After you make an embarrassing error at work, the real test is how you respond.
The worst strategy is to deny you did anything wrong or defend your actions as justified. Trying to pretend the mistake didn’t happen won’t make it blow over. In fact, your insistence to move on can hurt your credibility and carry over into your other dealings with colleagues.
“Rather than defend what you did, join in the criticism that’s directed at you,” says Tim Ursiny, Ph.D., author of The Confidence Plan. “Say, ‘Yes, I messed up with that.’ You’ll feel better and show the other person that you accept responsibility.”
To solidify your standing, meet privately with key players and ask for feedback to help you prevent such mistakes in the future. Work together to analyze lessons learned so that you can extract concrete ideas on how to work smarter.
If your actions led to painful consequences for others, express regret. The simple act of looking someone in the eyes and apologizing can prove your mettle. Also, explain what steps you’re taking to learn from the experience.
Finally, cut yourself some slack. Talk with a trusted friend or mentor who can remind you of what you do well—and your track record of triumphs. Don’t inflate one mishap to the point where it drowns out everything else.
These suggestions may sound basic.
But many employees hesitate to confront their mistakes, especially if they work in a pressurized, unforgiving environment. Your ability to communicate in a straightforward manner can go a long way toward helping you recover.