I made a fireable mistake at work once and managed to avoid being fired by being upfront about what happened and coming up with a solution.
One of my favorite quotes is; “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”
This is totally true.
If you’ve made a costly mistake at work I can’t promise you will not get fired, but here is my best advice for making the situation right:
I Made a Fireable Mistake at Work – 9 Steps To Make Things Right
Evaluate How Bad Things Are
Mistakes can get blown out of proportion when you first realize what’s happened.
It’s important you take a step back and evaluate how bad things are and exactly what’s happened with a cooler head.
This will enable you to make the best decisions in regard to what you’re going to do next.
Whatever you do, don’t quit just because you think you’re going to get fired.
Tell Your Boss You Need to Talk to Them
If word hasn’t reached your boss about what’s happened, and it’s better it comes from you, you need to tell them you want to talk.
This isn’t easy to do, it’ll feel like you’re walking into a firing line, but there is no running or hiding.
Make sure you get their attention and speak with them in private and tell them exactly what’s happened.
Be Upfront and Honest About What You’ve Done
The way you tell your boss about the mistake you’ve made is going to have a big impact on how they take the news and how they react.
Be as open and honest about what you’ve done, don’t hide or cover up anything or try to blame anyone else.
Avoid making any excuses, too, that never looks good, especially in the heat of the moment.
If there are legitimate reasons it’ll all come out during the process and you’ll look better for not making excuses.
Come Up With a Solution to The Problem
The manager I most looked up to in my career always used to say, “Don’t come to me with just problems, come with solutions.”
This always stuck with me, and it’s true.
If you have created a huge mess, show the willingness to try and make it right.
This can be hard, especially if you don’t have all the answers, but be willing to compromise and put yourself in their shoes.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over It
It’s alright to be a little hard on yourself but don’t beat yourself up too badly over it.
No one is perfect, and mistakes happen.
It’s how you deal with your mistakes, and more importantly, learn from them that counts.
I’ve been in your shoes and I’m harder on myself than anyone, I get it.
You’ll have moments where it hits you and just can’t believe what happened, but dwelling on it is going to make things worse.
Demonstrate You’re Willing To Make Things Right
Whether you’re going to be fired or not, your boss will be looking for signs that you are willing to make things right.
Show them you’re taking ownership of the situation and you won’t rest until it’s sorted out.
This will demonstrate to them that you take responsibility for the mistake, and are willing to put in the work to make things right.
If there is one thing that’s going to save you from the chop it’s going to be what you do to correct your mistake.
Sure, some things can’t be undone and the damage might be permanent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bend over backward to correct things.
Accept the Consequences
At the end of the day I really hope you’re not fired for making a huge fireable mistake, but you have to accept whatever consequences come your way.
If it’s a written warning, then accept it and move on.
If your boss wants you gone or says their hands are tied and they have to let you go, thank them for the opportunity and accept it.
Whatever you do, don’t take it as a personal attack and make sure you don’t burn any bridges.
If you stay with the company there is a chance you’re going to pick up a tag as the person who made this huge mistake, I’ve seen it happen many times.
That’s something you’ll have to learn to live with!
Learn from This Mistake
This is the most important lesson you’ll take away from this whole experience, you have to learn from this mistake.
This can be hard to think about when you’re in the heat of the moment, but if you take some time away from it, and look at it objectively, you’ll better understand why it happened.
That understanding will help you in the future and make sure a mistake like this never happens again.
There is also a lot we can learn from how we deal with making mistakes or facing adversity, it can be a valuable career or life lesson.
Thank Your Boss if They Don’t Fire You (And if They Did)
Whatever the final outcome is, it’s easy to be bitter. But it’s important to thank your boss for their time and the opportunity.
If they decide not to fire you then they obviously saw something in you and gave you another chance.
If they do fire you, then it’s still important to thank them for the opportunity you had with the company.
This can be hard to do, but it’s the right thing to do and will be remembered.
There you have it, hopefully, you now feel better about what’s happened and also appreciate that we’re all human and mistakes happen.
As long as you’re willing to own up to any mistakes you make, learn from them, and grow as a person then the future is full of opportunity!
Image credits – depositphotos.com/stock-photo-frustrated-young-business-man
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.