5 steps to better deal with mistakes at work


Mistakes at work can happen and are human. Nevertheless, it is unpleasant when something goes wrong in professional life because you didn’t do something right yourself. Here are five simple steps to show you how you can deal with mistakes and even get something positive out of it for you and the company in the end.

How can you better deal with mistakes at work?

Unfortunately, mistakes can never be completely avoided. So the much more sensible way is to learn how to deal professionally with mistakes on the job. So what can you do when you make a mistake?

1st step: accept mistakes in the job

The first and perhaps most important step is to accept the mistake in the job. So don’t try to cover it up. You should also not hope that nobody will notice it, but admit to yourself: “Yes, I made a mistake!”. That happens and doesn’t mean that you’re doing a bad job in general. Only when you have accepted the mistake can you turn it into something positive.

Accepting the mistake is important to both you and the company you work for. Imagine if everyone concealed mistakes or swept them under the rug. The whole system would quickly falter because over time errors would follow errors and at some point nothing would work at all. One mistake is not the end of the world. But if there is a problem at every nook and cranny because no one has revealed their mistakes, it becomes problematic.

2nd step: course correction

The first step is sometimes uncomfortable, yes. But from step 2 it goes up noticeably. The first thing to do now is to eliminate or at least mitigate the consequences of the error. Depending on what the error was and whether negative consequences have already arisen from it, you should now examine them more closely. Ask yourself:

  • What is the most important first measure to avoid (further) negative consequences?
  • Who needs to be informed promptly about the error?
  • How can I fix the error so that there are no further consequences?

Above all, stay focused during this phase to quickly steer the course in a positive direction.

3rd step: Physical relaxation

After the first and second steps, you can come out of firefighter mode, which sure felt hectic and exhausting. Of course, noticing mistakes and taking countermeasures as effectively as possible costs energy. After the most important countermeasures have been taken, try to calm down again. Because only if you work calmly and relaxed will you avoid further mistakes made out of sheer carelessness.

There are two levels to this rest: the physical and the mental. For physical relaxation, use breathing exercises, for example, which will help you gradually regulate your excited mood. Inhale for a count of 5, hold your breath briefly, and exhale for a count of 8. Repeat this a few times. You will notice that your pulse will calm down and you will be able to think clearly again.

4th step: Strengthen mental resilience

Of course, mistakes also affect us mentally. You can therefore also use mental techniques to learn to deal with them better. It pays to think long-term here. Mental resilience isn’t a toggle switch that you flip once, it’s more like a muscle that you train. Do you still find mistakes to be very stressful and psychologically exhausting? Then try to develop a new error mindset bit by bit.

Make yourself aware:

  • Mistakes are the engine for positive change.
  • You can learn something from every mistake.
  • If there had never been any mistakes, there probably wouldn’t have been any innovations either.

In many companies with a positive corporate culture, mistakes are often even welcomed and celebrated. Because every mistake made harbors the chance for improvement and further development. Maybe it helps you to see mistakes not as negative slips, but as opportunities to do things even better.

Step 5: Use the learning experience

A mistake was wasted time only if you didn’t learn anything from it. On the other hand, if you can draw something positive from what happened, maybe improve processes, change approaches, etc., it was ultimately worth it, even if it was uncomfortable at first.

It is therefore essential to make a note of what you have learned from your mistakes. This helps to see the experience positively and to anchor it for the future. You will certainly not make mistakes with helpful learning experiences a second time. Besides, such notes can also be helpful for your colleagues and save them from the same mistake.

Conclusion and FAQ

Let’s recap what you can take away from this article.

  • How can I better deal with errors?

You can deal better with mistakes by not making them taboo, but by first admitting them to yourself. You then eliminate possible negative consequences that arose from the mistakes and check what you can learn from the mistakes you made.

  • How can I avoid mistakes at work?

You cannot completely avoid mistakes. But you can always get better by learning from every mistake. Mistakes made usually don’t happen again.

  • What should I do if I made a mistake?

If you made a mistake at work, calmly go through the five steps and try not to judge yourself. Making mistakes is human. That happens every day. And that’s no drama if you accept it and fix the bug. On the other hand, be happy that you were able to have a learning experience that is useful to you and the company.


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