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You’ve made a mistake, now recover

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Stressed out, you say something you shouldn’t have. Or you overlook a detail that ends up dooming an entire project. If you’ve said or done something in the past year that jeopardized your career, you’re not alone.

“People are feeling anxious, so they’re being short-tempered and unproductive,” says Martin Yate, a career advisor at, a career coaching and training site.

“Unfortunately, the way workers typically deal with gaffes is to get defensive and point fingers. They continue the bad behavior and sacrifice promotions and jobs.”

Here’s how to recover:

1. Take responsibility. Sure, you feel like skulking away, hoping no one notices the gaffe. But, instead, try assessing the situation and looking at it from the other person’s perspective.

Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience so that I have a better outcome next time?”

2. Apologize sincerely, if an apology is needed. Do it in person or with a handwritten note. Don’t send a mea culpa via e-mail or wait for the news to spread before doing it. Tell your boss immediately about the mistake and be armed with a plan for making it right.

3. Build a bridge. Use the experience to reach out to a potential mentor. “The only people who don’t make mistakes are those who sit in dark rooms,” Yate says.

— Adapted from “Learn From Mistakes” Alexandra Levit, The Wall Street Journal.

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