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What to Do Right After Making a Big Mistake at Work

It happens. In fact, it’s inevitable. Sooner or later, there will come a time at work when you make a mistake. Whether it’s sending an email on accident, submitting the wrong budget numbers, or saying something stupid in a business meeting, there will be a moment when you do the wrong thing and will need to save face.


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Want to make sure you are still employed — or at the very least, have some dignity remaining — after making a mistake on the job? Here’s what you can do right after you make an egregious error in the workspace.

1. Remember you’re not alone.
You are not the only person in the office who has made a mistake, so if you feel concerned about being the only one at work who does, fear not. None of us are perfect — neither you nor your coworkers will be 100 percent successful, 100 percent of the time. It’s just not possible.


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2. Stay calm.
According to one survey by Accountemps, 45 percent of professionals say they have cried at work, and 52 percent of the survey participants said they have even lost their temper while on the job. Emotional outbursts in the office certainly are not rare, but the key is to make sure that for you, they are not frequent. Take a few deep breaths and be sure to compose yourself so you don’t trigger a cascade of additional mistakes.


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3. Keep things in perspective.
Unless you’re a brain surgeon or a pilot, there is a good chance that making a mistake at work is not a life or death situation. In fact, smart leaders understand that they are often the result of experimenting and looking for new ways to do things better. Do your best, and if you do drop the ball, know that most mistakes can be corrected and you and your organization have the opportunity to learn from them.


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4. Find a solution and prepare for the future.
Of course, after you compose yourself, the next best move is to fix the error. Even further, you can evaluate your actions and determine what needs to be done differently next time in order to prevent future issues. You can even communicate your findings and decisions to your boss, which will show him or her that you are trustworthy and take initiative.


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5. Enjoy the ride.
Mishaps and failure play an integral role in personal and professional growth, because they help you learn more about what you are doing and about yourself. In fact, mistakes can even help your company and organization at large. Big ideas (whether created intentionally or by accident) help drive innovation and creativity — you may be making a mistake now, but tomorrow that very same mistake could be viewed as an opportunity for something new and innovative.

Remember — you can fail and still have success. No matter what kind of mistake you make, there will always be room for you to bounce back.


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