Two Ways to Fix Mistakes at Work

What do you do when you mess up at work? The gamut of responses runs from “lie and hide” to “sweep it under the rug and hope no one notices” to “confess and fix.”

That’s always been my motto – in work and life. If you mess up, ‘fess up. Then offer first a clean-up plan, and then ideas to make sure it never happens again.

We’re all human. We will all make mistakes at work. Sometimes, those “mistakes” turn into a highly profitable innovation, but often mistakes are just that – errors in judgment or execution requiring rectification. It’s how we deal with the mistakes – as both the perpetrator and the person in charge – that contributes to the tone of your organizational culture.

I was honored to participate in a recent Investor’s Business Daily article on just this topic, “Turn A Workplace Blunder Into A Moment To Shine,” in which I offered these two points of advice (quoting):

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  • Strike a balance. Want to add insult to injury? “Only provide feedback on the negative things.” So says Derek Irvine, vice president of employee recognition firm Globoforce. Focusing solely on snafus sucks the wind out of workers’ sails. “It’s demotivating and it’s disengaging,” Irvine said.
  • Seize the moment. The best time to address employee behavior — good or bad? “Shortly after the fact, after the mistake or the item of celebration,” Irvine said. Don’t wait for the yearly performance review. Workers need direction in private on areas to improve, and public props when they’re getting it right. Globoforce taps social media and mobile tools to help clients create a steady stream of internal applause.

Be sure to read the full IBD article for more tips including “take responsibility” and “get in front.” Then come back and share in comments how you best deal with mistakes at work.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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