Made a mistake at work? Here's what to do next.

Career advice

We all know the feeling when we’ve realised we’ve made a mistake at work. The panic, the questioning of how it happened and the debate of whether you can get away with it or start a new role without anyone realising what happened. But what is the best way to deal and move on from making a mistake at work? Our recovery guide tells you how.

The Brook Street recovery plan

Accept it

First things first, you made a mistake. It’s done now but it’s natural to feel awful about what’s happened and depending on where the mishap lands on the Richter scale of mess-ups the guilt and negativity could be short-lived or long-term. It’s okay to feel bad but don’t revel in it and let it build up. Talk to someone, go outside for a quick 5 minute walk around the building or partake in your favourite personal hobby whether that be shopping, the bar or the gym. Accept it happened but don’t let it continue to impact you, it’s important to keep things in perspective. There are some exceptions to this rule but generally, making a mistake at work isn’t ordinarily a life or death situation – keep that in mind when you feel yourself beginning to hyperventilate because you’ve sent a report to the wrong client or missed a meeting because of heinous traffic.

Confront the situation

It’s time to face what happened and not to ignore it. There are consequences to mistakes but the reality of what will occur will no doubt be a lot less horrific than the worst scenario you have conjured up in your imagination. The quicker you confront the situation and inform the parties that need to know, the quicker a solution can be created, mistake resolved and life to resume.

Be realistic – everyone makes mistakes it and if this is out of the ordinary for you then they’ll see past it but if you think you could be fired you will survive and find another role, you’ve got the skills and talent to do so.

Review why it happened

When you make a mistake take stock and think back to what you were doing when it happened and why it occurred.  Could it be you were multi-tasking, distracted by your employee’s or thinking about an upcoming meeting that you’re worrying about? No matter the reason, it’s best to find out in order to stop it becoming a regular habit and to create a solution to stop it.

Create an action plan

You’ve apologised to all that were impacted by your mishap and work is back to normal but it’s important to make sure that you’ve learnt from the mistake and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Saying sorry doesn’t make much difference if you make the same mistake time and again and never learn from it. Once you’ve thought about why the mistake happened and the causes behind it’s time to put a plan in place to stop it occurring again. This could mean sending work to your manager before it’s seen by others, walking away from your desk for a few minutes then coming back to check your report and the recipient is all correct or setting reminders in your calendar that’ll let you know what you need to do.

Mistakes happen to everyone, we’re only human but it’s what you learn and take from it moving forward in your role that’s important. We’re not perfect and your manager and employee’s don’t expect you to be but ensuring that you do the best job that you can and putting a plan in place to stop further errors occurring will show that you’re conscientious, care about your role and people’s perceptions of your department – you don’t want to be known as the one’s that always get it wrong – and want to deliver the highest quality of work and be proud of what you produce.