At some point, everyone steps on a landmine on the job.  Things are going along fine, and then out of the blue, you realize you just did something which makes you feel like a total amateur. 

What then occurs can range from being fired to simply being scolded. How you respond to your mistake can make a big difference to your sense of confidence. Often it impacts whether you’ll move forward in your job momentum, or if you let the screw-up become a career derailer.  No one wants to be on the receiving end of criticism, but when you mess up there is a lot to be gained if you can handle the comments professionally and try to be objective about them.   Regardless of whether the criticism is constructive, it’s very important that you face the situation well.  People will be watching . How effectively you respond will have an impact on your professional growth and ultimate success. 

In case you hit a banana peel yourself, here are 6 tips for coping with a screw-up:

  1. Listen to the criticism.  Though you may feel hurt, try to see past your emotions to the task at hand. Remember the old adage that “there’s no crying in baseball” – likewise at the workplace.
  2. Don’t become defensive. Show that you are trying to understand the criticism and ask questions to ensure you get what’s being said.  Make it clear that you want to do what’s needed to rectify the situation.
  3. If you did something wrong – admit it.  People respect others who show that they are mature enough to know that they made a mistake.  It shows professionalism.  I’ve had HR execs say to me that they won’t hire individuals who can’t tell them of a mistake or two they’d made earlier.
  4. If you notice the problem before the boss – tell her/him first.  If you have a solution to the problem, try to implement it first; but if that’s not possible – tell the boss what the hassle is and provide the solution at the same time.
  5. Shrug off criticism. Dwelling on screw ups makes you less productive and impacts your own sense of self worth.  It can make you negative and less valuable to the organization.  People will be less welcoming as a result.
  6. Review. Get together with colleagues to discuss what happened and get their assessments.  Often, what it felt like to you will be very different from what they saw or understand because they can be more objective.

Many very successful individuals have careers built on failures or screw-ups. Learning from them, they got up, brushed themselves off, and moved ahead confident that they’d never make that mistake again.  You can too.

                                                                              – john

                                                                             career coach