by Matt Alderton | July 02, 2017
If you mess up at work, it's not the end of the world. And if you know how to defuse the situation correctly, it doesn't have to be the end of your career, either.

"Making mistakes at work and in life is inevitable. It's less about making a commitment to be perfect and more about what you do to recover," says The Muse contributor Dorianne St. Fleur.

She speaks from experience. "The first time I made a major mistake at work I thought my career was over. I'd joined the team six months prior and was beginning to feel like I was finally getting the hang of my responsibilities -- until I realized I'd reported inaccurate figures to one of our major clients," St. Fleur continues. "The kicker? They made business decisions based on this faulty information, and my boss had the painful task of explaining this to our client. He was livid, and I was mortified. Embarrassed for making such a careless error, I was unsure of what to do next. Should I pack my things and go home? Should I avoid my manager and act like nothing happened?"

Instead, St. Fleur owned her mistake. And you should own yours, too, she says.

"The first thing I did when I sat down with my manager was cut to the chase. I wanted him to know that I took full responsibility for my actions, so I was direct: 'I'm sorry I sent the wrong figures to our client," she recalls. "Once you've committed an oversight, avoid passing the blame to someone or something else. This will only further aggravate the situation (and your boss) and make it harder for you both to move forward. Being accountable when you mess up is the first step in diffusing the situation."

The second step is explaining how the mistake happened, and how you'll avoid making it again in the future.

"When you're trying to move past an error, it's not enough to only focus on fixing the issue. You've got to also make it clear to your supervisor (and yourself) that you've figured out the root cause of the problem and you understand why it happened," St. Fleur concludes. "What you'll find is that even though your manager isn't happy with the fact that you screwed up, he'll appreciate your professionalism in handling it and will be just as ready to move on as you are."

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Contact Successful Meetings Editor in Chief Vincent Alonzo with your "How To" ideas.