4 Steps for Recovering from a Mistake at Work

tyler

making mistakes at work, workplace culture, self-care

I’ve already made my fair share of mistakes as I’ve adjusted to my role as the coordinator for ACHIEVE Publishing. With added responsibilities and higher stakes, as well as new tasks and processes to learn, there’s been ample opportunity for mishaps.

One of the bigger mistakes I’ve made happened because of a miscommunication with our book printer. We wanted the printer to insert a promotional bookmark into each copy of our January 2021 counselling book. Since this book has “counselling” in the title, we printed two versions: one with the Canadian spelling of the word (counselling) and the other with the US spelling (counseling). The same went for the bookmark – two versions, one for Canada and the other for the US.

When I emailed our printer to ask them to insert the bookmarks, I neglected to mention there were two distinct versions of the bookmark that correlated with US or Canadian version of the book. As a result, the bookmarks were mixed together at their facility and inserted into each version of the book.

When the books arrived at our office, I opened a Canadian version only to find the US bookmark. I went back to my email thread and my heart fell to my stomach as I realized my mistake.

Here are a few things I learned about how to handle mistakes in the workplace:

Take a moment to calm down.

It’s difficult not to panic about an error that’s clearly yours, but it’s important to take a moment to calm down before responding to the situation. Take some time to breathe and think before trying to rectify the situation.

When I first realized my mistake, my initial reaction was to panic. However, once I stopped to take a few deep breaths and calm down, I was better prepared to figure out my next steps.

Tell someone and come up with a plan.

Once you’ve calmed down, consider who needs to know about what happened. Although telling someone about a mistake requires a high level of trust and vulnerability, it’s the only way to move towards a resolution. If possible, also consider a solution – that way you’re already taking the initiative to amend the situation as much as possible. This can give you the sense that you’re taking action and moving things forward.

I’m lucky there is a high level of trust and vulnerabilty among staff and leaders at ACHIEVE. So, I started by emailing my supervisor about what happened and let him know that I would be going into the office to open up each book and replace the incorrect bookmarks. On a side note, I’m very thankful for my coworkers who were willing to come in and help me with this task.

Although telling someone about a mistake requires a high level of trust and vulnerability, it’s the only way to move towards a resolution.

Consider your processes.

Once you’ve come up with a solution, think about what you can do to avoid making the same mistake again. Is there a process you can put in place? Or a checklist that would be helpful? Once you’ve found a way to prevent the mistake, tell your supervisor. This shows that they can trust you not to make the same mistake again.

To prevent the bookmark issue from happening again, I’ve created a publishing checklist that includes info on what to do when there’s two versions of the same book.

Move on.

This last step is often the most difficult one. Forgiving yourself for messing up is difficult, but we’re all human and need to show ourselves some grace when we mess up.

Forgiving yourself for messing up is difficult, but we’re all human and need to show ourselves some grace when we mess up.

It took some time to see my mistake as a learning opportunity rather than purely as a misstep. However, after sitting with it for some time and being kind to myself, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve learned from my mistake and moved on.

Recovering from a mistake isn’t easy, but it’s how we learn and get better at our jobs. The next time you goof, take a breath and figure out your next steps. Then refine your processes so you don’t make the same mistake again. This shows that you care about your work and gives you a sense that you’re growing and improving.


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Author: Tyler Voth
ACHIEVE Publishing Coordinator, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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