I made a mistake at work

Last Thursday I found out I had made a mistake at work. It wasn't a life-or-death mistake, but it was a mistake that was big enough it affected a project I work on, including people outside the company. It wasn't entirely my fault, but it surely felt like it. I talked about it with people in my team, including my manager and left in tears before the end of the day. I felt so bad on Thursday that I wondered if I would dare to step into the office on Monday again.

I was awake half the night wondering how upset people would be with me and asked my manager if I could call him on Friday. I told him how bad I felt, especially for the people that were affected too* and that I wanted to learn from this mistake and look at how we could do better from now on. I cried when I was on the phone with him. I guess part of why this got to me so much is the amount of work that I'm doing, that JUST fits in the time I have with very little room for error.

On Monday, I dragged myself to the office, half dreading what people would say, half rested and ready to try and make it right - or at least be pro-active in repairing the damage. And then I was surprised how supportive everyone was. A friend at work said she had experienced something similar and advised me to look to the future. My manager saying that to him it didn't particularly matter whose fault it was but that we need to learn from how this happened to prevent it from happening again. And the people that I work with were helpful in fixing what can still be fixed and doing it better from now on.

I still need to talk about the mistake to a higher boss who is not often around and I get a bit nervous thinking about this, but I guess what I've learned this week is that making a mistake (even one that feels like the end of the world) is something that happens to many people and is something you can learn from.


*I've made mistakes before when I was in academia and I discovered that for me at least, a mistake feels much less horrible when it affects mostly yourself then when it affects those around you, and especially when you represent a company and make the company look bad.

8 responses so far

  • eeke says:

    I think half the battle is owning up to the mistake. I think people respect you for taking responsibility, so don't dwell on it. Move forward and keep going.

  • potnia theron says:

    I am glad you are in a place where you got the response you did.

  • Doctor_PMS says:

    No one enjoys to make mistakes, but many people try to cover them and don't take responsibility. Yay for you not being one of those!
    On the other hand, most of the time we are the hardest judges of ourselves - It is much easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves.
    That was covered very nicely in a recent podcast episode I've heard from "Terrible, thanks for asking". I really enjoyed the whole episode, but if you're busy start listening around minute 40. (https://www.apmpodcasts.org/ttfa/2016/12/ive-made-a-huge-mistake-2/)
    Hope you enjoy it 🙂

  • peirama says:

    I'm sorry you're going through this but glad you're in a supportive environment. I get really upset when I make mistakes, but I try to remind myself that it happens to everyone but we just don't know about everyone else's mistakes as much as our own.

  • Nat says:

    Ugh, sorry you went through this. Though to echo others' comments, owning up to it so quickly and honestly goes a long way with how other people will react to it. Everyone knows mistakes will happen, so it's key that no one tries to bury them. Still, it doesn't make the feelings surrounding the situation disappear.

    This is other side of the of working in a close team that's so different from my experience in academia. Working closely with other people who are smart and motivated and can teach you new things can be awesome and a lot of fun...but when mistakes get made it affects a lot more than just oneself.

    Hang in there, and I hope the fallout from this passes as quickly as possible!

  • […] has been a busy couple weeks, with the mistake I made at work, the temporary new role at work that I'm doing part-time next to my own job, travel to 2 meetings […]

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