How to handle mistakes at work

Written by Caitlin Williams

We’ve all made mistakes at work at some point in our career – some more than others! In most cases, it’s not the mistake itself that counts, but how you handle it.

There’s generally two ways to handle it. You can either admit it, try to fix it, and try to move on, or you can hide from it and not own up to it.

The second option is obviously not ideal. It eats away at you, and there’s a good chance you’ll still be found out.

So what should you do to make the most of a mistake and learn from it?

Own up to it – sooner rather than later

The sooner you admit to a mistake, the better – depending on the circumstance, of course. If you leave it too long, your intentions can be misread.

Speak to your manager, or your staff, or whoever is involved. Explain what happened, and why, but be careful not to make excuses, which brings us to …

Don’t make excuses

You’ll earn more respect if you’re honest and admit where you went wrong, rather than trying to blame it on other factors.

We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. By recognising your actions, and how they led to a mistake, you can learn from them and there’s a good chance you won’t make that mistake again.

Make amends

Depending on what the outcome of the mistake is, do your best to make amends. Whether you sent an email to the wrong person, deleted the wrong file, or said the wrong thing and was overheard – you can make amends for almost anything.

Apologise, offer to help if you can, and then give the people involved time to deal with the result. Hanging around and over-apologising can make the situation worse!

Learn from it


No matter the mistake, you can learn from it. Perhaps it’s highlighted a need for upskilling, or perhaps you’ve found a quality of yours that needs some refinement. Maybe you need to learn to keep your voice down, or take an extra second to check an email before you send it.

You’re never too old to learn, and this is the perfect opportunity to better yourself.

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