How to Handle a Slip-Up at a New Job


You’re the office newbie, scrambling to earn respect and still working on developing relationships. At this point, you just want to keep your head down and fit in.

But, something goes wrong. You’ve made a mistake that’s likely to get you in trouble. What do you do?

Of course, mistakes happen all the time. The complicating factor here is you’re new to the position. You haven’t built up institutional support or a track record of success.

You worry the incident will set people’s impression of you – your bosses and co-workers will always see you as the person who screwed this up. At the very least, you picture a long process of repairing your reputation. In the worst-case scenario, you dread the menacing prospect this may actually derail your career at the firm.

However, there are ways to mitigate the damage. How you handle the aftermath of the error will go a long way to getting you back on the right track. Below are three key steps to take to handle a slip up at a new job.

Be Honest

Keep in mind the old political adage: “It’s not the scandal that brings people down, it’s the cover-up.”

You can’t do anything to reverse the mistake. If you come clean and work hard to correct the error, your co-workers and supervisors will likely forgive you.

But if you’re caught lying about it, you might not get the benefit of the doubt. Don’t dig yourself deeper by trying to hide what happened. Be honest and concentrate on fixing the problem.

Take Stock

While you don’t want to launch into Nixon-level machinations, take a minute to consider the best way to handle the situation. You have options on how to alert people to the mistake and the way you frame the situation. Figure out the optimal approach before you take any further steps (unless it’s an emergency, of course … in that case, get a solution in motion as fast as possible).

Consider how much you can fix on your own. Game out the best person to tell about the mistake – the nice co-worker who’s been mentoring you might be a better choice than the head of the department.

Offer to Fix the Problem

Have a solution (or even a set of possible solutions) in mind when you alert people to the problem. If possible, you should already be on the road to fixing the problem. This will help soften the blow.

In any case, immediately volunteer to correct the error. Offer to work additional hours or put in whatever extra effort might prove necessary.

The aftermath of the slip-up might provide an opportunity for you. Show initiative and creativity in how you handle the solution. It may end up helping your reputation in the long run.

A supportive workplace that helps you grow (and forgives your occasional slip-ups) provides a nurturing place to develop your career. By partnering with a top-flight recruiting firm, like DHR, you can find the perfect situation. Contact us to find out more.

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