
Evaluate what you need to do differently next time to make sure this same mistake doesn’t happen again. Were you multi-tasking beyond your ability, with dozens of tabs open on your browser? Were you rushing too fast to hit a deadline, missing important details in the process? If you find an issue that you can address, do so. And for extra measure, if you feel that it would be beneficial to tell your boss about how you’re going to prevent mistakes in the future, do that, too.
Earn back trust through your action
The best way to earn people’s trust and admiration is to consistently deliver great work. Period. Do that, and occasional bouts of forgetfulness or slip-ups here and there are likely to be quickly forgiven—and forgotten. One mistake—even a big one—does not have to derail your life or career.
By Damilola Faustino