5 Things to Do When You Drop the Ball at Work

Mistakes are pretty common in all areas of life. The workplace is no exception. The only difference is that the stakes might be higher. Depending on the severity of your goof, your job may be at risk. If you’re fortunate enough to realize your mistake before it causes a major catastrophe and puts you and your manager in a tough situation, there are a few things you can do.


(Photo Credit: Sander van der Wel/Flickr)

1. Fix it before you freak out

Oftentimes your mistake may be easily fixable – by recalling your mail, changing the formula in the excel spreadsheet, proofreading, or just having a trusted colleague review your work. Before you panic, figure out a solution. It may not be as bad as you think it is.

2. Get your own emotions under control

Granted you’ve dropped the ball, but the way you handle the situation right now could make a big difference in the long run. Instead of panicking and harping on and on about your mistake and beating yourself up, take a brief pause and approach the situation rationally. What went wrong, where, why, and how can it be fixed? Cut yourself some slack, and think about your next steps in addressing the problem.

3. Admit it

If it’s no longer in your control – you’re not able to make any changes and it’s too late to fix it yourself, be genuine about it and admit your mistake as soon as you realize it and be sincerely interested in finding a solution. Don’t go on and on about it, but let your manager know that you understand the repercussions of your mistake on the team/business and reassure him that you will not repeat it.

4. Offer solutions

If you can think of a workaround, offer it. Seek help if you feel someone else maybe more adept at offering solutions. Be vocal about your need and be grateful for their support. When somebody is helping you out, acknowledge and thank them for their help immediately and in the future. Let them know that you genuinely appreciate their help and would be happy to return the favor.

5. Be prepared to rebuild your credibility

Even if you’re a good performer and this has been your only miss, you may still have to prove your competence all over again. Depending on the severity of your mistake, be prepared for multiple reviews of your work. Don’t lose confidence in yourself and go into hibernation and avoid meetings with your team or manager. Understand that it is very important to rebuild your reputation and work extra hard to make it happen.

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