5 Steps to Admitting a Mistake



Mistakes. We’ve all made them. Things like missing deadlines, going over budget, botching a product release or even yelling at a client. In most cases, however, it’s not the mistake itself, but how you handle the aftermath that can either cause severe career damage or all but disappear.

Beyond fessing up to a mistake, I’ve put together a list of steps you can take to right your wrong.

Be sincere in your apology.

Half-hearted apologies that imply it was someone else’s fault typically backfire. When you make a mistake, the most important things to do are to own it, address it head-on and be constructive about what you’re going to do to fix it. Don’t find a way to blame others or a lack of resources.

Also key is that whatever you say or whatever steps you take after need to feel truthful and sincere.

Evaluate the extent of the harm.

Do not compound a mistake by then ignoring that it happened. Make sure any review of a mistake involves talking with your colleagues about it, especially if the error reflected poorly on the entire team. Colleagues also can give you a more complete picture about the impact of your mistake. While still taking full responsibility for the error, see if you can enlist colleagues to help solve any problems the mistake created.

Regain your boss's trust.

Mistakes can snowball if you try to hide what happened or aren’t honest with your boss about your role in the error. If you own your mistake and are honest about it, your manager should respond in kind and allow it to be a growth opportunity.

Don’t dwell on mistakes.

It doesn’t help to berate yourself unless you’ve done something incredibly careless or unprofessional. Indeed, wallowing in a mistake could distract you and diminish your own performance or make you prone to other mistakes. Own the error, take steps to rectify it, review if there are any lessons to take from the error, and move on.

Determine the root cause of your error.

It’s critical to determine whether a mistake was a one-time mishap or if it has happened before. Step away from your mistake as though it had happened to someone else and ask yourself what might have contributed to the mistake. If there is a pattern, put a stopgap measure into place to help avoid making that same error in the future.

After determining the error’s root causes, next, see if the mistake presents an opportunity for development. For instance, if you went over budget, do you need to take a course on budgeting or even learn techniques that will make you more proficient in spreadsheet and forecasting software?

Mistakes can be a large growth opportunity for those folks who have self-awareness.



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: