Made a mistake? Now what?

made a mistake - now what

According to a study by the International Journal of Research in Management and Technology, between 70 and 90 per cent of all mistakes in the workplace are because of human error.  We all get it wrong sometimes, whether we like it or not. The test comes after we make a mistake and the steps we take to try to avoid repeating it. 

Getting the most out of a mistake starts with acknowledging that one was made.  

  1. If you did the wrong thing, just apologise. And no embellishing. Just say I’m sorry. If you ever say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” spend 10 minutes in the naughty corner!
  2. Be honest. Yes, all of us get it wrong sometimes. Live with it. Own it. Do not try and cover it up! You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it. As soon as you start blaming other people (or the universe itself) you distance yourself from any possible lesson.
  3. Take a few minutes to think through the mistake and try to work out what went wrong.  Once you have got your head around the error, put plans in place to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again. This could mean extra training or steps to improving your communication skills.  
  4. Try avoid making the mistake in the first place by telling people you don’t know the answer to a question or you would need to find out more information. The phrase “I don’t know” makes some people feel inadequate, like they’ve been left out of the loop, or never learnt something that everyone else seems to know how to do. Whatever the reason, get over the embarrassment and embrace the opportunity to admit you don’t know. 
  5. If you make a mistake, provide a solution to fix the problem. Most managers want their employees to be more solution focused rather than focusing on the problem. When you make a mistake, don’t go into panic mode. Look at the mistake rationally. If it’s a big mistake let the emotions come out, but then say I can’t undo the error so how do I go about fixing it. 
  6. When you notice a mistake has been made, try to remain calm. Remember if you make a mistake, it will not be the end of the world. Try to learn from the mistake, and depending on the situation, try to turn what happened into a funny moment.  

Don’t forget these things after you've made a mistake in the workplace:

  1. Acknowledge that a mistake has been made
  2. Work out what went wrong and learn from it
  3. Don’t dwell on a mistake too long 
  4. Provide a solution to the mistake

Putting office mistake recovery into action:

Next time you make a mistake, try this simple exercise out. Find a date in your diary approximately one month forward and enter a note describing what happened and how you felt at the time. In almost all cases, a month down the track you will discover you have most likely completely forgotten about all the stress you felt.


CPA Career Mentor


Most Popular

How to deal with a bad colleague in the workplace

8 ways to deal with arrogant people at work

Do you dread exams? Learn how look at tests in a positive light.

9 reasons why exams are actually good for you

How to communicate with stakeholders

How to communicate with stakeholders


Guide to surviving the first day of your new job

The first day of a new job can be extremely stressful but exciting at the same time. There is a lot to think about including what to wear and how early you need to arrive to the office.

Your LinkedIn profile if you haven't had a job yet

Are you on LinkedIn? Start creating a LinkedIn profile while studying or getting work experience. Don't wait.

Invest in yourself to build a big career

How being part of a student association at Monash University helped to kick start this young leader’s career.