There are few things more stressful than when you mess up at work, especially if you mess up big time. However, the way you handle a big eff-up at the office can either make you look like a slightly imperfect hero (good!) or a sneaky, lazy, incompetent jackass (bad!). Here’s how to stay on your boss’ good side when you mess up at work: It’s all about recovery.
1. Admit it and immediately apologize.
Unless you can absolutely, silently and independently rectify whatever went wrong, don’t wait for someone else to notice whatever you messed up. Admit the problem and apologize for it profusely as soon as you realize what went wrong and as soon as you’re sure whatever happened is your own fault. Even if your boss gets pissed, she’ll be more likely to keep her respect for you if you admit there’s an issue early on, accept responsibility and begin taking steps to fix it rather than if you sweep it under the rug and she discovers it later.
2. Do whatever you can to help rectify the problem.
Whether it’s writing an apology to a client or working overtime to redo a deleted project, do not slack off when it comes to fixing whatever you f*cked up. Hustle.
3. Document everything.
If there are some aspects of the mishap that weren’t your fault, document them and have them on hand in case you get called in for a meeting. If, say, your supervisor or coworker was the last to touch a report that went sour before it was submitted, it isn’t throwing them under the bus to point that out. It’s maybe throwing them in front of a Volkswagen Beetle to prevent the bus from running you over. And if you take accountability for your own part of the problem as well, it looks a lot less like you’re passing blame and more like you’re making sure the higher-ups take steps to teach everyone necessary a lesson, which is what you need to be doing anyway.
4. Kick ass.
You need to be at the top of your game for months after this to compensate for a genuinely big screw up. Now isn’t the time to cut corners or cut out early.
5. Kiss ass.
Now is not the time for pride. Make coffee. Compliment your boss’ hair. Do whatever you need to do to get in everyone’s good graces until they forget about this.