4 Steps to Own Your Work Mistakes and Move On

Mistakes, missteps, and screw-ups happen. Your Office Mom has 4 steps to help you step up and get on with it. Start by putting it in perspective.

Mistakes, missteps, and screw-ups happen. Your Office Mom has 4 steps to help you step up and get on with it. Start by putting it in perspective.

Let’s face it, you’re going to make mistakes. Some people naturally breeze right past their f-ups. Others linger on them for a while, and some agonize and beat themselves up for days. Where are you on the spectrum? Learning how to deal with mistakes, so they don't wreak havoc and turn you into a crazy ass person and distract you from more important stuff is an important skill to master. And it’s not one you're likely to learn in onboarding programs or in a training class because I've been doing that kind of work longer than I like to admit, but take my word for it. That’s why as Your Office Mom, I'm sharing 4 steps that can help you step up and get on with it.

1. Put it in perspective

Granted some screw ups are much worse than others. When you’re in the middle of one, it often seems much worse than it is. Of course, that’s not always the case, but take a few minutes to calm those voices in your head and think it through. Start by asking, how important is this setback and what’s the fallout? What’s the impact to me and others?  What are the possible consequences? What’s the worst thing that can happen?  Did you lose your shit? Did you lose a deal or a client as a direct result of your behavior or actions? Did you submit bogus expenses? Did you miss a deadline, impacting the team and your boss? Did you get drunk and act like an idiot at the company event? Did you ramble during your presentation? Did you send an email that might be misconstrued? So, start by putting it in perspective. Some people fail to rate the severity level of their mistakes and overreact while others underreact. Make sure your reaction fits the situation.

2. Get it out of your system

If you tend to agonize over mistakes, this step is for you. If not, good for you, I'm jealous. You can skip right to step 3. After you leave work, begin the process of getting it out of your system. Scream. Yell. Talk to yourself or anyone within ear shot. Cry. Roll up in a fetal position on the floor. Sleep. Eat chocolate. Get drunk. Get naked. Whatever it takes. Have your pity party. Just get it out of your system. Rip off the band-aid or the duct tape depending on the size of the setback. Get it over with, so you can get on with it. But don’t beat yourself up any longer than necessary because it’s counter productive.

3. Make it right

To the extent you can, make it right. You can’t slither back into the office and act like nothing happened. Whether it’s your boss, the team, a co-worker or client you need to do something. Figure out in advance who you need to talk to, what you want to say and when you plan to say it. Acknowledge that you dropped the ball, let people down or acted like a complete idiot. Say how you’re going to fix it or what you’re going to do so it won’t happen again. Sincerity goes a long way, so don’t text or email. And don’t make up a lame half-assed excuse either. This is the real world, and honestly, nobody is interested in your excuses. After you get through the initial jitters, you should feel better, and chances are people will respect you for an honest, no bullshit apology. They may still be upset if you messed up their world, but they will be closer to getting over it.

4. Learn from it

Every setback is an opportunity. I have a friend who always sees the positive in every one of mine. Before I can even get it out of my system, she will be telling me all the positive upside crap about the situation. It is so irritating, but she is right and I appreciate when I get to this step, but usually not before. So, stop and think what your upside is. Sometimes it’s just realizing you need to grow up and be more responsible. Sometimes you learn there’s value in action planning and being more mindful of tracking your time on important projects. Or, maybe it’s recognizing you’re not the smartest person in the room anymore, and you need to ask for help when you get stuck before it’s too late.

The bottom line is to learn from your mistakes but don’t dwell on them. Everyone makes mistakes. You can bet the women and men running the company where you work or the leaders you admire made plenty. And, they are still making mistakes. So focus your energy on skills and leadership development. Check out my blog post to learn how you can work on leadership skills right now - no matter what your title is. Titles don’t make a leader -- behaviors do! Now go get 'em!