Get a Life

By Judith Welles

Blog archive

Get a Life!: Nobody's perfect

To err is human. We all make mistakes, and the real challenge is how to recover from a mishap.

In a survey by Robert Haft International, executives recounted their biggest workplace blunders:

  • "I left the boss behind and went to a meeting without him."

  • "While speaking at a business event, I fell off the stage."

  • "While interviewing a job candidate, I fell asleep."

I experienced one of those horror stories, too. I was carrying some materials and following my boss into the White House for a recognition event with former President Clinton when I slipped and fell just as we passed through the gate. I got myself up quickly to see that I had scraped my knee, which was starting to bleed through a gaping hole in my stocking. 

My boss looked at me with an expression not of concern but rather of “fix it”. Once inside the entry wing, I darted for a rest room and emerged a few minutes later barelegged in heels with my skirt lowered slightly over my bruised knee. The event went off without a hitch.

Regardless of how awful the mishap or mistake, you need to rebound quickly. The following tips from Haft may help:

Go swiftly into damage control. Try to correct the mistake immediately. But if that's not possible, tell your manager right away and offer to see what else can be done to make corrections or stay late if necessary. Reactions will only get worse if you wait.

Accept responsibility. Attempts to rationalize or justify an error or insensitive comment only make the situation worse. Instead, acknowledge the seriousness of the mistake by apologizing and then make amends.

Let it go. If you miss a deadline, lose a file, cause a delay, or do something totally embarrassing, don’t let the mistake define you. One mistake does not trump all your successes. Instead of obsessing about it, move on to improve planning, work process or timing to avoid the mistake in the future. 

What is the most embarrassing mishap you have had? What did you do? Post a comment on this blog (registration required) or send an e-mail to (subject: Blog comment).

Posted by Judith Welles on Jan 22, 2008 at 12:13 PM


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