As Miley Cyrus once said, “Everybody makes mistakes/Everybody has those days.” And in fact, we have all had “those days.” Probably quite a few of them if we’re being honest. It’s pretty easy to be truthful about doing something wrong if you’re the only one affected. No one but you will really care you botched those song lyrics in the car on the way home, or that you slightly overcooked the hamburger you made yourself for dinner. But what about when screw ups happen at work? How should they be handled so no one is wrongly accused, or so that a small mishap doesn’t spiral into a huge mess? Here are a few tips on what to do when mistakes happen at work.
First, don’t panic. People who are stressed out or very nervous tend to not make rational decisions. Stay calm and consider your options. A lot of the time, you’ll be able to figure out a way to right the wrong yourself without having to alert anyone else to your little slip up. But be cautious of keeping all your mistakes to yourself; you don’t want to appear to be hiding them.
Second, as touched on above, know when you do need to let someone know you have done something wrong. If you are unsure how to fix the problem, don’t be afraid to try on your own, but be cautious of the possibility of making it worse in your attempt to fix it. In the case you decide you need to tell someone, choose a person carefully. If it’s a computer problem, contact IT; if it’s an employee issue, speak with human resources. Just as you wouldn’t use Excel to write a memo, don’t tell a person who can’t help you. Not only will choosing your help wisely save you time in solving the problem, it will also keep your mistake between as few people as possible.
Third, always be honest. If you thought you fixed the problem on your own only to find out later you did not, don’t spend any time claiming it wasn’t you who was the original cause. Honesty is always the best policy, and employers will appreciate you admitting your mistake. It would be pretty awful to let someone else take the fall for something you did, and he or she will remember that you threw them under the bus for the rest of your time working together. It’s better to be honest and risk a little reprimand than make career-long enemies.
Finally, go easy on yourself. Making mistakes is bound to happen in any job. Don’t get down on yourself for being human, which is always less than perfect. All of your coworkers have made just as many, if not more, mistakes than you have. If you are honest and make a valiant effort to correct and not repeat your original mistake, there is nothing more you can do.
Making mistakes is part of being human, and your employers, supervisors, and coworkers all know that. The true test of what kind of person and employee you are is how you handle them. Following these tips will help you to weather “those days” and keep you in good standing with your company.