TCG 411: Making Good On Your Bad

Recovering From Workplace Blunders

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

Have you ever called a colleague by the wrong name, accidentally cussed in front of the boss or spilled coffee on your shirt? Rest easy: You’re not alone. We asked more than 1,300 senior managers to describe their most embarrassing on-the-job moments, and the responses ranged from being plain silly to downright shameful. One person, for example, admitted to conducting a training session with his zipper down, and another said he sent an offer letter to the wrong candidate.

The fact is, blunders happen to the best of us. The key is understanding how to rebound from them. Here are some tips:

1. Remain calm. It’s easy to get frazzled after realizing you’ve made a mistake. Instead of allowing your mind to run wild with worst-case “what-if” scenarios, take a moment to collect yourself. Acting impulsively could lead you to do something you’ll later regret, so take a few deep breaths, maintain your composure and carefully think through your next step.
2. Own up to your errors. Perhaps you’re caught complaining about a coworker in the break room – by the person himself! You might be tempted to look the other way, but it’s better to face the music and make amends ASAP. Pretending it didn’t happen or avoiding the individual only builds animosity.
3. Apologize with sincerity. The greatest form of damage control is an authentic apology. Taking responsibility and showing remorse and concern for those you’ve inconvenienced or insulted can diffuse tension. You’ll only dig yourself in deeper by making excuses, becoming defensive or playing the blame game.
4. Laugh it off. Many cringe-worthy incidents affect just one person: you. If you forward a silly but harmless email to the wrong coworker or accidentally belch during a team meeting, have a sense of humor about the situation. Letting others know the joke is on you shows you don’t take yourself too seriously and puts others at ease.
5. Move on. Brooding over a misstep or over-apologizing doesn’t help you or anyone else. In fact, letting yourself get distracted by something you can’t change actually increases the chances you’ll make another error. Learn from your mistakes, rectify them to the best of your ability and then let them go. The faster you regain your focus and get back on track, the less memorable the incident is likely to be.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at

One thought on “TCG 411: Making Good On Your Bad

  1. cindyagoncillo

    If only it were so easy to move on! It’s a bit harder to do when management won’t let you forget your blunders or continue to hold it against you for some time, especially when you trip up a second time.