Have you ever had the gut wrenching moment when you realized that the big project you’ve been working on has a major mistake? It is a horrible feeling. While it may be tempting to hide the error and hope no one notices, that is actually the worst thing you can do. What can an employee do after a major mistake to minimize the long-term impact on their career?
As soon as you realize your error, let you manager know and take responsibility for the error. Trying to keep it a secret only increases the problem. Let your manager know immediately. Managers don’t like surprises – especially at the last minute. Be very specific in explaining the error and how you found it. Don’t point fingers and blame others, acknowledge the error, apologize and proactively offer solutions and next steps and offer to do whatever you can to right the wrong. Think about opportunities to correct the problem and be sure to offer to assist with the solution but don’t sulk if they don’t want your help in the heat of the moment. Be part of the solution. Be willing to do whatever is needed to proactively address the problem and right the wrong. Accepting responsibility goes a long way in maintaining your reputation. Propose solutions to prevent a similar error in the future. What checks and balances could be added to the process?
Earn Back Their Respect and Trust
Accept the fact that your credibility took a serious hit. Double check all your work and ensure that you are providing top quality work going forward. Demonstrate your conscientious nature and your willingness to learn from your mistake. You will earn their respect by owning the problem and being part of the solution. Resist the temptation to blame others. Trust may take longer to earn but keep delivering quality work, offer to do whatever you can to help the team. Being honest and proactive in delivering the bad news may not go over well initially but ultimately they will respect the fact that you were honest and that you took responsibility.
Obviously do whatever you can to avoid major mistakes but when you make one, use it as a learning opportunity. Taking responsibility for your mistakes can be painful but it is likely to enhance your reputation in the long run.