Addressing Your Errors in the Professional World

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“To err is human…” Over the years, there have been several spins on this quote by Alexander Pope. While he finished it with “…to forgive, divine,” others created their own versions:

“To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human.” – Robert H. Goodard
“To err is human, but to really foul things up, you need a computer.” – Paul R. Ehrlich
“To err is human; to forgive, infrequent.” – Franklin P. Adams
“To err is human; to admit it, superhuman.” – Doug Larson

Photo by RDNE Stock project from Pexels

In 2009, I worked for a major retailer. While there, I made a horrific mistake – I’ll let you use your imagination – and panicked. It was a monstrosity of an error. In my young and dumb judgment, I chose to silently walk off the job. (My hatred toward my boss and the company itself eliminated any desire to be a decent human being, but that’s another post for another day.) I refused to own my mistake and instead, let my boss deal with the repercussions of it. Thankfully, I learned over the years the importance of responsibility for your actions. By accepting responsibility, you prevent the suffering of others from unnecessary consequences and demonstrate how others can adequately address mistakes.

So what do we do when we mess up in the workplace? Here is a simple step-by-step guide. (Save it for when the inevitable happens.)

  1. Acknowledge the mistake.
  2. Own your mistake as quickly as possible.
  3. Choose the right time, place, and appropriate person with whom to address it.
  4. Genuinely apologize. (Authenticity is key!)
  5. Determine and agree on a plan to fix the mistake.
  6. Ask for feedback and offer ways to prevent repeating the error in the future.

Owning up to what you have done creates a habit of acknowledging your actions. This can set the tone for your career and let others know that you are mature, responsible, and dependable. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and create an action plan to prevent repeating them in the future.

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AJ Jewell

Amber "AJ" Jewell started at in 2016 as a part-time admin assistant, quickly moving to be the 'Duchess of Flow" - making sure that the office is flowing smoothing. AJ is also an award-nominated author, homeschooling parent of three, an avid reader, and a college student.
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