Here’s What to Do When You Make a Huge Mistake at Work
Okay, so you realize you effed something up BIG TIME at the office. Before you start hyperventilating, know that it happens to everyone at some point in their career, and it’s no reason to question your abilities or think about quitting your job. Seriously, you are not alone. It might feel like the end of the world if you screw something up at your dream job, but trust us, it’s not, and you absolutely can bounce back from it. We chatted with Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor with Mentat, a career advising firm, to find out the best way to deal with your boss, make yourself feel better and own the situation before it owns you.
1. ‘Fess up. So yeah, you have to tell your boss or manager what happened. It’s not going to feel good, but it’s important to be honest. Plus, it might be a relief to get it off your chest once all is said and done. “Own the mistake and fix it, but not quietly,” suggests Valerie. “Being verbal and expressing that you’re very aware that you messed up can be incredibly difficult, as it compounds the humiliation and embarrassment, but it is truly the better way to deal with major screw-ups.” If you feel like it’s appropriate, you can even try to make light of the situation — after apologizing and explaining how you’ll fix it, of course. “Make a joke of the mistake if you can, but don’t overdo it so that YOU become the joke,” she says. “If you can show that you’re a human, you recognize where you went wrong and you’re informing everyone concerned that you’re fixing it, you can recover much faster.”
2. Allow yourself to let off some steam. It’s normal to feel some anxiety about what comes next after something big like this happens at work. That’s why Valerie recommends doing something about it. “If you need to let out all your frustration at yourself in a cathartic, verbal manner, try this: Instead of melting your friends’ ears off by venting and obsessing about your mistakes, go get your car washed and scream while it gets a bath, or take a kickboxing class and sweat out all the emotion and regret that you can.” Yeah! Sweating it out is always a good idea if you’re feeling angsty, but a good old cry or scream sesh works too.
3. Focus on your successes. It’s easy to get in your own head about what it means when you do something wrong, but just because you messed one thing up doesn’t mean you’ve failed at everything. “Write down five things that you’ve done in the last year that have benefited your company greatly,” suggests Valerie. “Reminding yourself that you are important at your job, that your mistake is not a reflection of who you are as an employee, will help you to move on and keep the atmosphere positive.” Plus, it might come in handy if you also need to remind your boss why you’re so awesome.
4. Plan out some future goals. One of the best ways to take your mind off the past is to focus on the future. “Write down five things you can accomplish in the coming year that will be successes much larger than your mistake was,” says Valerie. Moving forward is an amazing way to leave behind things that have already happened and are now out of your control. Setting new goals can help you feel motivated and ready for a new challenge.
5. Imagine yourself getting over it. Mind over matter, right? “Don’t dwell on it,” says Valerie. Obsessing over what happened won’t make you feel any better, so “instead, visualize your success. Sit and sort of meditate, but instead of completely clearing your mind of all thoughts, think about how you will move forward. Imagine the steps you need to take to accomplish great things at your job.” Put negative thoughts out of your mind, “because dwelling on the negative will never bring positive changes or success.” True that.
Have you ever made a major mistake at work? How did you recover? Tell us about it @BritandCo!