It’s never easy putting your hands up and admitting when you’ve made a mistake, but I’m sure we’ve all been there.
The reality, however, is that whatever you’ve done wrong is only going to get worse if you try and ignore it.
Plus, it’s never really that bad (I hope) and it feels good to get everything out in the open.
The sticking point is how you approach your boss when you’ve made a mistake or had a blunder at work.
This I can help with; here is how to tell your boss you made a mistake the right way:
How to Tell Your Boss You Made a Mistake
Take Stock of What’s Happened
When the penny drops that you’ve made a mistake, the first thing you need to do is take a step back, take a deep breath, and take stock of exactly what’s happened.
It’s easy to get caught up in the panic of the moment and start thinking about the worst-case scenarios, but that’s not going to help.
You need to know exactly what’s happened, the gravity of the situation, and only then – with a cool head – can you figure out what to do next.
Ask Your Boss to Speak in Private
Owning up to a mistake is good for the soul, and it should be done sooner rather than later and in private.
Booking a time to speak about it is usually the hardest part, even harder than explaining what happened.
If you’ve screwed up badly you’re going to be super anxious about this, but you have no option – you need to speak with your boss.
Think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to phrase it, but don’t stress over it too much.
Be Completely Honest About What’s Happened
The important thing is that you own up quickly, aren’t ambiguous about anything, don’t hide any details, and don’t blame others or point fingers.
Trust me, honesty will always pay off in the end, no matter how at fault you are or how serious you think the situation is.
Apologizing is fine and it’ll go a long way, but don’t keep apologizing and overdo the ‘I’m so sorry’ part, focus on how you’re going to make things right.
Take Responsibility and Offer Your Best Solution
Take responsibility and show your boss you’ve taken charge of the situation – explain what’s happened, why it happened, and how you would go about fixing things.
There may be more than one way to solve the problem, so suggest your best solution and offer up some alternatives too if you can.
If you make it clear to your boss that you’ve got a handle on things and you can fix it, then they will be inclined to forgive you, and the whole thing will be a lot less painful.
Mistakes happen, and I’m sure your boss knows that all too well if they’ve been in a position of power for some time.
Remember, it’s not what’s happened that matters, it’s how you react to the situation.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
This is the toughest part for me as I’m my hardest critic.
I find it easier to tell other people not to be too hard on themselves than to do so myself, but I know how important it is.
If you want to take a moment to give yourself a kick up the backside, that’s fine.
But dwelling on what happened or being hard on yourself for more than a minute will only make things worse.
No matter the gravity of what’s happened, you can’t dwell on it forever – forgive yourself and move on.
Go Above and Beyond to Try and Fix Things
Saying sorry is one thing, demonstrating how sorry you are is what really counts.
After apologizing, try and fix the problem as best you can.
This means going above and beyond anything you’ve done before, and it’ll make all the difference.
Not only are you repairing any damage you’ve done, but it’s also the right thing to do and if you can come out of this situation better than you went in, this is how.
Accept Any Consequences
I’m sure you would like to get off scot-free and have everyone chalk this up as a mistake, and say ‘these things happen’.
That might happen, and if it does you can count yourself lucky.
But if there are consequences to your mistake, you need to accept them and move on.
It won’t be easy, and it might be something that stays with you while you’re at the company, but it’s the only way forward and shows that you’re the kind of person that takes responsibility.
Think About How You Can Avoid Future Mistakes
If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will be doomed to repeat them.
Once you get through the aftermath of a mistake, take some time out and think about how you can avoid similar issues in the future.
Think about what you should have done differently and how you can put systems in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
This may mean asking for more resources or support to do your job, or you might want to start a process to double-check your work.
No matter what, it’s important that you take the time to identify and avoid any future mistakes.
Thank Your Boss When The Dust Settles
If your boss stood by you (even if they were a little annoyed) and helped you through a tricky situation, always take the time to thank them once things are back to ‘normal’.
It’ll make a big difference to them, and it shows that you appreciate their help and recognize what they did for you.
Owning up to a mistake and facing the consequences is never easy, but it’s the only way to move forward.
By following these steps, you’ll be able to tell your boss that you made a mistake, take responsibility for it, and fix the problem – all while maintaining good relationships with your coworkers and boss.
Image credits – depositphotos.com/stock-photo-business-people-talking
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.