How do I deal with mistakes?

Sorry my mistake! In 5 steps to the perfect apology on the job

Small clumsiness or big faux pas: You too will have made a mistake in your job. Stupid only when it comes at the expense of another person, maybe a colleague or even your manager. What is the best way to behave after such a mistake and how do you apologize properly?

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1. Why apologizing is not that easy
2. Whoever takes responsibility wins respect
3. Step 1: Admit the mistake
4. Step 2: Immediately seek the conversation
5. Step 3: Propose a solution
6. Step 4: An apology is enough
7. Step 5: Learn from mistakes

Why apologizing is not that easy

Those who make a mistake apologize and learn from them. In theory it sounds very simple. In practice, however, many people find it extremely difficult to apologize, not only in their professional life, but also in their private life. But why actually? The basic problem is often that with the apology you automatically admit a mistake and also have to admit it publicly. This is not infrequently a painful process and gnaws at one's self-confidence. It’s easier to do that Ignoring mistakes, or better yet, blaming someone else. In addition, there is of course the danger that the person to whom you want to apologize will not accept it and your apology will not be successful - or maybe even result in a new argument.

Many people, especially at work, are afraid of them lose their reputation with colleagues or superiors due to mistakes could. Some people may even fear for their job, for example when it comes to a mistake that has cost the company a lot of money. In most cases, however, such a fear is completely unfounded. How so?

Whoever takes responsibility wins respect

Mistakes are human, albeit unpleasant. Of course, it would be best if you never make a mistake. But that is simply impossible. So if it does happen, you will make a better impression if you take responsibility for it and iron out the mistake instead of trying to cover it up. Those who take on responsibility earn the respect of their colleagues, set a good example and thereby demonstrate leadership qualities. So make a note of:

Regardless of whether you have to apologize to your manager, a colleague or the customer, an apology is no shame and no loss of face either. Instead, it stands for inner strength, honesty, courage and the willingness to take responsibility. In this way, you can earn respect with an apology, position yourself as a competent manager or as an employee with real leadership qualities and maybe even give your career a fresh boost.

Of course, only if you are "correct" to apologize. But how does it actually work? Researchers at Ohio State University in the United States have looked at this question, and so on "Perfect excuse" developed:

Step 1: Admit the mistake

The first step is the hardest for many people: you have to admit to yourself that you made a mistake. That can be painful, after all, who likes to admit to not being perfect? Now you can think about how you will deal with the mistake, to whom you have to apologize and maybe also directly: How you can save the situation, i.e. iron out the mistake again. Here is a small example for a better understanding:

You have not sent the passport for your supervisor, which means that he receives his visa too late. As a result, his business trip has to be postponed by a week, the rebooking costs the company a lot of money and business partners abroad are annoyed because of the postponed meeting.

It is now important that you first explain your mistake to the supervisor - if he does not know about it yet - and sincerely apologize to him. Do not use for this under any circumstances "But" sentencesSo don't try to blame yourself or even blame someone else. For example, never say:

"I know it was my fault, but you covered me with work so much that I just forgot about it."

"I'm sorry, but you know it: you only made a mistake on Project XXX last week."

“I want to apologize, but it was my first mistake after all. Look how many mistakes Mr. XXX and Ms. XXX have made in the last year alone. "

Step 2: Immediately seek a conversation

As soon as you become aware of your mistake, you should talk to the person concerned, in this case your manager. Even though you walk through the door with regrets, a guilty conscience or a lack of self-esteem, you still have to expect an unpleasant reaction. After all, your supervisor is only human and it is quite understandable that he initially reacts to the bad news angry, annoyed or even reproachful. Therefore, seek the one-to-one conversation in a quiet minute, close the door behind you and make sure that the person you are talking to has enough time for the conversation. It shouldn't "on the wing" occur.

Step 3: propose a solution

With a sincere apology, you've already taken the first step in making amends. Make it clear that you take full responsibility for what happened. Now you should immediately offer to help in solving the problem that has arisen from the error; it is best if you already have a concrete suggestion.

In our example it could look like this: You offer to drive personally to the embassy on the next working day in order to get the visa in time. If that is not possible, you could offer your superior to call the angry business partners abroad, apologize again personally, explain the situation and take responsibility. You could also organize a small present that would be sent to the people concerned as a token of courtesy and respect, or would be given personally by your supervisor in the event of a late visit. In this way you show your goodwill and strategic thinking skills and maybe you can defuse the situation directly, according to the motto "Just went well again".

Step 4: An apology is enough

Whether or not your apology and suggested solutions were accepted, if you feel that your apology was sincere, that you took responsibility, offered redress, and made the best of the situation, then you are through the worst. A “correct” apology is sufficient. You don't have to apologize over and over for your mistake. Not even if the person concerned has not (fully) forgiven you. If, from now on, you apologize over and over again every time you meet and long after the actual incident, it will get on the nerves of your counterpart at some point. In addition, you make yourself unnecessarily small and take on the role of supplicant. You don't have to: Stay self-confident and meet the person affected on an equal footing. After all, one mistake doesn't make you a bad person or a bad worker. At least not if it stays that way.

Step 5: learn from mistakes

That brings us to the last point of a "perfect" apology: learn from your mistake. Under no circumstances should you do this a second time. Of course, sooner or later another mistake can happen to you, it just can't be the same. Now, after all, you know better and - in our example - apply for the visa in good time in the future. Do you know the saying "A mistake is only a mistake if you make it twice"?

Or the following:

Have you ever made a mistake? Were your supervisor, a colleague, business partners or customers really angry with you? How did you behave? Or, conversely, has someone ever apologized right or wrong to you? We look forward to your tips and experiences in the comments.

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