Take Ownership of Mistakes

Jul 6, 2010
3 Min Read

We all make mistakes. Having worked in the communications department at a Fortune 500 organization, I've unfortunately had some experience in this arena, and I always encourage leaders to take the following steps:

Beware of a Knee-Jerk Reaction

Too often, when people make a mistake, they get so embarrassed that they want to cover it up or pretend the incident never happened.  Or, they say they aren’t personally responsible and deflect the blame to another person.

This is not the best way to handle things.  If you go too long without addressing the issue, your boss or colleague (or whoever was involved) might build up the situation in her mind to be worse than it actually was.  She will remember it and may no longer trust you.  And placing the blame on someone else may damage your workplace relationships and harm your reputation as a team player.

Take Action Immediately

It’s up to you to proactively address a mistake as soon as it occurs.  How?  First, assess the situation objectively.  What would you think if you were on the other end?  Plan how you can fix things as best you can, and make a note of how you will behave differently next time.  Then, go talk to your boss.  Explain that you’ve learned from the experience and assure her it won’t happen again.

Remember that everyone is expected to make mistakes – that’s human nature.  If you handle one maturely, you may come out looking even better than if the blunder hadn’t happened at all.

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