No one knows better than a boss that everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone handles them the same way. When you make a mistake, your boss will be watching you closely and asking himself these questions:
Am I dealing with someone who:
- learns easily from mistakes or repeats them endlessly?
- tells the simple truth or creates confusion to hide behind?
- sincerely accepts responsibility or just tells me what I want to hear?
- really hears and understands me?
Your boss will consider the cost of your mistakes to be part of his investment in you. It’s a cost of doing business. Your job when you report a mistake is to convince your supervisor that his investment is a good one. You can do that by following this checklist:
- report your mistakes early so your boss doesn’t find out about them from someone else
- apologize without assigning blame to others and without sounding defensive
- do whatever you can to correct your mistake and do it quickly
- show you thought about what led to your mistake
- summarize and say back to your boss his message to you, for ex: “I hear you saying that this was a costly mistake for the company at a time when…” and then
- commit to not making that mistake again and explain how you will avoid it
Fully accepting a mistake, making repairs and avoiding repetition is extremely difficult. Maybe one of the most difficult things in life. And that’s one of the few advantages you have in this situation — your boss knows how hard it is. So do it right and you’ll show what you’re made of. If you’re lucky, you may just come out ahead!
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