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Acknowledging Mistakes at Work

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

One of the big issues that creates conflict at work and interfers with harmonious relationships, is many people’s inability to acknowledge their own mistakes.

I confess that perfectionism is one of my own shortcomings. I still sometimes want to prove to you and myself that I am perfect and don’t make mistakes. In my faulty thinking, there isn’t an iota of space between imperfect and horrible, so admitting I did something wrong means I am a complete failure. Instead, I, like many of my clients, want to defend and pretend, because the consequences feel devastating. Of course, the reality is, making a mistake and denying it, is infuriating to co-workers and managers and often leads to conflict, resentments, and negative consequences.

When we can reframe the meaning of mistakes, be willing to acknowledge them and take reparative action for our part, they become manageable and actually support honest and harmonious relationships at work.

Here are some tips for how to deal effectively with mistakes at work:

First, affirm your own worth and remember that making mistakes is human and doesn’t make you a bad person, employee, manager.

Then, calmly analyze the mistake. How big is the mistake? Is there an easy fix? For example, if you left someone important off an email distribution list, you can resend with an acknowledgement that you inadvertently left someone off.

If it is a bigger mistake, quickly ask yourself some questions.

Do I know how to fix this? Do I know who can? What are some possible solutions or repairs?

Acknowledge the mistake, calmly.

You also need to acknowledge the mistake to colleagues and to superiors, explain briefly in a neutral tone what happened, and possible fixes you see. Then, apologize for your part, and ask for guidance as to how to proceed. A good attitude on your part, admitting the mistake calmly and looking for solutions, can positively impact the outcomes.

                        author

Lorraine Segal

After surviving the 50's and 60's, as well as twenty years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Segal was inspired to started her own business, Conflict Remedy (ConflictRemedy.com), happily teaching, coaching, blogging and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and… MORE >

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