It can happen to even the most diligent of employees -- or managers for that matter. In spite of your best efforts, you screwed up at work, and now you have to decide how to handle it. While it might spare you embarrassment or the hassle of dealing with the aftermath of your mistake, avoiding the problem or not owning up to your mistake is not the best answer.
For one, it could later come out that you were indeed the culprit, and then you’ll be pegged as a liar as well as incompetent. Avoid that double-whammy at all costs by employing one of these top five tactics for taking the blame.
Admit it publicly
When your reputation in the workplace is on the line, often the best thing to do is simply to admit the mistake in a public setting. Spend a minute in your next staff meeting telling your co-workers you are to blame, that you’re sorry, and that you’re working on avoiding the same mistake next time. Then simply move on, suggests human resources professional Tracey Evans on the Robert Half website. Working toward avoiding problems is the best way to make nice with those you’ve wronged.
Or, own up to your boss in private
Other times, it’s not so necessary to let everyone know that you messed up. If the problem didn’t affect others or others were not aware of it in the first place, admitting your faults during a staff meeting could make you look more foolish or incompetent. When that’s the case, the best way to handle it is to have a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor or boss. Once again, take the blame and discuss your plans for doing better next time.
Avoid getting defensive
While it’s tough to admit your mistakes, do it with the bravest face you can muster. You’ll only look more foolish if you try to make excuses for what you did.
Avoid putting the blame on others -- even if it was their fault
Whatever you do, don’t involve others in the blame game. If you didn’t make the mistake, don’t admit that you did. In a study released by the staffing firm Office Team, 30 percent of managers admitted to taking the fall for an employee’s mistake. Many said they felt partially responsible. If you are indeed responsible, admit it, but if you’re not, don’t. Covering for another’s mistake only allows that person room to make the same mistake again, suggests Office Team.
Should you mention it only once you’ve improved?
In a situation in which no one at all has noticed your screwup, you may have a unique opportunity to right the wrong before you admit your mistake. For example, say you were late delivering a product to a customer because of an accounting oversight. You might be tempted to wait till next time around, ensure it doesn’t happen again, and then go to your boss and tell him the story. This, however, sows the seeds for a dishonest relationship, and your boss might be more upset that you waited, suggests Alison Green of the Ask a Manager blog.
Admitting you were wrong is never easy, but when you really are the one who messed up, your best bet is to own up to it and move on as quickly as possible.