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How to Recover from a Fumble at Work


How to Recover from a Fumble at Work

 

This is a guest post written by Chrissy of The Executive Assistant’s Tool Box.

 

Let’s be honest: we all make the occasional mistake at work. Some of us, more than others.

 

I prefer to call them “fumbles” because it just sounds nicer. Some people say things “fell through the cracks” or they “dropped the ball”. Whatever you call it, making a mistake at work is a stressful, frustrating experience. Yes, it happens to all of us from time to time. The important thing to remember is that mistakes can not simply be ignored. They must be dealt with. How you deal with and recover from your mistakes can say lot about your character and your work ethic.

 

 

Here are a few pointers for how to handle the inevitable (though hopefully occasional) fumble:

 

Acknowledge Your Mistake Immediately

Time is of the essence when dealing with a fumble. Once you’ve realized that there is problem, consider who will be impacted by your actions (or lack thereof). What will the result be for them? Approach them immediately with honesty about what has taken place. Be straight forward and concise. Don’t beat around the bush and don’t wait. Often, we get in the habit of thinking no one will notice or we just hold our breath that circumstances will change and the mistake will no longer be important. That might work on the rare occasion. But consider the time it doesn’t work and the problem explodes. Do you want people coming back to you asking why you didn’t notify them of your mistake earlier? Acknowledging your mistake to the appropriate parties allows them the opportunity to:

 

a) Help in fixing the problem

b) Prepare for damage due to the mistake

c) Prevent further damage from being done

 

Don’t Give Long Winded Excuses

No one really cares about what caused the mistake. Sure, you and your boss might go over it again in the future in an effort to determine how to prevent it from happening again, but right now, people only care about one thing: dealing with it (i.e. accessing and fixing the damage done while also preventing further damage). Giving a long, drawn out excuse looks like you’re trying to rationalize your fumble. Keep the reason for why it happened short unless it is absolutely necessary.

 

Don’t Blame Others

While it’s tempting to give a long, detailed explanation of why the mistake happened, it’s even more tempting to slide a few other people into the mix so you don’t look solely responsible. Newsflash: people see right through that. Even if you aren’t the only person responsible for the fumble, step up and take the responsibility. Your team mates will appreciate it and remember your loyalty in the future.

 

Bring Solutions

Think about how to resolve the situation. Also, consider future problems that could happen as a result of your mistake. Take solutions with you when you address the mistake with co-workers or supervisors.

 

Apologize….Then Move On

It’s important to say that you’re sorry. No one wants to mess up but it still helps others to hear that you don’t feel good about it. They are then more likely to feel a desire to help out. One word of caution though: don’t over do it. Nothing is more frustrating than someone who continues to apologize over and over again. Say it once, then move on.

 

Learn From the Experience

Sometimes the only good thing to come out of a mistake is the lesson it teaches you. Believe me, these lessons are engrained in your psyche. It’s such an awful and uncomfortable experience, you won’t soon forget it. More than likely, you’ll be replaying exactly what happened and how a million times in your head. That’s good! It will help you identify the problem and prevent it from happening again. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that we’re all human and life is nothing but a series of lessons.


 

Written by Chrissy of The Executive Assistant’s Tool Box. Check out her site for more information on professional and personal development. Popular posts include How to be a Good Listener and 10 Ways to Build a Better Team.

 

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How do you handle workplace fumbles? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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26 Responses to How to Recover from a Fumble at Work

  1. jews September 5, 2007 at 4:32 am #

    Hey, I think you took it too far… I mean, how stressful can it be? Everyone makes mistakes. But then I guess it depends on your line of work 🙂

  2. Urbanist September 5, 2007 at 3:12 pm #

    Great advice, particularly for someone as hot-headed and quick to react negatively as me 😉

  3. Helen September 6, 2007 at 1:07 am #

    Acknowledging our mistakes immediately is indeed the best thing we can do after we commit a mistake. We also need to learn from our mistakes to avoid further mistakes.

  4. agentsully September 6, 2007 at 11:25 am #

    @Jews – I think this refers to big fumbles. Thanks for joining the comments!

    @Urbanist – thanks for your comments as always! You, hot headed?! Come on!

    @Helen – so true! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Hope to see you all again soon!

  5. Chrissy September 6, 2007 at 12:10 pm #

    Couldn’t agree with you more that recovering from mistakes has a LOT to do with your line of work…Neurosurgery? No such thing as a small mistake! But then, I guess this list wouldn’t help much in that case anyway. I wanted to focus this mainly towards those mistakes that make our stomachs drop…the biggies that take some effort to clean up. I think they exist in any job. Obviously, some more than others 🙂

  6. Will the Cable Guy September 6, 2007 at 3:19 pm #

    “I’ll just not say anything about my mistake…no one will notice…”
    …yeah right…I’ve done this so many times and still continue to do it…and to my own misery, they always notice the mistakes…
    = (

  7. yann September 6, 2007 at 10:57 pm #

    So nice to read it. A big professionnal mistake can really damage yourself. I think the first to do is to speak to your friendly partners. And not blame yourself that much. It has the opposite effect to help you. I think most of time, a mistake can hide something wrong with you &/or your environnement. And in my case, a little lie can save you! Most important is to undrestand the cause, repair if possible and prevent other ones …

  8. Pamela September 6, 2007 at 11:17 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. Some people have to be reminded always to avoid the same mistakes.

  9. dbgeezer September 7, 2007 at 1:31 am #

    Funny this should come up. Two days ago, I hosed our inbound and outbound email for a couple of hours by changing something in the firewall and not checking it properly.

    A guy that works for me called me an hour after he was supposed to have left and asked me whether I’d made any changes. I changed it back and that fixed it.

    First thing the next morning I wrote an email to everybody, acknowledging my mistake and apologizing.

    The results?…people only wanted to know if they should resend the mail that bounced.

    hah hah

  10. Derek September 9, 2007 at 1:50 am #

    Everyone makes mistakes and everybody will just deal with it….

    Overcome your mistakes and do not do it again!

    THank you for your wonderful tips!

  11. Medarbetarundersökningens Fallgropar September 10, 2007 at 6:00 am #

    Thinking about how to resolve the situation after committing mistakes is the best policy. Thanks a lot.

  12. Bogge September 10, 2007 at 2:50 pm #

    Good advise… You should never blame someone else and if the problem is big acknowledge your mistake immediately. You cant hide big mistakes.

  13. Jayson Gibson September 11, 2007 at 5:33 pm #

    Great tips! Wonderful article – I think that I’ve done most of these things (if not all) after making a mistake sometime throughout my life and I have definitely seen these behaviors from friends and co-workers! Using these suggestions will definitely ease problems that arise from mistakes.

  14. Vanlig September 14, 2007 at 7:01 am #

    Hey! really great article, i have done so many mistakes but after reading this article i resolved all my mistakes and very happy now.

  15. curs bnr September 16, 2007 at 11:51 am #

    Great article, thanks! Maybe some people would learn several things from here…

  16. Education Blogger September 17, 2007 at 3:14 pm #

    Great article. It’s true, it’s easy to freeze up and not know how to handle it! But I agree, the best way to handle it is to just take a deep breath, apologize, help fix the mistake and do everything you can to prevent it from happening again. Then just move on. It can feel weird to just let it go at that point, but it’s best to just do what you can and move on.

  17. How to Build Muscle Expert February 18, 2008 at 12:50 pm #

    Thanks for the post. I agree that it is important to be honest and acknowledge your mistake, and get on with things as soon as possible.

  18. Las Vegas Real Estate Agent June 25, 2008 at 4:25 am #

    The two most important tips here for me are acknowledging the mistake immediately but bringing the solutions as well. It’s definitely easier to be forgiven if you already have the workaround before anyone has time to get too upset!

  19. agentsully July 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    @Las Vegas RE Agent – thanks for chiming in!

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  1. […] over at Life Learning Today they’re shaking their booties to a post called, “How to Recover from a Fumble at Work“. Written by….guess who? Yep – […]

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  3. […] How to Recover from a Fumble at Work It’s important to say that you’re sorry. No one wants to mess up but it still helps others to hear that you don’t feel good about it. (tags: career) […]

  4. […] heart-stopping moment when we realize we’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake at work. So here’s an article from Life Learning Today on what you can do to get back in the good books, quickly recover from your mistakes and save face. […]

  5. […] check out Life Learning Today on How to Recover from a Fumble at […]

  6. […] a guest post on lifelearningtoday.com, Chrissy of The Executive Assistant’s Tool Box had a few words of wisdom […]

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