Recovering From a Screw-Up at Work

We all make mistakes. We’re human. Those little “oops moments” can either break you or make you into a better person. Which will you choose?

I recently screwed up at work. Yes, I’m admitting it. I messed up. It wasn’t anything that would be considered gross misconduct, but it was a screw-up nevertheless. In my life and career, I’ve taken risks that didn’t pay off and I’ve made audacious decisions without thinking about the big picture. I’m getting to the point…

You see, some of those decisions throughout my life got me into trouble. In school, I was called to the Principal’s office. In my career, guess who called me? My boss. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

In my experience, I’ve learned that there are four things a person can do to recover from a screw-up at work:

Own up. Never lie. Lying about what you did NEVER gets you to a better place. In fact, it does quite the opposite. When you mess up at work, own up to it. Accept the fact that you’ve made a mistake and acknowledge the problem. The blame game only makes it worse.

Listen to feedback. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason – listen twice as much as you talk. Be receptive to feedback and learn what you can do better next time. You have to own up to your mistake first, hence the ordering of the points in this post. Most people want others to succeed, so if they have a suggestion for improvement, listen.

Move on. Accept that you’ve made a mistake, listen to feedback, and then move on. There is no sense in dwelling on the past. You can’t change what you’ve done. The past is in the past. Take the feedback you receive and move on to a better you.

Don’t repeat. I said earlier that we all screw up. We do. Why? We’re human. At one time or another, we’re going to mess something up. It happens. But, we should learn from our mistakes. Don’t be afraid to fail, but remember to learn from those failures. Even a cartoon coyote knows the importance of this. Don’t make the same mistake again.

I think parents, teachers, and bosses all have one thing in common: they want you to SUCCEED. I know this has been true in my past, is true today, and will continue to be true in my future. Learn from your mistakes, own up, listen and move on. That’s it. It sounds simple, right? That’s because it is! You might not need these words of advice today, but sooner or later, they’ll come in handy. It’s okay to screw up. Just don’t make it a habit and don’t make the same mistake again.

What are YOUR tips? Is there anything that you would like to share regarding a time when you messed up and learned from it?


2 thoughts on “Recovering From a Screw-Up at Work

  1. I was working from home today and I was trying to make sense of some reporting. The system we use sometimes disable accounts not accesessed within 24hours. I had put in a ticket to see why it keeps happening. The ticket was closed and I was directed to another department. I then somehow assumed they made an update in the system and didn’t say anything and because of this update it reset and enabled some accounts and there was no history left. The modified dates in the system are not always consistent with the actual date a modification was made on an account. I assumed and sent an email to my boss basically saying the company made an error and we have to accommodate our client. I then reached out to IT support and sent another ticket to the appropriate department making an accusation saying that somebody updated something without confirming anything and now there is no history for me to refer to regarding these updates and I wanted to know who made the update. Turns out after researching more, I was COMPLETELY wrong. I jumped to conclusions and I made myself look really stupid in front of other departments and my boss. I made my boss aware of my mistake and told him how wrong I was and why. He said I was being too hard on myself and it can be fixed. Yet I can’t let go of my mistake. Especially when I’ve done something similar before. All that you say in your post is absolutely true, but it’s hard to just move on when now you wonder what people at work are thinking of you especially after I was so vocal about it.


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