We may mess up sometimes in our work, and the mistake we make could be a major one. But even a big mistake can be rectified, with damage brought under control and the lessons learned prompting improved processes and safeguards. Here is a list of measures to take when you’ve goofed up in the office and all you want to do is run away and hide.
#1: If possible, come up with a plan to fix the problem
Don’t just walk away and wash your hands of the situation. True, other people might have to be involved in solving the problem. However, if you caused the problem, you are responsible for coming up with the plan to resolve it. The plan needs to address the actions that need to occur, the people who need to take them, and the amount of time you think the actions will take. The people involved most likely will be the boss, your co-workers, and any internal or external customers affected by the mistake.
#2: Come clean with your boss
Trying to cover things up rarely works. If and when your boss finds out, say, from someone else (worst of all from your boss’ boss), things will be even worse for you. In this kind of situation, it’s important that you be in control of the message. So as hard as it will be, you should summon up your strength, take a deep breath, and go talk to your boss.
#3: Let the boss know about that plan
In this situation, and in fact at any other time, never go to the boss with just a problem. Go with a solution as well. In this case, go with the plan you developed and show the boss that, to at least some degree, you’re in control.
#4: Tell the affected parties
Let those affected by your mistake know what happened, but spare the technical details for now. Instead, focus on how the situation affects them: what limitations are in place, what functions are unavailable, and how long these limitations and lack of function are expected to last. Most important, offer any workarounds you can. Ask for their suggestions as well. If the mistake involves a system outage, perhaps some veteran can remember what they did in the old days, before that system was in place. If you have to and can do so, think about calling up a few of them for ideas.
#5: Don’t blame others
You’re no longer in grade school. Trying to blame other people makes you look unprofessional, diminishing the opinion that others have of you. Conversely (and paradoxically), taking responsibility and admitting your mistake can win you respect. Your co-workers might end up thinking, “You know, even though [your name] messed up, it took a lot of character to admit it. [Your name] is a real stand-up person, and someone who can be counted on.”
#6: Stop looking back
Learning from the past can help prevent repeat mistakes. However, don’t confuse learning from the past with dwelling on the past. The latter involves endless self-recrimination and often self-pity, neither of which helps resolve the situation. If you find yourself dwelling on the mistake in this manner, stop it right
now and read the next tip.
#7: Document your mistake and steps taken to correct it
“Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Maybe you’ve heard these or similar sayings. Their point is clear: We need to understand the mistake we made so that we can avoid it in the future. Documenting the mistake, and the steps taken to resolve it, are key in this regard. In doing so, be sure to cover the conditions that led to the mistake, the steps taken to correct it, and the measures taken to prevent its recurrence.
#8: Apologize to those affected
Mistakes often cost others in lost time and productivity and hence frustrate them. Consequently, even if you solve the problem, the people who were affected by it might still be upset if you never acknowledge that frustration. Taking a second to apologize will go a long way toward restoring you to good graces. By doing so, you show you appreciate what they had to go through.
#9: Determine whether the mistake can occur elsewhere
This point relates to the “lessons learned” document. Here, however, you should consider other areas of the business, or other applications. To what extent do they have the same conditions, procedures, or people that could cause them to experience the same type of problem? You might want to alert those areas. They may answer that they have more competent staff, but that’s a risk you’ll have to take.
#10: Put the best face possible on what happened
Everyone focuses on the negative effects of a problem. There had to be some; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been a problem and wouldn’t have received such scrutiny. However, can you find any good things, no matter how small, that resulted from this problem?
Culled from techrepublic.com
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