As human beings, it can often be difficult for us to acknowledge when we have made a mistake. We would rather save face and maintain the illusion that we’re right than salvage a situation that is swiftly turning catastrophic. Such mistakes may not have severe ramifications in our personal lives, but in our professional lives, it can set us on a fast-track to disaster.

When we find ourselves falling into this kind of trap, there are several things we can do to ensure we don’t escalate the situation.

The choices we made in the past no longer have any bearing on the choices we must make now. It’s always hard to acknowledge when something in which we have invested our time and money isn’t working out, but it’s a huge impediment to future success. In this event, it could be beneficial to have someone else step in and evaluate the situation so we can have an unbiased opinion on how best to proceed.

We must make it a point to build trust and good communication with our team. People who feel like they have the security to speak up when they think we’re making a huge mistake are a valuable asset.

We need to remember to turn our perspective outward. Once we catch ourselves focusing on our reputation in these situations, we should counter it by thinking about how our mistakes will impact other people. It’s easier to act in someone else’s best interest than it is to ignore our wounded pride.

Self-assurance is everything. The most important thing to remember is that our actions after making a mistake are what will determine whether or not we make a successful recovery. If we act with confidence in trying to correct our mistakes, people will be less likely to notice the mistake itself; they’ll be too busy admiring our ability to turn a bad situation around.

Have you ever witnessed someone making a mistake in the office? What did they do to fix it? Let us know in the comments.

Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine. You can connect with her at