You Messed Up at Work - 3 Tips to Get Past It

Nobody's perfect and we all make mistakes, but no one wants to mess up at work. Oh, the embarrassment! We strive and thrive to impress our co-workers and upper management at all turns, so missing the ball at the workplace always seems to hurt a little more than fouling things up in private or in some other scenario.


Unless you've got superpowers or you're extremely lucky, the day will come, if it hasn't already, when you will screw up at work. You may feel like you'll never live it down or make it over the hump, but you can… and will. You just need to embrace the "mess up" and use your wrong turns in order to navigate your way back down the road to success.

1. Take Ownership

You must acknowledge what went down and what your role in the mess up was. Beating around the bush, trying to pin the blame on others, or pretending nothing happened will only make things worse. Admit what has happened so you can move forward.

According to U.S. News & World Report, "How you take responsibility for what happened will be one of the biggest elements in the impression it leaves on people."

While your co-workers and boss may feel aggravated or disappointed about what went wrong, they will appreciate your willingness to take ownership for your role in the failure and your honesty about the situation. Apologize if the situation calls for it, and get back on your feet to get on track again.

2. Don't Freak Out

Now is not the time to panic. Keep the situation in perspective. You didn't kill anyone (hopefully). Where there's a will, there's a way, and you will be able to get yourself out of whatever conundrum you've created. Stay cool and calm in order to work your way out of this hole and into a brighter spot.

AsThe Musenotes, "It can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you're upset with yourself, but try to make sure your emotional response is proportional to the blunder you made." And U.S. News & World Report adds, "It's important to put this behind you mentally, because dwelling on it will often keep you in a tense mental space where you're more likely to mess up again – the opposite of what you want."

There's little to no chance you'll get fired over an honest mistake, particularly if you've been a good worker up until this point. Stay in control to show you've realized your error and know that there's a way to fix it. Freaking out will exacerbate the problem and give off the vibe that you don't know what you're doing.

3. Figure Out What Went Wrong

Why did this mess up come to be? Obviously it wasn't intended, so part of the recovery is to make sure you retrace your steps so nothing like this happens again. You can't brush the issue under the rug or else you'll never be able to solve the problem.

As per LifeHacker, "Take a deep breath and reflect. What can you learn from your mistake? If you forgot to do something, you know you need a better way to remind yourself of your tasks. If you did something incorrectly, you know you need to follow instructions better or ask for help when you need it."

With this examination, you can make a new plan to correct the issue or do things differently and better the next time around. Forgive yourself and learn from this mistake. As The Muse suggests, "For extra measure, if you feel that it would be beneficial to tell your boss about how you're going to prevent mistakes in the future, do that, too."

Messups can be meaningful if you process them properly and use them as learning tools. Have you royally messed up at work and found a way to climb out of it successfully? Please share your tips with other PayPath readers.

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