When You Screw Up At Work

by Ron Haynes


screw up at work

Everyone makes mistakes but if your boss is like most, he or she isn’t concerned with making sure you feel like you’re in good company. No, the boss wants you to do two things AFTER you’ve screwed up: control the damage and make sure the mistake never happens again.

Control the damage

Damage control is critical after a mistake has been made. Here are 6 steps to help you control the damage:

1. Own the mistake

Don’t pass the blame to another person or department. If you made it, own it. You don’t have to call someone out publicly but if the mistake was the result of someone who works for you, you’re still in charge and the mistake is still YOURS.

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2. Tell the boss yourself.

NEVER let the boss find out about your screw up from someone else. Communicate what happened as soon as it’s reasonable to do so. Certain circumstances may prevent you from taking this step, but if someone else gets to the boss before you do, his or her opinion may be tainted. It’s in YOUR best interest to get your story out there first.

3. Assess the damage

What are the potential problems that have arisen because of this mistake? How could each department in our company be affected? What are the long term and short term implications? Will we potentially lose customers over this? What is the value of that lost business?

4. Offer solutions

If you made the mistake, offer ways to correct it. Suggesting that you build a time machine doesn’t count. Is there a way to “spin” the mistake into a potential asset? How can you recover from any lost business? What can you do personally to remedy the screw up?

5. Notify everyone affected

People will appreciate your communication and by taking this step, you’ll soften any blow. When you take the time to own up to a mistake that affects someone else, I believe they respect you more for it.

6. Follow through.

Do what you’ve said you’ll do and follow through with anyone involved.

Keep it from happening again

There’s nothing as frustrating as seeing someone make the same mistake over and over. Don’t be that source of frustration for your boss by taking these 5 steps:

  1. Decide if the mistake resulted from an individual breakdown or a system breakdown. Make recommendations to the boss on how you can solve this problem.
  2. Assess if the mistake is likely to re-occur.
  3. Ask how you can improve the process to insure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
  4. Decide if you or your staff need additional training or communications.
  5. Follow through to make certain the mistake isn’t repeated.

Screwing up isn’t the end of the world

Apologies and vague promises that, “It will never happen again,” take on a whole new meaning if you have a specific plan to control the damage and insure the mistake isn’t repeated. In the eyes of most supervisors, taking proactive steps to control the damage and prevent the mistake from happening again puts you in a much better light.

Photo Credit loungelistener

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About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 1 comment }

John DeFlumeri Jr

It’s good to be a damage control specialist.

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