Dennis, an accountant, was part of an audit team for a
large corporation. As he was reporting some data findings to his
project manager and the rest of the team, his manager pointed out
an incorrect assumption Dennis made that resulted in erroneous
figures and that could have legal repercussions. Fortunately, the
mistake was found before the results were presented publicly and
Dennis was able to correct his reports. Unfortunately, this
incident left Dennis feeling incompetent, embarrassed and
questioning his professional abilities.
Most of us have made mistakes in the workplace. They happen!
Some are small and can be easily rectified. Others may seem larger,
impact other people and projects, and may cause embarrassment,
frustration and self-doubt. What do you do in order to rebound from
an error and continue moving ahead professionally?
First off, take responsibility for your actions. If your error
is called to your attention by others, or if you notice it
yourself, don’t try to hide it or assume it will go away on
its own. Worse, do not blame someone else for your shortcoming. By
acknowledging your mistake, you begin the process of recovering and
Although surprised and disappointed, Dennis responded to
his boss’ information in a non-defensive manner. He
apologized and did not make any excuses for what he did.
Learn From It
What have you learned from the mistake? What will you do
differently moving forward? How might you share your
learning’s with others? Taking something positive from a
potentially damaging situation shows your resilience and continued
commitment to your work and responsibilities. You’re choosing
not to let this mistake stop your progress.
Once the meeting was over, Dennis went back to his office
and reviewed his work process. He looked at his data collection
process, his calculations and how he formatted the report. He found
the mistake. He realized he made some incorrect assumptions when
choosing which figures to include in his calculations. He sought
out input from his boss to clearly understand the
Focus on what you can impact. Damage control happens by fixing
your mistakes and planning for the future. Mulling over what you
should have, could have, or would have done does not get you
anywhere, expect feeling dejected and depressed. Ask yourself,
“What can I do NOW to resolve this situation?”
Dennis outlined what he needed to redo in order to take
the appropriate corrective actions. He also thought who was
impacted by his error and how he needed to communicate with
Take action to fix the mistake and move beyond it. You can
actually choose to make the resolution of your mistake an
opportunity for yourself, your project or your company. Create
something that not only corrects your mistake, but also goes beyond
correction to enhancement. Show that mistakes don’t stop you,
but actually compel you to greater contribution.
Once the report was corrected, Dennis re-distributed it to
his team and personally follow-up with each of them explaining the
modifications. Two of Dennis’ colleagues did not understand
the problem, so Dennis decided to create a report for the group
outlining his corrections as a learning tool.
Finally, allow the mistake and the entire process of
addressing the mistake to end. Regain your professional footing,
move beyond the mistake and continue on your professional path. Or,
in other words, what is done is done, forget about it and move
Although challenging, Dennis wanted to show a confident
face when the next time came for him to present a new set of
reports to his team. He reviewed his corrected process, double and
tripled checked his data and sought assistance from his boss. He
made his previous mistake an opportunity to learn, move beyond and
contribute fully to his team.
Mistakes will happen. You can learn, correct and move