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3 Things to Do When You’ve Made a Mistake at Work


It’s the kind of thing that wakes you up at 3 o’clock in the morning and won’t let you go back to sleep: did you make a mistake at your job? The worst of it is, due to the fact that you’re human, sooner or later, the answer will be yes. Here’s what to do about it.

1. Apologize the right way.

HBR Blog Network has a fantastic post about this, the main takeaway of which is that even when we apologize, we tend to make it about ourselves and not about the person who’s affected by the mistake.

“When you screw up, the victim of your screw up does not want to hear about you,” Heidi Grant Halvorson writes. “Therefore, stop talking about you and put the focus of your apology where it belongs: on him or her. Specifically, concentrate on how the victim has been affected by your mistake, on how the person is feeling, and on what he or she needs from you in order to move forward.”

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2. Figure out what you can do to make things right.

Don’t be the career equivalent of that person who knocks over someone’s papers, shrugs, and walks away. Invest your time and energy into fixing the problem. At the very least, try to minimize the effort required by others to put things back in order.

3. Try not to make the same mistake twice.

Think about how you made the mistake. Could a process change prevent a similar error in the future? Even if the answer is no, taking a moment to think about what you could do differently — without beating yourself up — will make you more deliberate. The more thoughtful we are, the less likely we are to make careless mistakes.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you do when you make a mistake? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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(Photo Credit: joelmontes/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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