How to Recover From a Mistake at Work

So you made a mistake at work. It seems devastating. But it’s not, we’ve all been there. And sure, some mistakes are more noticeable and costly than others, but they’re all the same in that they’re all learning opportunities. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, had a few wise quotes about failure. Perhaps the simplest one is, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” In other words, those failures and mistakes and setbacks are chances to learn and grow. Here’s how you can recover from making a mistake at work.

Wallow in misery

Okay, that sounds more dramatic than it should, but go ahead, feel awful about what you did. Embarrassed, frustrated, remorseful, all the feels. For a short while. Like 10 to 15 seconds. Then it’s time to move on, so do whatever you can to forget about it. Vent to a friend or mentor. Go for a walk. Put it in your journal. Go to town on a punching bag.

Confront your worst-case scenario

What’s the worst that could happen as a result of your mistake, honestly? Go ahead, unravel all the sordid details of your worst-case scenario. And then let it go. It’s highly unlikely that the absolute worst-case scenario will fully happen, so come to terms with some middle of the road result. You’ll survive. You probably won’t get fired.

Keep things in perspective

Chances are the mistake you made didn’t result in an actual tragedy, so don’t treat it that way. Keep your reaction and emotional response proportional to the size of your mistake. No one’s perfect and no one expects you to be perfect either. There’s a pretty decent chance that no one even noticed your mistake.


An apology is an important thing. People appreciate it and some even need to hear it, particularly anyone who was directly impacted by your mistake. But don’t go on and on, harshly criticizing yourself in the process. If you spend too much time on your apology, it won’t seem sincere or people will tune it out. Nobody has the time to listen to you go on about yourself—people are busy at work. Plus, the more attention you call to it, the worse it will seem. Let it go and others will forget.

Learn from the mistake

Most importantly, figure out where you went wrong and fix the mistake. Maybe you spread yourself too thin and had too much going on and let something slip through the cracks. Maybe you missed a deadline. Maybe you simply didn’t proofread something. Whatever it was, make a conscious effort to do better next time so you don’t make a similar mistake again.

For more tips on rebounding from a mistake and advancing your career, contact PrideStaff Thousand Oaks today.

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