Mistakes at Work: How to Handle Things the Right Way

September 20th, 2010

Everybody makes mitsakes (oops, that should read “mistakes”).

But while a blog typo may be easily forgiven, other mistakes on the job can have serious consequences – for you, your boss, or even the company as a whole.  And frankly, the way you handle your slip-up can be just as critical as the mistake itself.

So what should you do when you make an error at work?

  • Assess the situation.  As soon as you realize your misstep, take a minute to consider the ramifications, as well as whether or not you can correct the mistake yourself.  If you can solve it, do so immediately; but if not, take a moment to brainstorm possible solutions.  This way, when you approach your boss you’ll appear proactive and responsible.
  • Own up to it.  Never try to cover up your mistake.  If a boss finds out later that you hid a problem, it can permanently damage your credibility.  So take the initiative and bring the situation to your supervisor’s attention.  When you’re honest from the outset, your boss won’t feel the need to underscore the situation’s importance to you.
  • Take responsibility.  Don’t make excuses, act defensively or place blame elsewhere.  Negative reactions like these will cause equally negative reactions from your boss.  Instead, use your mistake as an opportunity to step up to the plate and demonstrate your responsibility and problem-solving abilities.  If someone else is involved in the mistake, encourage him or her to follow your lead and do the right thing.
  • Explain what happened and what you plan to do about it.  Once you’ve acknowledged your misstep and apologized, you must present a plan for correcting it.  You can say something like, “I’ve made a mistake and I apologize for the error.  I’ve come up with some possible solutions and would like your feedback on how to best resolve the situation.”  It’s fine to ask for help developing and implementing your solution – the key here is to not simply ask for your boss to bail you out.
  • Demonstrate that you’ve learned from your mistake.  When a mistake occurs on the job, it’s not enough to just solve it and move on.  Once you’ve resolved the problem, you need to determine what caused it in the first place – and discuss your plan to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  Explaining to your boss what you’ve learned from your mistake demonstrates that you’re conscientious and have the organization’s best interest in mind.

You’re human.  You’ll make mistakes from time-to-time (we all do).  And if you handle a mistake at work correctly, you can turn a difficult situation into a learning experience – an experience that actually provides an opportunity to demonstrate your honesty, integrity and problem-solving ability.

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Tips for Addressing Job Burnout

September 13th, 2010

Feeling a little overworked?

While some would say that “too much to do” is merely a sign of job security in today’s economy, it won’t do you any good if you can’t cope with the stress.  Sure, everyone is trying to do more with less these days.  But over time, being chronically stretched too thin can take a toll on your job performance, state of mind and physical health.

So if you feel like the pressure is too much to bear, here is some advice on effectively broaching the tricky subject of job burnout:

  • Make sure you’re not part of the problem.  If you procrastinate or have other bad work habits, your boss may not be sympathetic to your plight.  So before you go pointing fingers, examine your own performance to see if you could make changes that would improve your situation.
  • Do your homework.  Before approaching your boss, document your situation in writing.  Detail what your job entailed originally and contrast it with what you’re doing now.  Track the hours you work (both at your company and home).  Preparing yourself with these details will provide a clear picture of your workload and keep you from sounding like a complainer.
  • Broach the subject gradually.  Your concerns will be better received if you introduce the topic of feeling overburdened as part of a series of discussions with your boss.  Keep him or her informed of your current responsibilities as well as additional work requests.  Once your boss understands what’s truly on your plate, he or she will be less likely to add more.
  • Enlist the help of others.  If co-workers are also feeling the pressure, approach your boss as part of a team.  Develop and present a plan to remedy the situation by:  bringing in temporary employees or increasing headcount; reorganizing responsibilities; delegating outside your department; streamlining processes.  Offering well thought-out solutions may help you gain your boss’ support in alleviating the problem.

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