When You Make a Mistake at Work

By September 10, 2018 January 29th, 2019 No Comments
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Making mistakes at work is tough – but when you make a mistake, you also create an opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve yourself.

I feel like this week was filled with more up’s and down’s than past weeks. I’ve always tended to run on the sensitive side, but I can already notice a huge change within myself, and this project has reaaaaally toughened me up. That said, Tuesday (the day I’ve decided I despise above all else), was hard on me. I was hard on me. Basically, a huge part of my role has been to own and run all these super complex metric reports that get sent out to the client daily; there are so many steps, and so many opportunities for everything to get totally messed up.

making mistakes at work
make a mistake at work

It was no Bueno

Of course, being new and still learning everything, I don’t always exactly know what the outputs are supposed to look like and can’t always identify “Oh wait, this is wrong, this number is impossible.” … Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Basically, I sent over some reports which were wrong. wrong. wrong. wrong. Bad data, and I had no idea. I didn’t get yelled at or anything, but I could tell it was no bueno, and some more senior people on my team had to talk to the client on my behalf and explain the situation.

Not Good Enough

I just had the biggest pit in my stomach. In between deep breaths to prevent myself from tearing up, I’m thinking, “Wow, you’re trying your best and clearly it’s not good enough.” This line was in my head on repeat.

I give myself a little bit of mental freak out time before the internal line becomes, “Girlfriend, pull it together, it’s gonna be okay.”

How do we manage our fuck ups?

Which got me thinking — How do we manage our fuck ups? Making mistakes is one of the core fundamentals of human experience, whether it be in our personal lives or professional ones. When I was 17 and a counselor in training at my summer camp, mistakes were made. When I had my first real job at Forever 21, mistakes were made. There were plenty of “Oh shit,” followed by tears moments, on several occasions. Can’t even count how many big mistakes I made throughout my schooling career— whether it be mixing up dates for an exam, forgetting about an assignment worth a big chunk of my grade… It’s just going to happen no matter what you do.

learn from mistakes
learning from mistakes
make a mistake at work 1
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Everyone Makes Mistakes

But, you know… It’s easy to forget this. I’m not sure why my initial reaction is to panic and think omg-it’s-the-end-of-the-world… Sometimes taking a step back and kinda forcing yourself to remember that you. are. human. can make all the difference. Especially with that whole “pit in your stomach” feeling. Reminding myself that even the most senior people at my company have made their fair share of mistakes over the years,  especially when they were first starting out on their careers, gives me a lot of peace of mind. That, and maybe 10 forced deep breaths with my eyes closed. Does the trick every time.

Learn and Move On

I think the important thing boils down to whether you’re able to learn and move on. There is always a positive takeaway, and for me at least, holding onto the hope that the silver lining is gonna pull through makes all the difference. If your working life were a text book, it just becomes another page in the “Lessons Learned” chapter— you can kinda leave it as an appendix, you know? It’s there for a reason, but it doesn’t define the story.

Own What you did Wrong

Acknowledge and own what you did wrong, and think through what you need to do, or not do, in order to avoid a future repeat. Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are one boss ass bitch. And then cut yourself some slack. That’s all any of us can really do ?

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