Thursday, January 17, 2013

The 5-step Recovery Strategy for When You Make a Mistake at Work

You may have noticed that the title says "when" you make a mistake and not "if" you make a mistake. We all make mistakes, some are just more serious than others and some are just more public - I'm talking to you Lance Armstrong - than others. There will come a day when you make a workplace error, so you might as well be proactive and use this 5-step strategy to correct the mistake when it does happen.

Own up to it. We are often disappointed when we hear of people making mistakes. However, I feel the issue is made worse by first denying the issue, then later coming out and not only having to admit the mistake, but also admit to lying. Unless your error is insignificant and will have no long-lasting repercussions, tell your supervisor about the issue immediately so that it is not discovered by someone else.

Solve your own problems. When I was a manager, I always told the people who worked with me that they could come to me with any issue. However, I also told them that they were not allowed to dump their issue in my lap; they must come with a potential solution in mind. Before you go to your boss to admit your mistake, take time to research to effect of the gaffe and outline a plan to correct the mistake that includes any potential costs to your employer.

Don't point fingers. There may be others who share your responsibility for the issue at hand. You should go to them and encourage them to follow your example and admit their role in the problem. However, when you point fingers, you only make yourself look worse.

Go above and beyond to correct the mistake. If your plan for correction includes an expenditure of time, try to do it on your own time. Offer to work through lunch, stay late, or work on weekends; just don't expect to be paid extra for the time it will take to correct your mistake.

Don't dwell on the problem. Lance Armstrong admitted his mistake and apologized for what he did. However, I don't expect him to continue to apologize and castigate himself every time he opens his mouth from here on. Once you admit your mistake and take corrective actions, you must move on, forgive yourself, and ensure you have learned from your mistake so it does not happen again.

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