It’s tough to own up to a mistake. It’s embarrassing and humbling, and often there are consequences to face after taking responsibility for a wrongdoing. That’s why sometimes, people ignore or even flatly deny mistakes they’ve made — even when seemingly caught red-handed — hoping to somehow avoid the repercussions of their actions.
However, like Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and former International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn have demonstrated in the news recently, denying a mistake — especially when others are pretty certain that you’re the guilty party — can often make a bad situation infinitely worse. When the truth comes out, you not only look like a fool, but a liar as well.
So next time you make a mistake at work, own up to it — it’ll save you trouble, it’ll save your professional image and it may even save your job. Since ‘fessing up is one of those things that’s easier said than done, though, we gathered some expert advice to help you do it right.
1. Admit to the mistake quickly. Once you realize you’ve messed up, it’s best to tell your boss as soon as possible. “If your boss hears it from you rather than others, she or he will trust you more,” says Joseph Grenny, BusinessWeek leadership columnist and co-author of The New York Times best-seller “Crucial Conversations.” Confessing right away will not only prove to your boss that you’re trustworthy, but also that you’re responsible and concerned about correcting your actions.
2. Overcompensate for your mistake. After you admit to the mistake, be fully prepared to rectify your actions by whatever means necessary. This isn’t the time for pride or ego. “If a customer was hurt, for example, surprise and delight them in how you respond to their concerns,” Grenny says. “And let your boss know as soon as possible what you’re doing to fix the problem so she or he recognizes you’re owning the problem you created.”
3. Share what you learned. Once you’ve rectified the situation, sit down with your boss and identify what went wrong, how it went wrong and how things will be different in the future, Grenny says. Explaining that you completely understand how you made the mistake and how you can avoid making it again will help restore your boss’s faith in you.
4. Ask for feedback. After sharing what you learned, “ask the boss what other lessons you should draw from this experience,” Grenny says. She might have her own perspective on the situation.
Did you make a mistake at work and confess? How did it work out for you? Tell us about it in the comments section.