HOW TO SCREW UP AT WORK AND LIVE TO TELL THE TALE

So you didn’t send the invite for an important meeting with your big boss. Maybe you accidentally deleted a group presentation the morning of. Or perhaps you left a typo on that pricey billboard that thousands see every day. Whatever the fudge up, it is no denying the feeling of your stomach dropping, hands going clammy and dread creeping across your chest. Thoughts start racing, thinking of every worst-case scenario ranging from being fired to being sued. You are in disbelief that this could happen and are considering abandoning your current life and breaking out through the fire escape.
Before you do, take a deep breath and realise you are human. Mistakes happen and more often then what you think. I spoke with some family, friends, and colleagues around how they handle screwing up at their workplace and I got some pretty consistent feedback. Here are some top tips to survive the inevitable screw up!

DID I DO THAAAT?

Acknowledge your screw up. It is an obvious one but you have already messed up and you will do yourself no favors by denying/scapegoating/palming off the acknowledgment that you made the error. In fact, actually recognising a mistake shows maturity, strength, and remorse. Nothing is worse than pretending that you did nothing wrong. Get on the front foot and speak to a manager, a colleague and start the conversation. Depending on the level of screw up, I like being frank and saying to your boss lady “I believe I have made an error..”
Also, raising it will clarify if it is an actual mistake! Maybe if you are lucky it is something that is not actually wrong or is easily fixed.
Like with everything, after acknowledgment there comes consequences. Maybe you have to stay back and rectify, perhaps you have to deliver the bad news to someone in person or you may have to take the brunt of a yelling customer. Just be active in fixing the problem if possible and show your commitment to making it right.

OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN

Since you can never say never, don’t say that this type of screw up will never happen again. You never know. But do recognise the best practice to make sure that you don’t have that feeling of terror when you realise you broke a shared IT system and the website is crashing. Maybe it is taking time to fully understand how something works or looking at your own working style. Putting in safety nets now means that you can better yourself and the outcomes you produce in your job. If you are genuine about learning from your mistakes, the chances that it happens again is low. Which is a win for you!

IS IT TOO LATE NOW TO SAY SORRY, AGAIN…

My colleague made a good point about apologies. She said “Apologise once and clearly. Then move on”. You are already helping to fix the issue and put safety nets in place to make sure it will not happen again. Apologise to a few appropriate people only, your manager maybe or the team that it will affect most. Then move on and focus on making it right.
I have also found personally that an apology is sometimes not always necessary. Your actions speak louder, apologising over and over again to different people can start to look a little sad. You messed up. Unless people have died- they will have to get over it.
In saying that, so will you! Sometimes we want to harp on about our mistake, spinning negative stories about how shitty we are at our jobs and how we are just the worst. Yeah, don’t do that. Torturing yourself will just mean your head is in the perfect place for you to make another mistake.

 

Oops, I did it again

Since you can never say never, don’t say that this type of screw up will never happen again. You never know. But do recognise best practise to make sure that you don’t have that feeling of terror when you realise you broke a shared IT system and the website is crashing. Maybe it is taking time to fully understand how something works or looking at your own working style. Putting in safety nets now means that you can better yourself and the outcomes you produce in your job. If you are genuine about learning from your mistakes, the chances that it happens again is low. Which is a win for you!

Is it too late now to say sorry, again..

My colleague made a good point about apologies. She said “Apologise once and clearly. Then move on”. You are already helping to fix the issue and put safety nets in place to make sure it will not happen again. Apologise to a few appropriate people only, your manager maybe or the team that it will effect most. Then move on and focus on making it right.
I have also found personally that an apology is sometime not always necessary. Your actions speak louder, apologising over and over again to different people can start to look a little sad. You messed up. Unless people have died- they will have to get over it.
In saying that, so will you! Sometimes we want to harp on about our mistake, spinning negative stories about how shitty we are at our jobs and how we are just the worst. Yeah, don’t do that. Torturing yourself will just mean your head is in the perfect place for you to make another mistake.

Final thoughts. If your workplace will not let you forget your screw up and are unreasonably harping on about it instead of getting on and fixing it with you; perhaps you need to consider if this is a toxic environment where humans should be replaced by androids. Because in reality everyone has made big mistakes and little ones, but its how you handle yourself afterward that shows what type of person you are.

JKL

Image Source: Gettyimages.com.au

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