The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How should you react after making a big mistake at work?” is written by Lior Rachmany, CEO of Dumbo Moving and Storage.
Making mistakes is a part of life, but when you have a major goof, it can be costly not only to you, but to your company and clients. The most important thing to do after realizing you’ve messed up is take ownership of it. Never place the blame on someone or something else. Instead, come up with a game plan for how you’re going to fix it. Here’s what I suggest:
First, tell the appropriate person or people that you made a mistake. It’s important that they be notified quickly so they can help stop the problem from multiplying and turning into something that can’t be fixed. Don’t ever keep it to yourself.
One example that comes to mind is when my head of marketing made a mistake printing fliers. It seemed like a menial task that required little work. All he had to do was look the flier over for typos, but he missed something in his haste. He alerted me as soon as he found his mistake.
Next, roll up your sleeves and start fixing whatever went wrong. Ultimately, the burden of fixing the problem is on you, as it should be. But don’t ever be shy about asking your supervisor for help. Just make sure you’re bringing multiple solutions to the table. You may have messed up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your boss that you can and know how to fix it. Your supervisor will appreciate it if you show an honest effort.
After my head of marketing told me what had happened, he laid out his plan to fix the situation. He called the printing company immediately to see if they could hold off on printing; they couldn’t but they hadn’t shipped yet, so while we had to reorder, we didn’t have to repay for shipping.
Once you’ve repaired what you could, take a deep breath and forgive yourself. At the end of the day, what matters is that you took ownership, presented a solution, applied it, and fixed your error.
The only things left to do are take a step back, determine how the mistake happened, and figure out how to prevent it from happening again to you or anyone else at the company. Hopefully you’ll have learned something from the experience and can move forward. Since my marketing head’s mistake, he’s learned to double-check everything, even if it’s something he does daily. He hasn’t made that mistake again.