You screwed up at work. Panic sets in and you’re wondering how to make it right. You Google corporate gifts and imagine sending the client an outrageously expensive mea culpa in the form of personalized swag. You envision packing your desk into a cardboard box and taking the walk of shame. Perhaps you even look up how to claim unemployment as you start sweating bullets.
We’ve all been there. The good news is that we have six steps you can take to get past this. Keep calm, and read on.
1. Throw a (Mini) Pity Party
This should only last a few minutes, but it’s important to let it happen. It’s natural to feel embarrassed, ashamed, disappointed, and perhaps even worried that you might get fired. Have a pity party – it’s okay. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, but not for too long. Take a few deep breaths, and remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world. Now, let’s move on.
2. Assess What Happened
In order to get a grasp on the situation, you need to take a step back and assess what happened. Ask yourself the following:
- What was the mistake?
- What actions led to it?
- What are the consequences?
- What could I have done differently?
- What can I do to make it better?
Going through these questions should give you the clarity you need for the rest of the steps.
3. Admit Your Mistake and Take Responsibility
Before you can move forward, you have to admit what happened and take full responsibility for it. Don’t deflect or make excuses. Just own it. Whether it was an honest mistake or unforeseen disaster, you’ll get in front of it quicker if you address it head-on.
4. Apologize and Explain in Detail What Went Wrong
Next up is saying (with words) that you’re sorry for the mistake. Apologize early and often when it comes to mistakes. This apology should be directed to your boss and the client, and it should be personal. Empathize with the client so they know that you understand how the mistake made them feel.
After you apologize, it may help to explain in detail what went wrong so everyone understands why and how it happened. Don’t be defensive, but if you feel that explaining how the mistake happened would help, do so humbly and briefly.
5. Find a Solution
One of the most important steps in this process is finding a solution to the mistake. Ideally, have the solution before you bring the problem to your boss and/or the client. This may mean offering a refund, but a better solution would be to find a way to deliver what was originally promised to the client. Whatever the solution, be sure to follow up to see if they’re satisfied and find out what else you can do to make it up to them.
6. Show How You Will Prevent it From Happening Again
Everyone knows that mistakes happen. The important thing is that you learn from them and that’s what this last step proves. Reassure your customer that you’ve learned from what happened and you’re putting steps into place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. While this isn’t a guarantee against future missteps, it at least shows that you take it seriously and are trying to improve.
Nobody is perfect, and mistakes happen every day of the week. When they inevitably happen to you, follow these steps to address the situation and move on. As long as you aren’t making the same mistakes over and over again, you’ll be just fine.