How to Take Responsibility For Mistakes At Work

How to Take Responsibility For Mistakes At Work

No one is a robot, and no one is perfect. So, it’s guaranteed that you will make at least one mistake while you’re on the job. Whether you make a big mistake or a small one, you’ll need to own up to the situation. The way you handle the mistake could make or break your career. Before you ruin your career over a small mistake, learn how to take responsibility for your errors.

Speak Like a Politician

If you’ve ever heard a politician speak, you should have an idea of how to handle a mistake in the workplace. Politicians admit to mistakes, but they don’t take complete ownership of them. In fact, politicians make it a balancing act. They accept some degree of blame and move forward. Once you admit fault, you should do the same. Don’t dwell on your mistakes.

Admit to the Mistake Immediately

If you’re nervous about your boss’s reaction to your mistake, you might have the desire to hide your head in the sand. Unfortunately, this could make the issue worse. Your boss will eventually find out about the mistake, and they will be less forgiving than they would have been if you were honest. Furthermore, the early notice makes it easier for management to fix the mistake.

Find a Solution First

When you break the news about your mistake, you should have a solution. Come up with one or two ideas to remedy the situation. By doing so, you show your employer that you take ownership of your errors and that you can handle pressure. They’re also less likely to focus on your failure and more likely to think about your potential. With some brainstorming, you can come up with a few ideas for fixing the problem.

Put Yourself in Your Manager’s Shoes

Another way to take responsibility for your mistake is to think about what your manager wants to hear. Oftentimes, employees look at situations from only one perspective. Imagine yourself in a supervisory role. What would you want to hear from an employee who made a mistake? Once you change your perspective, you can come up with a better explanation.

Don’t Worry About the Consequences

If you’re hesitant to come clean about your error, you could be focusing too much on the consequences of your actions. Rather than focusing on the worst-case scenario, you should think about moving forward. Once you tell the truth, you can move on. Let all the negative thoughts and “what if” scenarios leave your mind.

Explain What Happened

Every mistake happens for a reason. When you take responsibility for your mistake, let your manager know the circumstances. Were you overwhelmed with your workload? Or was there some confusion with the process? If you explain the problem, your boss will be more forgiving. Just be sure to explain what happened without using it as an excuse. There’s a fine line between giving an explanation and an excuse.


It’s not enough to admit to your mistake. When you speak with your manager, let them know that you’re sorry. Without hearing an apology, your employer can’t be sure that you realize the inconvenience of your mistake. As soon as you explain the situation, say, “I’m sorry.” Those few words can go a very long way. Even if there was a good explanation for your mistake, you still should issue an apology.

Don’t Blame Others

As much as you’d like to blame someone else for your mistake, you should avoid doing this at all costs. An employer wants to know that you can take responsibility for your shortcomings. If you place the blame on everyone else, you won’t make a good impression. You should explain the situation without pointing the finger. If someone else was responsible for the error, don’t place the blame entirely on them. Once again, this can be a balancing act.

Handle the Fallout Yourself

When you’re the one who makes a mistake, you should be the one to fix it. So, even though your mistake could lead to an uncomfortable situation or more work, you should be the one to deal with it. For instance, your mistake may have resulted in an angry client. Instead of having a co-worker or manager speak with the client, you should be the first one on the phone. In other words, don’t just accept the mistake and leave it at that. Be proactive and be involved until the problem is no longer an issue.

Seek Help from Colleagues

Talking to your colleagues about your mistakes can help you in two ways. For one, your colleagues may be able to help you fix the problem. In some cases, a colleague could have made the same exact error as you. They’ll be able to make sure you remedy the situation. Another benefit to involving your colleagues is finding out how to speak with your manager. Since everyone makes mistakes, you can guarantee that they’ve had to take responsibility for an error. Ask a trusted colleague what they would do in your situation.

Make the Necessary Changes

After you admit to your mistake, think about how you can prevent the mistake from happening again. It’s acceptable to make a mistake once, but you should never make the same mistake again. Typically, you need to take precautions to ensure you don’t repeat history. First, evaluate the situation. Think about what you can do to protect yourself in the future. Did you miss a number on data entry? If so, make a plan to check over your work more carefully. There’s always something you can do to prevent history from repeating itself.

Don’t Make a Rash Decision

Some people make mistakes and rush into poor decisions. They put in their notice and quit because they fear the consequences. However, you shouldn’t destroy your career over one mistake. Before you take any action, speak with your employer. After a candid conversation, you can decide on your next steps. If you decide to quit because of your mistake, you should only do so after taking responsibility for it.

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