I Made an Impactful Error at Work – How Do I Regain Credibility With My Colleagues and Direct Reports?

Advice from career experts on how to bounce back
Industry Matters Newsletter
Tamara Herman, ACS Career Consultant
Tamara Herman, ACS Career Consultant

Crucial errors at work will affect your reputation.  These are some ways to remedy this situation:

  1. Accept the responsibility for your mistake so others can trust you.
  2. Apologizing for how it happened will save your reputation.
  3. Do a great work, volunteer for a new project or help your manager with a key project. 
  4. Find a mentor who can guide you to rebuild your credibility.
  5. Look beyond your mistake and patch back your reputation with some humor and less emotions.

When I was in industry and had a hard time during the family crisis, I took advice from my coworker and went to my manager to make an apology. She took it well and her support helped me regain my confidence and my job. One year I did not get a raise was the price I had to pay. 

Smart bosses know that not being afraid to make mistakes is a big part of innovation and creativity that today’s industry is driven by. In fact, “fail often and fail quickly” is a strategy that a lot of innovative companies rely on to come up with the next generation products. If you are not making the same mistake over and over again, there is absolutely nothing negative about letting your boss and everyone else know exactly how the error happened. People will look up to you for honesty and opportunity for “lessons learned”. You can turn this into a real positive thing if you can brainstorm with your team and come up with a plan to make the process “fail proof”. This will help others avoid the same mistake down the road. You can turn the error into an opportunity for “process improvement” – and people will look at you as a leader from that point on! 

Samina Azad, R&D Manager, PLZ Aeroscience Corporation
Samina Azad, R&D Manager, PLZ Aeroscience Corporation
Joseph Moore, Technical Applications Specialist, DuPont
Joseph Moore, Technical Applications Specialist, DuPont

Take ownership and show your willingness to learn and improve from your mistakes. Take coworkers aside and discuss the ramifications in a one-on-one environment.  Making excuses in front of a large group isn't going to make anyone feel better.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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