Posted by:
Jill Jacinto

Jill Jacinto

June 29, 2015


How to Clean Up a Mistake At the Office

We all make mistakes. Even the queen of DIY Martha Stewart has been in hot water and was able to bounce back. We can say that we won’t ever make a mistake but we’re all human. Mistakes at the office happen. How you handle mistakes at work is the most important and can set the tone for the rest of your career.

Most Common Workplace Mistakes: Employees who lie on expense reports, bad mouthing the company/boss on social media or to clients, proof reading mistakes, missing deadlines…just to name a few.

How You Should Handle Mistakes at the Office. Take responsibility for your actions. If you majorly screw up, you have to suffer the consequences — in silence. Don’t protest, don’t try and get out of it, and don’t put the blame on someone or something else. People will respect you more for owning your mistakes.

If No One Knows it Was You… Should You Fess Up? In this day and age of 24/7 social media and advances in technology how can you really be sure that no one is aware that you made a mistake? Companies can very easily track any correspondence you’ve had over your company’s email. So that issue that you thought was resolved months ago – could come back to haunt you when your employer cleans out their servers.

Who Should You Talk To After You Made a Mistake? Depending upon how this mistake relates to the company – it should be handled accordingly. Did you offend someone on a personal level? Then go to the person you wronged. Otherwise, head straight to your boss.

How Should You Explain Yourself? Think of this faux pas as a time to rebrand yourself…an opportunity to start over. To do so, you have to think strategically about what aspect of your image needs revamping. Think about what you can do to help the company fix this situation and what you can do to avoid it in the future. This is what you need your boss to focus on other than the mistake. Actions speak louder than words; put your plan into action shortly after speaking with your boss. The next meeting you have walk into the boardroom and pitch an idea that will knock people’s socks off. You have to alter people’s memory of you. That way, when they hear your name, they’ll think of the great work you do, not that horrible faux pas you made last year. Create a team dynamic by celebrating your company’s successes on LinkedIn. Helping to promote your company and coworkers can also help change their perception of you from someone who wronged the company to someone who has its back. Share relevant articles on your Company’s Page about the great work they’ve been doing and Share notes of congrats to employers who hit a goal or presented a winning product idea.

What Should Your Never Say? Do not try and push the blame onto someone else – especially if you were caught red handed. Do not get defensive. You should be brief as possible but if your boss wants a play by play – rehearse what you’ll be saying beforehand. Calmly, focus on the mistake and why it happened and how you plan on fixing it. Remind your boss you are a loyal employee and this is a one-off situation.

But what if you are right and everyone in the office thinks you are wrong? You might need to get a third party to weigh, someone who can play devil’s advocate. Sometimes it will help you detach yourself from your emotions and see how maybe, just maybe, you did make the mistake after all.

How to Graciously Handle a Mistake and Come Out Ahead. A client of mine made a massive project-related error. He contacted me and asked for my advice. I told him to go to a non-work-related area and ask himself “What’s the practical solution?” I also told him to avoid kvetching with colleagues, which will only make you more anxious about your screw up. The next step for him was to see your boss somewhere unusual—this one-off location unconsciously signals that this is a one-off conversation and therefore a one-off error. Explain everything, hide nothing, and provide solutions.

If the Mistake Was Made Online, Don’t Think Deleting It Will Fix the Problem. Let’s say you wrote something about a product your company is developing on your social media but in your next meeting you find out this is still confidential…you could get your company in hot water. Go directly to your boss and ask them how to handle it. Even if you delete the comment, you cannot be sure how many eyeballs read that message and what they’ll be able to do with that information. Was it passed along to a reporter whose investigating the leak of the product? Or perhaps a competitor will push their product out before yours. Or what if you’re in the middle of a merger and your new partner gets wind of this operation? The what ifs are endless. Fess up and come clean. Your company will help with damage control.