Human Resources: How to Recover From Workplace Mistakes
We all mess up sometimes -- a meeting falls flat, you lose your temper with a co-worker, or you step on the gas instead of the brake and smash into someone’s house. Well, some mistakes are bigger than others. But whether you’re a salesperson who lost an account or an employee who just told off your boss, don’t start looking in the want ads yet.
If you play your cards right you, too, can get a second chance for a do-over by using your sense of humor. Laughter breaks tension, changes the mood and creates an opening for a do-over. And a little light-hearted, self-deprecating humor makes you appear more human and likeable.
Here are some simple techniques that will work to give employees a second chance with their bosses.
1. When caught, admit your mistake immediately. If your mistake is obvious, rather than pretending it didn’t happen, diminishing its importance or defending it, admit it without excuses and ask for the chance to rectify it. Lying about what you did will probably get you in more hot water than the mistake itself.
If you’ve already made a mistake, don’t make another one by lying. It’ll come back to haunt you. You don’t want to have to wear a security ankle bracelet that prevents you from decorating cakes on your TV show or have Oprah really mad at you for lying in your book. A good boss knows that everyone makes mistakes, but a trustworthy employee confesses his errors.
2. Exaggerate your mistake. What? Shouldn’t I make my mistake seem smaller? No. Take your boss’s words out of his or her mouth and exaggerate your mistake. For instance, if your mistake costs your boss a few hundred dollars, try saying, “What a huge mistake I made. This isn’t good. You shouldn’t have people like me working for you.” Taking an exaggerated view of your mistake often will prompt your boss to put it in a more realistic perspective. And he or she may even tell you how to fix the problem.