4 Basic Steps to Fix Mistakes at Work

Image by: Shockingly Tasty
By Gabe Townsend

You may know the sinking feeling in your stomach at the moment when you realize you made a mistake at work. Though there are different degrees of mistakes, some repairable, some final; you always should own up to them, find a solution to the resulting mess, and then figure out how and why the accident occurred.

As a human, you are going to make occasional mistakes at work. What is unacceptable is to repeat the same mistake again; what is intolerable is to lie about or cover up your mistake.

Dealing with and repairing mistakes at work is a basic, four-point process that is the same for the executive and the clerk, alike. The first thing you do is admit to the mistake to your boss or team, in person. Do not admit to mistakes in an email or a voicemail. And don’t delay in owning up to your error. The sooner your boss or team realizes the mistake was made, the sooner you all can get to damage control. If you can, it’s best to present options to solve the newly created problem. You made the problem, you should fix it.

But what you don’t know is that your boss or a team member may have an inside solution, too. They may know the person involved, or have insight over the issue you aren’t aware of. Timely and honest communication is the key.

The second step is to devise a plan and execute it. You shift focus from feeling shame to coming up with a plan for damage control. Let’s say you have the forecast numbers mixed up, or the calculations are wrong in the presentation that already went out to the board. You may have to devise a plan on your own, as everyone else’s plates are full. Or you may require the help of others, as presentations are rarely a solo endeavor.

Timing is fundamental, as there are others who may have to execute; like someone else may need to reprint presentations and send them out, or the CEO must communicate with the board in person. You may have to plan and coordinate other’s efforts to repair your error.

Now the problem’s solved. Now is the time for the third step; analyze how and why you made the mistake. Identify where the gap occurred. Many times information and materials cross your desk too late. Many times there was an error in an email with the instructions you followed to the “t.” Whatever the case is, find out where the gap exists, look at your actions and find out how you goofed, and you will arrive at the fourth step.

The fourth step is to correct the procedures, or to change the process in which you committed the mistake.If information or documents are getting to you too late in the process, meet with those before you in the chain of events. Find ways to help them get you what you need sooner.