What to Do When You Make a Mistake


Let’s face the truth: we’re all human. We all make mistakes and make decisions that we wish we could take back. However, mistakes can be the best learning experiences and they can provide a time for us to shine.

Nan DeMars has a six-step plan for recovering gracefully from mistakes.

Accept reality.

Accept that you made a mistake. Accept the consequences of that mistake.

Identify lessons learned.

Ask yourself, what did I learn from this experience? If you learned something, then it’s a learning experience, not a failure.

Forgive yourself.

No matter how much you may want to go back and change things, you can’t. Vow to learn from the experience so you don’t repeat your mistakes.

Boost your self-esteem.

Focus on your good qualities. Think about the weak areas of your self-image. If you’d like to feel more competent at work, read some books or attend some workshops. Try to solve some small problems to rebuild your confidence. And, make sure you seek support in your social network.


If there are issues lingering from your mistake, address them by acknowledging the problem, admitting your responsibility, apologizing (if necessary and sincere), explain, and ask for another chance.

For example, you might say something like: “I sense that there’s an issue between us and I want to clear the air if I can. I feel like this is my fault because I falsified those figures. I’m sorry that I did it and I wish I had made a different decision. I did it because I felt I had to; I didn’t think it through. I want to have the same working relationship we did before.”

Get on with your life.

If your work relationships can be repaired, then work towards that. And if things don’t quite return to the same way, or you feel that your co-workers can’t get over it, it may be time to look for a new job.

Are you interested in learning more about

Business Ethics For The Office?