You Made a Mistake at Work, Now What?

We've all been there; the moment you realize you've made a huge mistake and start to get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. 

Everyone makes mistakes. It's human nature. Therefore what matters is not that you made a mistake, but how you handle it. If you are perpetually making errors because of lack of attention to detail or carelessness, that is a separate issue that should be addressed. However making a rare mistake is totally normal as long as you handle it properly. What does that mean?

Handling a mistake properly means taking the high road, taking responsibility, and making the situation right. Below is a list of steps to take to ensure that you handle your mistake professionally and with poise.

You made a mistake, now what?


The moment you realize that you've made a mistake is the moment you need to take action. Sitting around and dwelling on your error won't make it better, and depending on what the mistake is, moving slowly could make it worse.

In some instances, taking immediate action could actually help you reverse the mistake. For instance, if you realize that you just sent something to print with a typo in it, call the printing press or whomever is in charge and explain the situation immediately. If you get to the right people in time, you may be able to stop the problem before it starts and get them the correct information before anything gets printed incorrectly.


There's nothing worse than a person who won't take responsibility for their error and instead tries to place blame. When you don’t take responsibility and try to blame the problem on others, it becomes a bigger deal, involves others, and can turn into an office wide issue.

If you handle your mistake appropriately you will often be recognized for your quick thinking and your ability to jump on a situation. In this case, the mistake could end up working in your favor in the long run. Most people understand that mistakes happen, so they pay more attention to the aftermath than the mistake itself. Make your mitigation process memorable, and people will remember how you remedied the situation instead of created it.

"Make your mitigation process memorable."

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It’s important to get things sorted out as soon as possible, but if you're not working strategically and efficiently, it's not worth it. No one will care that you're working fast to remedy the situation if your fast work is riddled with errors and carelessness. Quality trumps everything in business, so make sure that your work is efficient and free of errors-- especially when you’re trying to fix a mistake that you made. 

This is the moment to make sure your next steps are near perfect. That means triple-checking the information you’re putting out and taking note of everything you do. Document your process so you have it on file should it ever come up in the future. That way, if someone does question the mistake you made, you can easily outline the process you took to fix it.

[Related: The 4 Rs You Need to Recover from a Mistake]


Part of making mistakes is learning from them, so it’s important that you assess the situation to figure out exactly what went wrong. After you’ve taken care of all of the cleanup and have gotten everything smoothed out, take a few minutes to reflect on what happened. Go through the steps in your head to see what went wrong, where it went wrong, and note how to combat this in the future. 


Take a deep breath and move on. Once you’ve cleaned up the aftermath there is nothing else you can do. Try not to dwell on it, and do your best to move forward. This may be easier said than done, but it’s the truth. Take the high road, take responsibility, work efficiently, document your work, and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice. After you’ve done this, you’ve done your part. Once it’s over and done, let it go. You’ll live longer.

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, style, and boost your confidence.