How to Stop Beating Yourself up over Your Mistakes at Work

Stressed WorkerI found this interesting post on Reddit. Can you relate?

“We were at a conference and I had to take notes and photos and write a report on it the following day, several people were speaking and at some point I got distracted with taking photos and forgot to take notes for one of the speakers except for one or two points. The following day I realized I didn’t have much to write so I kind of made something up from what I could remember.

The report was sent to a bunch of people including all the people who spoke at the conference, and this person replied to the email saying they never said what I wrote, it was all bullshit, and they were ashamed for their reputation. The email came in on Friday 1 hour before I left work, and my boss didn’t say anything in that time, but I know he’s seen it and he’s going to say something on Monday.”

We’ve all made mistakes at work, right?

It could be a delayed project, a wrong computation, a colleague’s name you forgot, or even a tiny mistake like incorrect grammar on an email. Sometimes it’s not even a legitimate mistake, such as a bad decision made with good intentions. Whatever and however big it is, your reaction is totally disproportionate to the mistake. Worse, you replay everything that happened in your head over and over again, until you’re completely paralyzed and unsure of what to do.

Escape the Blame Game in 4 Steps

  1. Don’t Get Pulled In

For many employees, making mistakes leads them to a downward spiral that’s hard to escape. The situation overwhelms them, until they’re so ridden by guilt and fear that all they do is think of one imaginary situation after the next — each more unlikely than the next — to figure out “what might happen”or what their boss might say.

 It’s normal to feel bad about what happened. But if you start brooding over things, then it’s time to stop. Sure, rehash what happened once — just once — then force your brain to think about something else.

  1. Forgive Yourself

So you’ve rehashed the situation at least once now. You can’t believe you totally spaced out at an important client meeting! You prepared for that meeting a week in advance, yet you failed at the critical moment.

How significant is that meeting compared to the big picture of your career? Worst case scenario, even if it did affect your career, you can recover from it.

  1. Fess Up

You can either pretend nothing wrong happened then just wait for your boss to approach you.

Or you can man up (or woman up) and accept the consequences. Accepting blame, by the way, doesn’t mean blaming others even if it’s not entirely your fault. Own up to your part of the mistake then leave it at that. Don’t drag others into your apology.

  1. Look Towards the Future

Don’t apologize too much. Explain what happened, then apologize. No need to say sorry repeatedly, because that’s just groveling and your boss isn’t interested in that. Explain your plans for rectifying the mistake instead. Don’t forget to provide a plan for preventing the same mistakes from occurring again.

Get Back to the Grindstone

I know it’s hard to rebuild a shattered confidence after screwing up at the office. You might think your boss has lost faith in you, or that your co-workers blame you. Stop dwelling on these negative thoughts. Once the mistake is dealt with, let it go. Focus on what lies ahead of you.