Imagine this scenario: you receive an email sent to everyone in the company. Maybe it’s announcing a change in benefits or a new company policy. You have a question, so you hit reply, type out your message, and send. But it turns out you accidentally replied all and everyone in the office suddenly has your email in their inbox. If this makes you cringe with embarrassment, that’s totally normal, but it’s also a much more common mistake than you might think.
The point of the nightmare-inducing example above is to prove that mistakes in the workplace happen. Sometimes they’re on a small scale, like an email mishap, and other times they range in seriousness and require help to resolve the issue. But remember even the most organized coworkers make mistakes. A workplace is, after all, just made up of people. The important thing is how we handle our mistakes.
More often than not, the mistakes we make at work don’t call for a full-scale meltdown. In fact, overreacting can make mistakes seem worse than they are and can demonstrate your own need to work on soft skills, such as communication and emotional control. If you’ve made a mistake at work, take a moment to process the situation, collect your thoughts, and prepare yourself to take the next steps.
Assess the situation
It’s good to ask yourself if what went awry was significant or insignificant in terms of consequences. Will your mistake impact your entire team or company or organization? Or was it just a tiny error that you can quickly and quietly fix? Answering this question with total honesty will determine how to proceed.
Act swiftly if need be
Let’s say it’s a bigger mistake. Remaining calm doesn’t mean sitting on our mistakes hoping they resolve with time. When we don’t act quickly, we can get sidetracked with other tasks or worse the mistake grows and tumbles out of control. If the situation calls for it, communicate your mistakes to your boss or supervisor. By remaining calm, you can clearly state the situation, including what was supposed to happen and what did happen.
Even better than simply telling your boss about your mistake is also sharing ideas for how to fix the error and move on. If the mistake must urgently be communicated before you have time to come up with a solution, let your boss know that you’re currently working on ways to solve the problem. While your ideas might not be the final solution, your willingness to see a mistake and proactively brainstorm solutions demonstrates strong problem-solving skills and professionalism.
Whether a mistake happened on your own or it was the result of an error in your team, never point fingers at another employee and don’t place all the blame on one person. Part of being on a team means taking ownership of the roles we play, whether they result in success or setbacks. A prime soft skill for workplace success is demonstrating that you know how to be on a team through all the ups and downs.
Apologize and move on
You can always apologize for your mistake, but set some limits. You don’t want to keep reminding your boss or your team about the mistake. It’s best to move on and focus instead on new projects and productivity. You also don’t want to beat yourself up. Remember that example at the top of this post? Well, you’re hard-pressed to find someone in the workplace who hasn’t made a mistake, no matter the scale. Moving on and allowing yourself to learn from the mistake allows you to become a better employee.
You can visit a no-cost Goodwill Career Center and ask a career advisor for assistance with job needs. Call 602-535-4444 to find a career center near you or visit our locations page. Good luck with your job search!