Work anxiety – What to do if you make a mistake.

This piece is going to be from personal experience, lol. I’ve been a manger of people and have been managed and in both capacities, I have made mistakes, a few doozies too. Work is stressful, there are so many competing emotions that go into work these days. People that don’t experience it are either numb or blessed. You have competition, backstabbing, gossip, accolades, rewards, bonuses to name a few. Each one of these and including several others (a demanding boss) can inspire anxiety.

What happens if you screw up? If you make a mistake and you know it before everyone else, what do you do? Quick story: many, many years ago (yes, I am ancient) I had to cut a check to a client for over 300K I put the check in the printer upside down, it looked correct but the vital part on the back was on the stub, not the check part. I got it back signed stuffed it in an envelope and mailed it. I realized later what I had done. I panicked I didn’t say anything to anyone, the client called me, he was unhappy, very unhappy.

I had 3 days of anxiety over that mistake. I survived, but what could I have done differently? If you make a mistake at work, you are not alone. Perfection is the bane of very good, but that doesn’t matter right? If you have anxiety you are going to beat yourself up over it. Here are 5 things you should do if you make a mistake at work to alieve your anxiety:

  1. Take responsibility: Let your boss know and the affected parties know. Apologize and make sure they know you will work to fix the issue.
  2. Fix what you can: This intertwines with the above but fix what you can. Some issues, you can’t fix but be available for the fix. Bottom line, if you make a mistake and can fix it, fix it, even if it means you work late.
  3. Make it a learning moment: Cliché? Maybe but you made this mistake for a reason. Learn what you did wrong, and make sure you implement the requisite changes so that it doesn’t happen again.
  4. Forgive yourself: Everyone makes mistakes, but at this moment your up. You must make sure you forgive yourself for making a mistake, everyone makes them. If you beat yourself up too much you might cause harm to your future job performance.
  5. Get back to work: Don’t be tentative. Do your job, build your confidence back up.

Making a mistake at work sucks, it happens all the time. You will recover, you will move on and you will be successful. Own it, manage it and learn from it. You are doing awesome, one day at a time.

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