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When You Make a Mistake at Work, Turn Lemons Into Lemonade

Topics: Career Advice

We all make mistakes. But, that probably isn’t making you feel any better if you’re coming off of a recent fumble at work. These kinds of incidents, as common and human as they are, can leave you feeling embarrassed, regretful, or maybe even professionally vulnerable. But, there are actually some things you can do to turn this whole thing around. You might even be better off than you were before the mistake. Here are some tips for turning the lemons of your mistake into sweet lemonade.

Image Credit: Tirza van Dijk/Unsplash

First, take full responsibility.

First thing is first: when you make a mistake at work, you absolutely have to take full responsibility for it.

Sometimes, when people don’t want to get in trouble, they might attempt to shirk or sidestep blame. However, it’s a much better idea to own up to your mistakes without offering excuses.

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So, for example, if you weren’t prepared for a meeting with a client, don’t say that you weren’t given all the necessary information in advance. Instead, apologize for not being as prepared as you should have been. Admit that you should have asked more questions beforehand in order to know what you were getting into. When you say you’re sorry, take full responsibility for your actions. Now is not the time for excuses.

Then, do something to make it better.

After you’ve taken complete and total responsibility for the error, try to do something to make the situation a little better. You can’t go back in time and redo that client meeting, for example, but you can help to move things in the right direction with them going forward.

Even if you can’t make up for your mistake directly, you can invest a little extra time and energy toward recovering some ground professionally. Do something above and beyond what’s expected, to help business run a little smoother. Others will see you in a different light, and they’ll move past your mistake more quickly. Plus, they’ll appreciate your contribution.

Forgive yourself and others will too.

Yes, to err is human; and to forgive (even yourself) is divine, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Still, if you can let this go, it could change how others see the incident.

You see, perfectionism really isn’t good for you, and perfectionists struggle to forgive themselves for mistakes rather than learning from them and proceeding forward. If you let go and move on, others will too. It will help them to realize how mature, professional, and confident you can be.

Jump right back in.

It’s normal to feel a little embarrassed when you’ve made a mistake, and that feeling can make you want to run and hide, or at least get really quiet and stop participating. Don’t do that. Instead, jump right back in there. The closer you get to facing the mistake you made, and the people it impacted, the better. Part of owning your mistake is staying engaged. You’ll all be able to move past the error that much faster if you do.

Finally, prove that you’ve learned from the mistake.

“Never make the same mistake twice.” It’s excellent advice, but it easier said than done. It’s a great goal to aspire to though, especially at work. So, when you’ve made an error at work, be sure that it doesn’t happen again. You won’t be able to recover nearly as quickly, or as thoroughly, the next time.

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