Learning From a Mistake at Work

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Everyone makes them, including while on the job. But it’s not something to beat yourself up about. Here’s why it’s okay to make mistakes and how you can learn a valuable lesson from a slip up.

Staying Objective

Physician and associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, Danielle Ofri, offers a nice piece of advice to anyone feeling guilty about committing an error. It’s quite simple. “You and your bad decision are two separate things,” Ofri says.

In other words, you shouldn’t confuse your mistake with who you are. Messing up isn’t a knock on your core identity and something you should keep in mind to stay objective. “Whatever job you’re in, whether you make a mistake as a doctor or a teacher or an ad exec, the error is in your action, not in yourself,” Ofri adds. Having this mindset should make it easier to not take things so personally, so you can move on quickly.

Owning It

Being responsible and mature in this situation boils down to one thing — owning your mistake. What’s done is done, and you can’t change what happened. But what you can do is admit to it and do what’s necessary to get things back on track. For instance, you should notify your boss as quickly as possible so they know what happened along with any of your fellow co-workers who may be impacted.

Learning From It

Now for arguably the most important part. It’s vital you spend time reflecting on your mistake and take something actionable away from it. “You must be committed to a personal improvement plan and take a moment to examine your own life,” says business strategist and speaker, Drew Aversa. “If you never learned why you did what you did, you’ll do it again, forgetting the lesson.”

Try to figure out exactly what went wrong, which factors contributed to your poor decision-making and what you could have done differently. You should hopefully come up with some key takeaways that will help you understand the situation so you can take a better approach next time.

The bottom line is everyone makes mistakes, even the best and brightest. What’s important is you respond correctly and act responsibly to fix the situation and learn something in the process. If you do that, you can’t help but progress in your career.

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