Recovering from a major workplace mistake is no easy feat.
But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your reputation remains intact, even after the error has been made. "You lost a client, missed a deadline or hired the wrong person," she tells CNBC Make It. "Mistakes happen. You're human!"
However, she warns, you could also end up "an unemployed human" if you don't take action right away. Here are three things to do immediately after you screw up at work:
Welch says the No. 1 thing you want to do is own the fact that you messed up. "The minute you start playing the blame game, you look small, you look defensive."
"Even if you aren't the only author of the mistake — and you probably aren't — you still have to take responsibility with your boss, colleagues and subordinates," she says. Doing this "is how we demonstrate that we're grown-ups, that we get it and that we feel remorse."
"People need to see those things to give you what you need to move on," she says, "which is a second chance."
The next thing you need to do is get a clear understanding of why what you did was wrong.
"An executive I know didn't get a promotion," she says. "So he walked into his boss's office, shut the door and asked for an autopsy. That has to be you. You have to ask people, 'Where did I go wrong? What can I learn?'"
Welch admits that this is a process that "will definitely take you out of your comfort zone." But, she says, "it's also going to show your organization that you have the guts and integrity to grow in ways that ensure your error never happens again."
Welch says that one of the best ways to recover from a mistake is to immediately follow it up with a major win that will impress your boss and colleagues.
"You've got a scarlet 'L' on your shoulder: 'Loser!' You want it off fast, and no one will do that for you."
She suggests coming up with an achievable victory for yourself like "a project, an initiative or an assignment" that has "good optics that you can nail." Use that win to prove that you're still a valuable employee who knows how to bounce back.
"Everybody screws up sometimes," Welch says. "But one mistake isn't the end of the game for you unless you let it be. There are three ways back to the winner's circle. Grab them and run."
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video by Claire Nolan
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