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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. 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.

  2. 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!

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

    @Las Vegas RE Agent – thanks for chiming in!

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