We've all been there. You're going about your day and realize you've just made a big mistake. Or, you're going about your day and you get called on because you've made a big mistake (hopefully it's the former and not the latter). Either way, a mistake may leave you feeling anxious, upset, and maybe even like throwing the towel in.
However, everyone from a rockstar bakery featured on the Food Network to an NFL Quarterback with Superbowl goals in sight makes mistakes. I'm fortunate to have made quite a few mistakes in my life and come out the other side, regardless of how bad the situation was at the time. Some of my biggest mistakes have been because I was afraid to admit that I couldn't do it all -- which made me a not so great entrepreneur.
Here are four ways to help you come back, not necessarily unscathed, but definitely wiser for it.
1. Acknowledge it.
This may take practice but acknowledging when you are wrong and owning it is much better than avoiding it or coming with excuses. Don't fight it. Don't pack your bags and skip town. Simply acknowledge it happened.
When this happens, I usually step outside and take deep breaths for a few minutes. It not only helps me calm down, it helps me to not react rashly. By stepping away, I've given myself the chance to figure out when I can do to correct the situation. Feel what you're feeling and release it.
I remember being in a foul mood at a conference. My flight had been delayed and had thrown off everything, including my hotel reservation. I was complaining to a small group of colleagues about the hotel, not realizing the owner (and very important person I was hoping to make a connection with) was standing behind me. The hotel had done all that they could but my attitude prevented me from recognizing that.
A friend of mine pulled me aside and explained that the owner had heard everything. Already agitated, I went into defense mode. Thankfully my friend had the sense to make me take a walk to think about the best way to remedy the situation.
Long story short, I did as he said and came back to apologize. While it wasn't the most fruitful meeting I've ever had, it did teach me to not only check my attitude but also to learn to apologize.
2. Apologize, but keep it simple.
Genuinely say the words, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake," and offer how you plan to correct it. Resist the urge to offer excuses or to start apologizing repeatedly. On the other hand, don't overdo it trying to make it up. Stay professional and business-minded, recognizing how valuable company time is.
An apology conveys several major things: regret of the mistake, responsibility for it, and respect for the company and people in it. An apology also offers the opportunity for the other person/people to let go of their anger. The moment the apology is genuinely made is the moment that you can work to rebuild.
Just as I learned with my apology, you can't change the past but you can find a solution for the here and now. One apology to the right person or people along with a possible solution will come across much more positively than a bunch of unnecessary filler words and statements to the entire office.
3. Accept the consequences in stride.
The management and/or HR team can decide that you need another form of reprimanding. Or they can take you up on your offer on how you'll correct the mistake. Whatever the case, accept the consequences and carry out your tasks without complaining.
This reinforces your apology and will likely generate additional respect. Whether it's staying after work for a few days in order to remedy the work, reaching out to the wronged person, or going about your normal work tasks, do it and do it well. Don't just say you're sorry, show them through your actions. Be a better worker.
4. Reflect on the situation.
Once you've had time to calm down and process what happened (and hopefully had some sleep), analyze the situation. Are you feeling overwhelmed or maybe not confident in your abilities? Perhaps you've had an external event derail you, like my delayed flight that led to my mood. Whatever it may be, recognize it and look for solutions.
Sometimes those solutions mean finding another job. If you've been fired or have realized that the work just isn't quite for you, start searching for something new right away. You'll not only be fresher on your skill set, it'll help you focus on the new rather than dwelling on the old.