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How To Bounce Back After Making A Mistake At Work

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Jul. 27 2022, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Accidents happen, but what happens when you make a mistake at work? I personally know that making a mistake at work can trigger imposter syndrome.

I remember I missed an important email from one of the candidates that was running for governor in Maryland. He and his team decided to drop out of the race, and I missed pushing it out to the newsroom. I felt horrible, and for the rest of my shift, I was on pins and needles praying that I didn’t miss anything else.

Making a mistake at work can hinder your confidence, cause anxiety, and make you question if you are qualified for the job, but there are ways to move forward after a mistake. Check out the steps that have worked for me in handling snafus that happen in the workplace:

Acknowledge your mistake.

Take responsibility for your mistake, but don’t make excuses. Let your team know where you went wrong then pledge to do better so it won’t happen in the future. Forbes reports that when you admit your mistakes to your team, you humanize yourself, so people understand that you are a real person who isn't perfect. Be humble and apologize.

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Embrace how the mistake made you feel.

As I stated before, I felt bad. I felt like a failure, I felt isolated, and discombobulated but now that I look back on it, that’s okay. Caring about the mistake shows that I wanted to do better. With feelings, it’s best to allow yourself a time limit to feel those emotions and move on.

For example, take five to 10 minutes to wallow in self-pity and then keep pressing forward. Look at the bigger picture: The mistake was caught so changes can be made going forward. Don't beat yourself up and don't allow self-doubt to take over your day.

Write about the mistake.

Maybe you made the mistake because you were trying to focus on more than one task at a time and you got overwhelmed in the moment. Or maybe something slipped your mind. Whatever the situation; a solution is needed. I know for me; a plan is just a thought unless it's written down. Write a note to yourself about what you learned so you can always refer to it if you are ever in a similar situation. Don't forget to write down

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Put a plan into action.

Now it's time to put what you learned into action. For me, it was being present in the workplace 100%. Because I am a Journalist, social media is a big part of my every day, but I found myself distracted by it. Instead of checking for leads to stories, I was checking to see what celebrity drama was going down on The Shaderoom or updating the group chat with funny memes. So, after my mistake, I started to put my phone on DND (Do Not Disturb) and now I only use my work cellphone (which is limited on what I can search) to find tips and share content. I have also started going to bed at a decent time. Getting a goodnights rest can go a long way towards focus and productivity. Another piece of advice that goes towards workplace mistakes is to prioritize your workload. I try to knock out the biggest task first, followed by the smaller less time mandatory assignments that way nothing is missed, and I know I've spent the most time on the important task.

Build your confidence.

Know that you belong in the room. You would not be here if you were not qualified for the job. Everyone started as a beginner, and everyone has had a rough day - or two- in the workplace. To keep myself confident in the workplace, I post sticky notes with motivational quotes on them at my desk, so they are always in view, and I can get an ego boost before a meeting/presentation. It can be something as simple as "You belong here" or "Let's kill it today." Motivational quotes aren't just a social media trend. They work, especially when read on a consistent basis. Perspective matters. There is always a silver lining in every situation but finding it is up to you.

Ask questions.

This is a bonus from me to you! I learned very early on in my career that "there are no stupid questions in news." Asking questions can help avoid mistakes. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help or understanding. That is better than trying to figure it out on your own. I've found that my colleagues liked when I asked questions because it gave them a chance to pass on knowledge they've gained when they were in the same position. Remember there is no I in TEAM.

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By: Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is an Emmy award-winning Journalist based out of the DMV. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD Richardson has worked for CBS, ABC, Hearst Television, and is the Freelance Arts, Culture, and Entertainment Reporter for THE AFRO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER in her hometown. Richardson obtained her B.S. from The University of Baltimore in Corporate Communication and is currently in the process of obtaining her Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Georgetown University.

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