The Telegraph: How to Recover From a Big Mistake at Work?

Last week, John McDonnell made a big mistake at work. After opening with a reasoned criticism of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, the shadow chancellor undermined his argument by pulling Chairman Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ out of his jacket and using the writings of the communist revolutionary to jokily drive his point home.

Perhaps predictably, the stunt backfired. The Conservatives laughed harder than members of the shadow chancellor’s own party, and McDonnell’s initial argument was lost in the inevitable storm that resulted from a top tier British politician quoting one of the most notorious Communist dictators in history.

But be honest: we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Granted, the majority of us won’t have transgressed quite so notably – nor in front of quite so many television cameras – but the workplace error is a cringingly common affair. So how does one overcome the embarrassment that follows a blunder? Should you hold up your hands and take the ridiculing like a true professional, or should you cut all ties, hand in your two weeks notice and apply for the most solitary job you can think of, such as morgue attendant, or lighthouse keeper? We asked some top career coaches and peak performance specialists how to socially survive any howlers that have got the whole office talking.

Own it

Evelyn Cotter, founder of Seven Career Coaching, believes you should own your mistake. “It may seem counterintuitive when you’re feeling bruised or embarrassed,” says Cotter, “but don’t avoid people. This will only fuel your ‘error’. Stay engaged, to show that the mistake is not all you are. Be open, be accountable, and frame it in a way that shows you are learning and developing from your error. “Make clear that you understand how and why it happened and how it will be prevented in future. Use it as an opportunity to learn and create new behaviour patterns. Sit down with a notepad and ask yourself: How would I have done it differently now? What were the conditions or decisions that led to the mistake and what can I learn from that moving forward?”

Prove yourself

Picking up from Lees’ suggestion, Evelyn Cotter believes the best way to move on is to move up. “I would recommend taking a very pro-active approach with your boss,” suggests Cotter. “Try scheduling a weekly meeting with your manager, even if it’s only 15 minutes, to discuss what you’re working on and this will show that you’re being more stringent in certain areas. “It’s not necessarily about what happens in the meeting per se, it’s about the message you are sending by taking such a pro-active approach and showing you are totally engaged, one of the team, and can be both reliable and consistent.”

Forgive yourself

Finally, Evelyn Cotter believes you need to forgive yourself. Only then, she says, can you truly move past your mistake. “Forgive yourself and move on. Life is rich in learning experiences and if you haven’t made mistakes, you’re not living! If something is unresolved in us, it’s a button people other may sense push. So don’t let it become a button, let it go and move on. Your responsibility is to decide to deal with the problem in the best way you can. “I would advise more timid people, or those who can’t admit to the mistake, to at least write down what happened and how it made you feel. Make a firm decision with yourself to not bring it up again. Once it’s been dealt with, let sleeping dogs lie. And if someone else brings it up, prepare some stock answers to throw out. “If appropriate, make a joke about it. ‘Everyone makes mistakes,’ ‘it was a great learning opportunity’ and ‘I’m a better person for it!’ will show that you’re over it, better for it and ready to move on.””

For the full article go here

From The Telegraph, 26 NOVEMBER 2015 • 2:57PM

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