Everyone makes mistakes on the job, but not every mistake is the same. Are there some you can’t recover from?
That’s what one reader asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum:
“Last week at my new job, I made an oversight when putting together a package of materials for my boss. It was the worst possible mistake to make and led to a ruined presentation, which in the end lost us some good business. It will take me months to win back any kind of trust. Is it ever better to just start over somewhere else rather than try to slowly erase a track record that’s gone wrong so soon?” — Cass, documents specialist
We reached out to Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, to get some answers.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether this was an honest mistake or an ethical misstep. “Honest mistakes are the easiest to recover from,” she says.
Go to your boss armed with ideas for making things right and explain what happened. Together, develop an action plan that identifies who needs to know about your mistake and who needs an apology. Then set a timetable for completing your follow-up steps.
“You may want to build in an accountability mechanism to help you from making the same mistake a second time,” Steere says.
Next, put your plan into action. “Typically, if you do these things quickly, you will recover quickly, and people will eventually forget about the mistake,” Steere says. “An honest mistake, confessed promptly and resolved, is unlikely to ruin your professional reputation.”
An ethical misstep or truly negligent error is harder to recover from. Still, come forward, and take full responsibility for what you’ve done, Steere says. “Come prepared with possible solutions, and also come prepared to be fired.”
If your manager doesn’t fire you, ask what you should do to repair trust. You may lose responsibilities or projects, or require additional oversight while you prove yourself.
Read what admins advised Cass to do after her blunder.