How to Gracefully Recover From a Serious Mistake at Work

A few years ago, I had a coworker – let’s call her Jane – assigned to work with our senior vice president’s office at an important event. The project (and staff, for that matter) was quite challenging, and Jane often came to us at the end of a busy day to talk about her troubles with angry emails, unreasonable demands, and generally difficult people.

This post was originally published on the Muse website .

One day, she received a particularly outrageous letter from a senior vice president’s right hand (that is, someone you really don’t want to mess with). I don’t remember the details of the message, but it ended with something like, “ I’m still not happy. Why don’t we just do it like this? “

Jane, seething, couldn’t make it to her ventilation session at 5:00 pm and she forwarded an email to the rest of our team with this friendly note: ” Why don’t we try to push this event upstairs.” – a -? “

You probably already know the not-so-happy ending to this story: in a fit of anger, Jane pressed “reply” instead of “forward,” and instead of pleasing our sympathetic ears, her message went back straight to the recipient.

Yeah. Not her best moment.

That said, if there is a positive point, her epic failure in the workplace can serve as a great lesson for all of us. Here’s what Jane did – and what you can do if you come across something like that in the unfortunate eventuality.

Apologize – Immediately

Jane’s first wish? To throw. Or cause an explosion hazard. Or feign food poisoning and spend the rest of the week in your apartment. She was confused and scared and wondered how she was going to get through the rest of the week, dodging the rest of the team in the hallways.

This approach, as you probably already know, does nothing good for you. In fact, there is only one way to get out of such a pit – is to confess and apologize. There is no need to go on and on, but you must admit your wrongdoing, express your sincere remorse for your actions, and (if applicable) share the steps you will take to ensure that it never happens again.

Panicking, crying and pulling herself together, Jane did the uncomfortable but inevitable: she picked up the phone and apologized. She explained that her response was an emotional outburst in a moment of disappointment, and while it was intended for her team, it was completely unacceptable – and unprofessional – a move. She shared how sorry she was and asked for a chance to move forward in a positive way.

It really made a big difference to the other team. Although that didn’t mean she didn’t need …

Observe the consequences

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but Jane was not fired. However, she received an official review from HR.

Now she could fight back, could argue that one small mistake in the email shouldn’t trigger formal disciplinary action, could explain how terrible the other team was. But she didn’t. She knew she was wrong and professionally accepted the consequences of her actions.

Depending on the miss, accepting the consequences can mean different things: you may have to drive an hour to an uncomfortable meeting in order to settle the relationship with the client. You may have to work 20 hours overtime to recreate the file you deleted from the company’s shared drive. Whatever you do, do it without complaint. This will show everyone around you that you are serious about your mistake – and honestly, it’s probably a small price to pay to keep your job.

A more subtle consequence of your actions is that you will be watched for a while. This means you need to sit down and do your best. Arrive early. Stay up late. Do your best. Be positive. Make every cliché you’ve ever heard about shining in the office your own personal mantra. Talking is cheap, and you really need to show everyone around you that you are ready to correct your mistake in order for them to believe you.

Oh, and take bold steps to make sure that what you’ve done never happens again. For Jane, this meant that every email she sent was placed in the “Do I want my boss to see this?” Section. test. (It’s a good rule to live in general …)

Know that you are not alone

The bad news, as you know, is that you have made a truly terrible mistake. Good news? You are certainly not the only one who did this. Here is a friend of mine who said in a chat: “What is Angela thinking ?!” his work friend, who was currently showing her screen at a meeting with Angela. There is a colleague of mine who accidentally emailed his boss about his bowel movement. Here’s the guy who drunkenly sang the NSFW’s most popular song at karaoke in front of his CEO. (By the way, none of these people were fired if it makes it easier for you.)

Yes, we can and should participate in our top quality games and do our best to be consummate professionals, impressive employees and generally good people. But, unfortunately, we are human and are going to make gross mistakes at work. And the best we can do is graciously recover from them and learn from them as we move forward.

Of course, there are incidents that are not so much “blunders” as “serious offenses that can be initiated.” In that case, here are some tips to help you get started on your job search and explain why you got fired. potential employers. It hurts, yes, but you won’t believe it, but you can handle it.

How To Recover From A Huge, Huge Mistake At Work | Muse


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