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Mistakes at work: 5 steps to overcoming them

Published: Friday 30th October 2020

Everyone makes mistakes at work at some point. This can be everything from a small mistake with no consequences to a large error that results in you being fire. Mistakes at work, as in life, happen. Of course, no one wants to make a mistake, and so when it happens it can be upsetting. Therefore, we highlight five useful steps that you can follow if you make a mistake.

Step 1: Mistakes at work – getting back on the horse

It is natural to feel bad if mistakes have been made and mistake at work anxiety is very real. This can range from simple embarrassment to utter terror. How long you feel bad for often depends on the size/type of mistake and your own personality. However, it is important that you try to quickly recover from it and remain happy at work. This is important for various reasons, including your own mental wellbeing and job security. Mistake at work anxiety can become even worse if not dealt with. Various charities exist dealing with this issue, including Mental Health at WorkWhilst everyone is different, simply taking a step back from the problem will help. This can be everything from having a coffee with a colleague to going for a short walk. This allows you to keep things in perspective, which leads to the second step. 

feeling headache while sitting on couch with laptop on laps. Exhausted stressed, mistakes at work concept.

Step 2: Its not the end of the world 

Mistakes at work can of course feel like the end of the world. We being to question our own abilities, as well as worry colleagues and managers may no longer trust us. First, you need to have a sense of perspective. Very few jobs involve mistakes that can have life or death consequences. Therefore, whilst you may feel your mistake is the worst thing ever to happen, it is likely it really is not. Yes, forgetting a meeting, deleting a file or upsetting a client is not great. However, you must remember that mistakes happen, no real harm has been done and most things can often be easily solved. Admit your mistake and move on, which leads to step number three.  

Step 3: Own your mistake 

If you made a mistake, and there is no one else involved or to blame, you must take responsibility for it. This is often no more than “I’ve made a mistake, I will fix it, sorry.” Admitting to mistakes at work can be difficult. By admitting your mistake, you are helping yourself recover and showing others your maturity and professionalism. We all make mistakes and therefore owning up to an error is often enough for colleagues and managers. Of course, this is not always true. Some managers are perfect and never make mistakes. Such individuals can react to mistakes with the calm and patience of a screaming toddler. This is bad of course, as employee wellbeing is often just as vital as preventing mistakes. However, if this happens, you often need to manage up and do what you can do ensure it does not happen again. Admitting to mistakes at work is very important for you to move on. This leads us to step 4. 

Step 4: Don’t do it again 

Sounds simple right. Mistakes at work are what they are, they are not planned. Therefore, stopping something that was not planned is impossible right. Well yes and no. Mistakes do happen of course, that is why they are called mistakes. However, it is important that you learn from a mistake and do what you can to prevent it happening again. Go over the mistake and try to identify what caused the mistake. Were you not focused enough? Were you trying to do too much? Mistakes can be a sign that something deeper is wrong. Do your best to identify the issue and how it can be avoided in the future. Then tell your boss what you are going to do. This is important. They need to see that you have learned from your mistake and doing everything to prevent it from happening again 

Step 5Move on and move up 

We all make mistakes, what is important is how we react. This is of course true for both work and life. The best thing you can do is admit to your mistake and do everything you can to ensure it does not happen again. Do this and you can likely get back on track with your career. Making a mistake, even a big one, does not mean the end of your job. What is important is how you learn from such a mistake. History is full of people who failed but went on to great things, and so will the future. Whatever the mistake you made, you must forgive yourself and move on. If you do not, you will likely make more mistakes, each time making yourself feel worse and ultimately leading to much larger consequences, including redundancy 

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