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Career Advice

How To Recover From A Major Work Embarrassment

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated November 9, 2021
|3 min read

Mistakes at the office are a part of life. It happens….to everyone... including the CEOs. Although it’s an unavoidable, further embarrassment can be avoided if you strategically approach how you’re going to recover. Whether you’re in a sticky situation right now, or want to prepare yourself for the future, career coach Jenn DeWall is here to offer a 5-Step guide on how to recover from a major work embarrassment. Read on!

STEP 1: Be calm

“Really ground yourself. Calm yourself down so you can think clearly and in a better light,” says DeWall. The goal here is to prevent yourself from making any rash decisions. When you’re in a state of panic or anxiety, you aren’t thinking clearly. Get to a clear headspace as quickly as you can.

STEP 2: Acknowledge it. Own it.

Easier said than done, but this step is crucial. DeWall emphasizes that work embarrassments “aren’t about blame. It’s about ownership. If you don’t acknowledge it and own it, you’ll prolong that feeling of embarrassment.”

STEP 3: Estimate the impact

It’s important that you’re cool, calm, and collected by the time you reach this step. Once you’re grounded, ask yourself the difficult questions to assess exactly how bad your embarrassment is. Even if it’s not the conclusion you want to come to, you need to be able to face the reality of the situation.

STEP 4: Reframe it as a learning opportunity

All mistakes are learning opportunities, even the cringe-worthy ones. Take comfort in knowing that you probably won’t make this mistake ever again.

STEP 5: Let it go

As DeWall says, “Let the blips go. Don’t take unnecessary things into your tomorrow.” Ask yourself: ‘How big should this be in my mind?’ Put things in perspective and move on.”

A key part of the recovery phase is offering a sincere apology. DeWall recommends apologizing once you’ve gone through steps 1-3. “Make sure you’ve come to a safe headspace and then promptly make an apology. Calmness is paramount. No emotions or feelings. Don’t be defensive.” A face-to-face apology is best, as it allows you to most accurately convey your tone. But if that’s not possible, a phone call is second best, followed by email.

We asked DeWall about the biggest mistake people can make when recovering from a work embarrassment: “Bringing too much attention to it. Don’t make it a bigger deal than it was.” She also warns against getting more people involved than necessary. “If leadership wasn’t aware of it, they don’t need to know.”

And when all else fails, remember you’re not alone. Mistakes at work, big and small, are a rite of passage.