We all make mistakes — it’s human nature. If you’re making mistakes at work, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get in trouble or lose your job. However, this can vary depending on the industry you work in, your position, the project you’re working on, and the magnitude of your mistake. Certain mistakes at work can easily be brushed off, and others may not even notice before you have a chance to fix them. Other mistakes at work, however, can completely unravel a project, cost organizations a significant amount of money, or even possibly cause harm to another person somehow.
How you respond to mistakes at work, what you learn from these mistakes, and the steps you take to ensure these mistakes don’t happen again are crucial. The following tips can help you avoid making mistakes at work, as well as offer suggestions on how to handle any mishaps.
Carefully Review Your Work
As a new employee, you might want to impress your manager by showing just how fast you can accomplish an assigned task, but that doesn’t do any good if the work you submit is subpar or contains mistakes. Before it’s considered finished, review your work carefully for accuracy and check it multiple times. You will want to be absolutely sure that the work you are submitting, or the project that you’re officially closing out, doesn’t contain any errors. When it comes to your on-the-job tasks, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to take longer and finish assignments at a slower pace rather than quickly rush through your work and make mistakes. Of course, you’ll always want to be sure that you meet your deadlines and aren’t late submitting work, so just be sure to factor in time to review everything prior to finalizing it.
Completely Focus on the Task at Hand
Avoid distractions when you’re working, as this is one of the easiest ways to make mistakes. This can be especially challenging if you’re working from home, as so many people are amid the pandemic, but it’s important to create a distraction-free environment when you’re working. Whether it’s at home or the office, do your best to focus exclusively on the one task you’re working on by silencing your cell phone, avoiding socializing with others, and any other potential distractions. Take breaks when you need them, but fully step back from your work during this time and don’t try to finish a task while you’re doing something else. This also means avoiding multi-tasking, if possible. Sometimes, you may not have a choice but to multi-task, or you may have a job that requires your attention toward multiple things simultaneously. But if you can, try your best to focus on one assignment before moving on to the next. This is especially imperative if you’re in a new position and you’re just getting used to things. Otherwise, distractions and multitasking can easily be a recipe for disaster.
Assess the Damage
You realize you’ve made a mistake, but at what magnitude? It’s important to assess the damage and fix what you can, if possible. Some minor mistakes may not have a major impact, and there may not be a lot that can be done to fix them. Other mistakes, however, can be potentially catastrophic and it may be critical to address them as soon as possible. Some mistakes can also have a ripple effect and may affect other team members or departments within an organization. You may need to determine just how far this mistake goes and notify anyone affected as soon as possible. It can be hard to focus on these things once you realize a mistake has been made, but the sooner you can work on fixing it (or at the very least, notifying anyone affected), the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Don’t Get Too Emotional
As Indeed.com points out, making a big mistake at work can make you very upset, and understandably so. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective and avoid getting emotional in the workplace and around your colleagues. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too aloof or nonchalant about the situation, either. Own up to what you’ve done and make sure others know you are remorseful and apologetic, but at the same, keep things professional, stay calm and don’t make a scene.
Be Upfront and Apologize
If you’re aware that you made a mistake at work, don’t hope that it will just disappear or that nobody else will notice. Instead, meet with your boss privately, explain the situation, and apologize. Honesty is always an appreciated quality in an employee. Your boss will also appreciate the fact that you owned up to the mistake and apologized for it. An explanation may or may not be necessary — perhaps you were stressed or distracted, but sometimes, mistakes just happen. However, explaining to your boss how you plan on avoiding these mistakes in the future can be reassuring.
Learn from Making Mistakes at Work
When you do inevitably make a mistake, don’t dwell on it too much or beat yourself up for it. You can think about where things went wrong and you could have been done differently, but instead of using this experience as a way to punish yourself, turn it into a lesson and learn from it. Keep a positive attitude and make a plan that helps you avoid repeating the same mistake in the future. Depending on what exactly happened, sharing what you’ve learned with your colleagues may also be helpful for them, and can also help them to avoid making a similar mistake. If you do end up losing your job as an end result, it can be devastating at first, but again, remember to use this as a learning moment. We are always learning and always improving, and while we may never be perfect, we can always strive to be better versions of ourselves as we continue on our career paths.
If you’re just beginning your career and you’re working in your very first role, mistakes are bound to happen. After all, you’re brand new, and we’ve all been there. It’s understandable, but the faster you recognize these mistakes, how to prevent them, and take action, the better. At Simplilearn, we offer a collection of free courses — called SkillUp — geared towards individuals just starting out in their careers. This collection of courses can enable you to explore different skill sets and expand your career opportunities.