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5 Simple Tips for Getting Past a Mistake at Work

January 19, 2017, 11:00 PM UTC
Man wearing glasses covered with bandages
Man wearing glasses covered with bandages
Photograph by David Troncoso—Getty Images

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 can you bounce back after making a major mistake?” is written by Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO at LaSalle Network.

I’ve made my share of mistakes, whether it was setting too aggressive of a sales goal or making a bad hire. But I’ve owned and acknowledged each one. If leaders can’t own up to their mistakes, they can’t expect their staff to either.

Here are five tips for what to do after you’ve made an error at work:


As soon as you have a solution to your mistake, let your manager know exactly what happened, who it affects, and your proposed resolution for the situation. Honesty is always the best policy. An employee’s job is to make their manager’s job easier—having a solution saves them from having to find one for you.

Also take time to reflect. Determine if there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed so that this doesn’t happen again. Finally, if your company values transparency and training, share the mistake with your peers. It’s the best way to ensure they don’t make the same error and it demonstrates maturity and humility.

Work harder

In the next meeting after making a mistake, raise your hand to work on a new project. Come in earlier and stay later. Go the extra mile to show you care about improving and the company’s success. Managers notice, regardless of whether you’ve been with the company two days or two years.

Now is the time to push yourself. Put in the hours outside the office. Ask around for book recommendations that will help you hone an old skill or learn a new one. Listen to a new podcast every week. Don’t be stagnant; be a sponge. Going the extra mile can make the difference in how your managers and coworkers perceive you.

Don’t repeat it

Reflect on what exactly you learned from the mistake. Write it down. Share your thoughts with your manager and see if they have a different perspective.

Commit to memory whatever advice your manager offers. Making the same mistake twice is not only embarrassing, but could also damage your credibility and trustworthiness.


Deepen your relationship with your manager

Trust is built through transparency and strong communication. Ask your manager for feedback on how you handled the mistake. Were they satisfied with how quickly you owned it and what you did to improve? The better that line of communication is, and the more the expectations are clear on both sides, the easier it will be to do your job going forward.

Forgive yourself

Don’t let a mistake have you walking on eggshells for the rest of your career. If you allow one mishap to overwhelm you, it’ll haunt you and affect your future work. Dwelling discourages you from taking risks and thinking outside the box. Since employees need to do both effectively, having confidence and an objective self-perspective is vital. People who can forgive themselves will grow from mistakes much more quickly.