How to Recover from Workplace Faux Pas


We all make mistakes – it’s what we do next that counts.

Wrong winner announced at Oscars 2017

Well, that was awkward. You forgot that major part of the report. Left a client off a pretty important contract. Ate the wrong kale salad from the communal fridge. Look, it’s fine – we all get a little peckish sometimes. But once a trip-up has happened, should you put your hand up and claim it? Or hide the evidence and never speak of it again?

Here’s what we (and experts) think on the subject:

Own up
Straight up – don’t try and back out of this. If you’ve made a misstep, it’s much easier to recover if you sit up, own it and promise to remedy it and learn a lesson.

“Your employer does not expect perfection from you; however, they do expect you to own up to your mistakes,” Michael McMillan, director of Ethics and Professional Standards has said on the subject of mistakes.

Defensiveness isn’t going to get you anywhere (unless that place is the bottom of everyone’s Friday night drinks invite list). Mistakes are common, especially if you’re human, so admit your blunder and move on to step two.

Then rectify
As you’re now the proud owner of a blunder, it’s your job to fix it. Passing the buck is a terrible idea – not only does it compound the situation but depending on the mistake, having someone else dig in might actually make it worse.

“It may seem counterintuitive when you’re feeling bruised or embarrassed, but don’t avoid people,” says Evelyn Cotter, founder of Seven Career Coaching. “This will only fuel your ‘error’. Stay engaged, to show that the mistake is not all you are. Be open, be accountable, and frame it in a way that shows you are learning and developing from your error.”

Next: learn from it
“The best kind of mistake is where the costs are low but the learning is high,” says the co-author of Brilliant Mistakes, Paul Schoemaker. This is where you’ll prove to your colleague that despite a misstep, you can most definitely be trusted with tasks like this in future. Your willingness to admit defeat and make gravy because of it will prove this two-fold, so make sure you show your workmates that’s something that will never happen again thanks to your wokeness.

Lastly, give yourself a break
“Quieter people tend to find it difficult to be open about their errors and often beat themselves up whilst seeking forgiveness,” explains John Lees, a career strategist and author of Secrets of Resilient People. “Just as introverts need to learn to talk about successes without cringing, they need to discuss mistakes without going into victim mode.”

Don’t beat yourself up about setbacks. Chances are you’re more worried about it than any of your colleagues, so learn to let it go. Time heals all wounds after all, including those inflicted in workplace meetings.

We would love to hear your thoughts