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Dealing with workplace mistakes

Career Tips By Tania Ngima

We’ve all been there. That particular moment when you realise you have made what seems like a grave mistake and the dread, the sinking feeling that accompanies it. Then we start to build a worst case scenario, acting as if all the feared outcomes have actually happened.

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Whether at work or in your business, being in a panicked state after a mistake makes it more difficult to effectively deal with it, and can prevent you from thinking through possible courses of action.

For women, it also puts us in a vulnerable position where we feel like our being as competent as the next person will be called into question. How then do you deal with this situation to make sure that you can engage the best options for damage control and minimise any potential fallout?

Put it into context
Mistakes are embarrassing. That cannot be disputed. You may get into trouble with your boss or face backlash from your clients. But you must be able to quantify, using logic, what the downsides of the error you have made are instead of using emotion.

What will happen as a result of the mistake, and is there any way you can correct it? Are you in panic because there is cause for significant fall out or are you reacting emotionally to the potential embarrassment?

If the error will affect your boss or superior, ensure that you bring it to his attention immediately and own up instead of letting nature take its course. Superiors do not like to be caught unawares especially where other people involved.

Damage control
Evaluate the potential repercussions and how you can mitigate or prevent the downside. Find energy in identifying ways to make the situation better other than beating yourself up.

Even if the mistake will take time to be discovered, you are better off taking a proactive role than letting it run its course.

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This shows emotional intelligence to your colleagues and bosses, or clients if they apply. Once you have everything under control, resist the urge to beat yourself up over it as it will only hold you back and put you in a place of fear instead of empowerment.

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