How to recover when you’ve messed up at work?

Your heart sinks. The unbelievable has come true. You’ve messed up at work.

We’ve all made mistakes at work at some point in our lives. Who hasn’t missed a meeting that was in their diary, deleted a folder with important information, or sent an email to a client or your boss that wasn’t meant for their eyes?

Perfect people don’t exist. Employers would rather have staff that learned from mistakes at work rather than ones who pretend to be perfect and cover up their mistakes.

Here are six top tips on how to recover when you’ve messed up at work:

How to recover when you've messed up at work?


  1. Remain calm. What’s done is done. It’s no use running off and hiding. It’s natural for your emotions to well up. But you need to think straight to move forward. So take a deep breath or do some other form of stress release.
  2. Fess up. It’s much better than you strike first and own up than be rolled by someone else. Be open and honest about it. Forget the excuses. Your manager and co-workers will feel more kindly towards you if you hold your hands up and are genuine in your remorse after making a mistake.
  3. Sort the mess yourself. It’s best to take responsibility for sorting out the mistake. Try creating a plan yourself and putting the solution in place. Stay late and do whatever it takes to put the mistake right. If someone else takes charge, make sure you volunteer to do the hard work and work alongside that person.
  4. Reflect. Reflect on the entire experience and look at ways that you could have handled it better. Consider what have you learned and how can this help you in future.
  5. Take something away. You’ll never do the same thing again. Now think about what you can take away from this experience? Whatever that is will make you a better and more resilient employee.
  6. Don’t dwell on it. It’s over. You’ve learned from your mistake. Now move on and shine in your bosses’ eyes. Volunteer for a new project or offer to sort out a problem for your boss or the organisation. Whatever you do, don’t feel bad any more.

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