How to Rebound From a Work Mistake

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Everyone knows what it’s like to make a mistake at work. First comes the panic, then that dreadful question arises: What do I do now? With the right approach, you can get over your mistake and resume business as usual in no time. Use this guide to overcome even the worst mistakes without missing a beat.

I made a mistake at work – should I quit?

It’s normal to overreact when you’ve made a mistake at work. You might even assume that your only recourse is to quit your job altogether. This impulse stems from a natural desire to run away from a harmful situation—but you should think twice before following it. 

If you were already thinking it’s time to abandon your position and find something new, then quitting might be a decent option. But if you like your job and value what it’s doing for your career, you’d be foolish to give it up just because of a single mishap. Rather than running away from the problem, do what it takes to make the situation right.

Sample apology letter for a mistake

Letters represent a great way to apologize for mistakes at work. Their length allows you to express yourself with sincerity, and their formality shows that you’re taking the situation seriously.

Are you wondering how to construct your apology letter for a mistake at work? Try basing your text on this sample:

Dear Mrs. Jones,

Please accept this apology for my mistake during the Cashman wedding. I apologize profusely for my error, and I promise I won’t make the same mistake again. 

Reading the plans for the menu, I thought I saw that shrimp or scallops would be served, and I ordered for the event accordingly. It was only after the event started that I saw the clients wanted shrimp and scallops. It was a silly mistake on my part, and I’ll be sure never to repeat it.

I hope you are able to forgive me for this serious mistake, and I’ll be working extra hard to show the value I can provide for the business.

Sincerely,

Lisa Anderson

8 Tips to Deal With a Mistake at Work

Work mistakes don’t have to derail your career or ruin your relationship with your employers. The key is to react to the errors properly. Here are eight tips to keep in mind next time you make a mistake at work. 

Don’t beat yourself up—mistakes happen

Self-loathing is never helpful, especially in response to something as commonplace as a work mistake. Putting yourself down will damage your self-esteem, and it won’t do anything to fix the problem. Rather than wasting time with pointless self-criticism, focus on actions that produce results. 

Try to fix the problem

The first order of business after a mistake is to do what you can to repair the damage. Fixing your own mistakes shows toughness and independence. While everyone dreams of solving the problem so well that nobody notices it even happened, you might impress your bosses more by making a mistake, then dealing with it effectively on your own. 

Don’t hide from your mistake—own it

Accountability commands respect, while shifting blame only makes you look weak. When you realize you’ve done something wrong, don’t be ashamed to lift your hand and say, “My bad.” People can sympathize with someone who’s made an honest mistake, and you’ll earn points for your honesty and integrity.

Apologize to impacted parties

Saying you’re sorry is more than just a ritual. It also shows people that you recognize your mistake and lament the problems it caused. Even if people remain annoyed about the mishap, they’re less likely to hold it against you if they know you’re genuinely sorry.

Make your manager aware

If a manager learns of a mistake immediately, they can often compensate for it and keep things operating smoothly. It’s when problems are left to fester that they become more costly. When you make a mistake, simply fess up as soon as you can. Your boss will appreciate the honesty.

Create a solution to the problem

“Hey, I made a mistake,” doesn’t sound great to a manager. “I made a mistake—and this is how I’m going to fix it,” sounds a whole lot better. By finding solutions to the problems you’ve created, you get yourself—and the business—back on track. 

Accept the consequences (if any)

Mistakes often come with consequences. You might lose certain privileges, face doubts from colleagues, or get moved to a new role you don’t particularly enjoy. Instead of becoming resentful, try to accept these challenges as part of your journey. With hard work and dedication, you should have little trouble regaining your former status within the workplace.

Document your mistakes (and the solutions) 

If you’ve been making too many mistakes at work, you’re probably not doing enough to learn from them. Try writing down each mistake you’ve made along with a possible solution. This habit will force you to reflect on your actions—and your performance should improve as a result.  

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About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.

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