Mistakes happen. When you can acknowledge your errors, rather than try to cover up or blame someone else for your gaffs, you have a much better chance of learning from mistakes. Granted, the culture of your workplace may dictate how mistakes are handled, but personally you shouldn’t live in fear of making a mistake because that tension will only create an environment in which you are even more likely to fail.
Accept responsibility for a mistake when the error is brought to your attention. You’ll gain the trust of your peers and management team. You’ll also set the tone for future open communications in your workplace.
Evaluate where you went wrong when you catch your own mistake and then bring it to the attention of your manager instead of hoping that no one notices. When you report the error, you can explain where you made the mistake and bring suggestions for how you can avoid the same error in the future.
Listen carefully to the criticism you may expect when you acknowledge your mistake, without feeling anger or casting blame. Instead, remain open to learning a lesson from the experience. Constructive criticism is an important part of learning.
Apologize for your error to everyone affected by the mistake and make a pledge to fix it to the best of your abilities. Without making excuses, share your ideas and plans for correcting the error. Provide a timeline for when the error will be remedied.
Take immediate steps to carry out the plan to fix your mistake. Once you’ve promised to follow through with the fix, then be sure to do it in a timely manner and let those affected know when the solution is complete.
- Forgive yourself for the mistake before you even bring it up to anyone else. The process of letting yourself off the hook and reminding yourself that you are only human and didn’t make the mistake on purpose relieves you of the internal emotional baggage so that you’ll be better prepared to face the consequences and the difficult conversations that lie ahead of you when you fess up. Being open will earn you more respect from your colleagues than if you never made the mistake in the first place.
- Once you’ve taken all the steps to claim responsibility, apologized and remedied the situation, you must move on. Don’t continue to berate yourself or replay the scenario with a different, more acceptable outcome. It will make it more difficult for you to get back into your work energetically when you carry around remorse and self-recrimination.
- When you deny you made the mistake and the truth comes out that you actually did make the error, your integrity will be questioned and it will be more difficult for your peers and management to trust you in the future.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."