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We all make mistakes; it’s part of life, part of the learning process. But when it happens in the workplace it doesn’t need to be a disaster, or have a negative impact on your career.

How you react, how you respond

When working in sensitive, client-facing professions such as probation, substance misuse or part of a youth offending team, the decisions you make will impact on people’s lives.

That is a fact you are always aware of from the moment you step into such a role but when you do make an error, the key focus has to be on how you react and respond.

That will not only reflect on you as an employee, but will also impact on any affected clients. In all professions and walks of life, it is not so much the initial error or mistake that leads to a problem, but the second and third decisions you take after that.

That is why it is so important to recognise and share an error at the earliest opportunity, seek help and ensure that what is often a relatively minor misjudgement does not escalate into a major issue.

Own up to your error

Coming to terms with a mistake is hard, but owning up to your error can be even harder. In general, employers acknowledge that people will at times make mistakes but when you do so, there are certain protocols to follow.

First of all, you should know those protocols from the earliest stages of your employment so as when you make an error, you know how to proceed.

Inform your line manager – ideally in person in the first instance - and be honest, frank and open about the scenario from the earliest opportunity.

The sooner a mistake is flagged up the sooner it can be remedied and doing so as soon as possible will help mitigate long-term damage.

By keeping quiet, the situation will only get worse and will undoubtedly return to haunt you. If you follow the protocols, be humble over your error and respond quickly, you will be recognised for the professional and honest way you dealt with the situation.

Turning an error in a positive

Once you have addressed the issue, rather than negatively dwell on it, use it as a positive. You can use your experience of minor mistakes as learning opportunities and can grow into a better worker following it.

A misjudgement every now and again keeps us on our toes, it stops us getting over-confident or complacent, and if we share that information, it may help others avoid making the same error too.
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