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Managing Mistakes in the Workplace
Management guru, Peter Drucker once said, “The better a man is, the more mistakes will he make – for the more new things he will try. I would never promote a man into a top level job who had not made mistakes, and big ones at that. Otherwise, he is sure to be mediocre.” At one time or another, everyone makes mistakes, some more catastrophic than others. But the trick is to effectively manage the mistake with humility so that it’s not career ending. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you have made a mistake at work.
: Perfectionism doesn’t exist, therefore you will make mistakes in the workplace. Once you have discovered that you have made an error, alert the people who need to know, to quickly defuse the situation. Take responsibility for making the error, and never try to pass the blame on to another person. Be humble when you admit the error.
: Once you have admitted that you made a mistake, explain how it occurred, and fix the mistake quickly, even if it means working extra hours. Indicate to the people affected by the mistake how you plan to prevent the same mistake from happening again. Taking the initiative demonstrates self-leadership.
: Errors can be disguised opportunities. At the very least, they are life lessons that you learned the hard way. Look at the mistake objectively, what lessons can you learn? Can others benefit from those lessons as well?
: It’s a terrible feeling to make what may appear to be a catastrophic mistake. Instead of a knee jerk reaction such as handing in your resignation, talk through the situation with those affected, keeping the bigger picture in mind, and allowing them to share their perspective with you. Ask yourself how you can turn the error into an opportunity that will lead you to achieving your career goals.
: Even if the mistake is catastrophic, once you have taken the steps to effectively manage the mistake, don’t dwell on it. It’s now time to move on. Use the experience as a lesson that you and others will use to prevent the same mistake from occurring again. When you move forward, do not do so with a sense of fear. Remember, “To err is human, to forgive, divine” says Alexander Pope. Forgive yourself for making the mistake and move on.
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