(And no, I don’t just mean when the kitchen runs out of coffee)
No matter how big of a professional superstar you are, we’ve all made mistakes at work including some that might have felt career ending at the time. For all I know, you may have done something in the past that was sufficiently heinous to get you fired. However, a mistake is only truly irredeemable if you fail to learn from it. Here is a quick crash course to aid your survival in a variety of different crisis scenarios.
If it’s something you did…
Perhaps you’ve accidentally broken the office with a freak fiery tornado, lost the company finance records for the last decade or missed a crucial deadline by approximately a year and a half. Whatever it is, the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach was correct and you are left shaking in your boots, fighting the impulses to self-flagellate and bury your head in the sand.
Do whatever you must to get your breathing under control. Some count backwards in threes from one hundred. Or try breathing in for four counts, hold, out for four and hold. Picture a far off rippling lake of serenity. Oxygen is your friend and it’s precisely what your panicky fluttering brain needs a major glut of.
Flag the Problem
Don’t wait for someone else to discover what’s wrong. Report it as soon as possible to the relevant senior member of staff. The apology that comes with the admission needs to be immediate, genuine and succinct. Don’t go on and on for ages about your multiple failings but be polite, in person and don’t hide behind any excuses. The most compelling act of contrition will be completely undercut by a rebellious muttering that it’s not really your fault because the dog ate your homework.
Do Whatever it Takes to Fix the Situation
You may find yourself having to put in some overtime or step beyond the call of duty. This is all part of the process of taking responsibility for your misstep. It’s like we’re grownups or something.
There may be repercussions depending on the nature of your work crime. Believe it or not, no matter how bleak things seem, you will recover. That slap on the wrist will only sting for so long.
Learn from Your Mistake
Put measures in place to make sure you don’t repeat your blunder. You may even have to go beyond the usual standby of fluorescent post-its wreathing the edge of your computer monitor like a dramatic halo.
If it’s something you said…
High tempers and passions have an evil tendency to come to the fore in situations of pressure. We’ve all said things in the heat of the moment that we sincerely regret once the red mist has dissipated. Or perhaps you’re over the moon that you’ve managed to get a pressing problem off your chest. Still, there are far better processes in place to deal with such complaints and you may well have trampled on someone else’s feelings during your emotional venting.Image source
- Combating this work crisis is a bit more ambiguous than the steps you might take if it was something you did but above all else most important thing is to clear the air.
- Maybe you don’t think this is completely necessary. It was only idle talk, your conversational partner isn’t going to rat you out. Really though, do you want that precarious issue hanging over your head for as long as you’re all still at the same company? Better to get things out in the open.
- Seek neutral ground for your rapprochement, either somewhere public but away from the office like a coffee shop or at the very least somewhere without an audience comprised of your colleagues such as a meeting room. Certainly not your office, theirs or in a communal area where anyone could break out the popcorn and settle down to watch the show.
- Get things out in the open – your apologising skills will get put to use again. Think about bringing a mediator in if you think that things might blow up again.
- Make sure to not raise your voice and allow the other person to speak their mind whilst being considerate of their feelings, no matter what they did, they may be experiencing private personal issues that you have no idea about.
If it’s something out of your control…
Occasionally, dire situations spring up for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. People get ill, are unconscionably late (without warning) or simply behave in ways you could never have predicted.
It’s a tall order to anticipate the unexpected. By all means do your best to prepare contingencies. However, when that disaster comes out of nowhere it can have a nasty habit of knocking you sideways for a spell.
Keep as calm as possible by mastering your breathing again. Then get someone (not necessarily) older and wiser to help. Odds are, they will have experienced something similar and will come up with a simple solution in two seconds flat. At the very least you’ll appreciate the helpful phenomenon of two heads being much better than one when it comes to addressing a sticky situation.
If it’s something else…
Like what? The buccaneering thought police are running rampant around your sales floor? I reckon you’re probably in the clear.
But just remember: keep calm, assess the situation, and then act accordingly.