Wow, you really screwed that up. Yeah, they’re going to be mad. The good news is that it’s not the worst thing that anyone has done. A little bit later I can tell you how I screwed up the RFP on the Donavan account. Yeah, you don’t know what that is, because they dropped us like a rock.
Calm down and remember that no mistake is fatal. Here’s what you need to do now.
I know the last thing you need is another black mark in your record. But everyone knows who is responsible. So don’t even try to deflect blame.
This will buy you future credibility. The jury is out on whether you will be known as the one who keeps screwing up. What will be worse is if you get the reputation for never being at fault. At some point they’re going to stop believing you. Don’t make me pull out the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” parable.
This doesn’t mean you have to fall on your sword. Without shifting blame, make sure you account for all the factors. The mitigating circumstances could soften the blow. If someone else has a part in this, you need to explain that too. This won’t get fixed if you’re the sacrificial lamb.
Take it All In
Listen to everyone’s concerns. Understand why they’re upset, and let them explain the consequences. Show patience and understanding. You may not see all the problems that have been created.
And there’s a very good chance that they’re going to explain exactly what needs to be done to fix this. It’s like getting the instructions for keeping your job.
Take it Seriously
Yeah, it would be nice to have a joke or two to lighten the mood. But it won’t go ever very well. I know stress tends to bring out my inner smart ass.
Instead, you need to be somber. Show you take these matters as seriously as they do. This will encourage them to cut you some slack. These guys like to see that you’re taking this seriously. Otherwise they’re going to believe you’re going to do this again.
Note that someone has to explain this to their boss. They’re not going to enjoy the conversation and will resent you if you look like you’re enjoying this one.
Be ready to be part of the solution. Take on extra responsibilities. Work on fixing your mistake as an act of contrition. It gives you a chance to show you’re not lazy or incompetent. This will help people see you as being able to do more than screw things up.
Don’t Take Any Crap
Someone is going to be mad. And he is going to let you know just how mad. It doesn’t do you any good to get defensive. That’s just going to get them more mad. You have to stand there and take your lumps. Up to a point.
When it gets personal, you need to let them know they crossed the line. Don’t let anyone insult you. Keep them focused on the mistake and what went wrong. Anything more is just bullying. You didn’t join the military. No one has the right to tear you down.
This doesn’t mean you get to yell back and make it an argument. Tell them you understand the problem and that it’s your fault. But say the personal attacks are wrong and inappropriate.
Take Out the Problem
Let’s say this is a teachable moment. It’s a learning opportunity. So teach yourself something about yourself and how not to make mistakes. You don’t want this to happen again. Fate isn’t going to do it. You’re the one in control of the circumstances that lead to mistakes.
You cannot learn unless you take responsibility.
Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge the mistakes so you know what you need to change. What you’re trying to do is change what you control. You cannot change other people. So you need to concentrate on what parts you own.
Look for patterns in behavior.
If you’re doing the same things that lead to mistakes then you know what you need to fix.
Understand how your mind works.
When mistakes keep happening, you have to do more than double check your work. What is preventing you from making the right choices? You don’t need to go go therapy, but you need have some self-awareness here. Take time to understand how you learn and think. Figure out the situations that lead you to do sloppy work.
When you understand why you make mistakes, you can avoid the circumstances that lead to problems.
But don’t go into total safety mode. Remember what I said about avoiding failure? Well, the very best way to do that is to not do anything. Everything you do has the chance of being wrong.
You’re not going to get anywhere like that. Remember you now have a better understanding of yourself and how to do your job. The next mistake you make won’t be the same as the last.
Those guys who yell at you, they aren’t getting there by playing it safe. They have taken their lumps along the way. But they didn’t let the experience beat them.
The biggest mistake you will make is to just sit there and hope no one notices what you’re doing.
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