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It Happens to the Best of Us

How to Professionally Handle Making Mistakes at Work

We all know that people make mistakes; many of us make mistakes on a daily basis. Because of this little fact of life, this makes it hard to receive negative feedback (especially at work) when one or more of those mistakes lead to loss of a sale, a potential partnership with another company, one's self or another employee getting injured while at work, and the like. We instantly feel as though such mistakes can happen to anyone, and thus when it does happen, we should not be blamed or treated badly because of it. We certainly don't want to feel like we are somehow less capable than we thought we were!

However, even minor incidents at work can lead to big problems later; thus, negative feedback is often required as a corrective action so that those mistakes aren't made again. So how does someone take in criticism without taking it to heart, especially as women in the workplace? Here are five food-for-thought tips to remember when receiving negative feedback on a mistake, and how to fix your habits and behaviors so that you can do better next time.

1. Remember that mistakes were made—by you.

Not to make you feel bad about yourself, but you do have to own it when you make a mistake at work. Especially when these mistakes lead to bigger problems down the road that you could have prevented. Yes, we know things do happen from time to time, and that some things do slip through the cracks. However, the reason this is being brought to your attention is so that you can take step #1 towards improvement—realizing there is a problem. Owning up to your mistakes, your bad attitudes, your not-so-great habits, and other issues also makes you the bigger person, even if you lose your job in the process.

2. Realize the reason is not to put you down, but to make you better as part of the company.

One of the things we as women often do is take things personally too often. As soon as a criticism of any kind happens, we are somehow on high alert about it, as though we have only two strikes left, and then we're out of a job. Because we know mistakes happen (and are inevitable in some cases), we feel this is unfair, or that we are less than capable of doing our job. Compound this with employers and managers that may not always treat their employees well, and we may feel it is impossible to do better.

An important point to realize in spite of all this is that ultimately the reason your mistakes are being brought to your attention is so that you do better, not so that you are put down for having made a mistake. As advised in the guide, "How to Handle Negative Feedback," don't get defensive when workplace criticism hits you hard. Make negative feedback work to your advantage, not be the bane of your existence at work. It is nothing to fear. It is only a tool to help you realize things about yourself that need improvement if you want success.

3. Remind yourself that you are indeed capable of doing better.

You were hired on to the company because your employers saw potential in you that they didn't find in someone else. You are capable of handling your job. You make mistakes from time to time, but it's nothing that can't be corrected and moved on from. You are brilliant and worthy of your work. You are more than capable of improving yourself along the way. Remember this when you start to feel like everyone is glaring at you every time mistakes happen. Knowing that you are capable of improvement in your behaviors, habits, and overall quality of work is key to pressing on and actually making such improvements.

A lot of the reasons why people don't follow through on making improvements in their personal and professional lives is because they feel they are either incapable of doing so ("I'm already doing my best, what more do you want from me??"), or they are unwilling to do so ("Why should I change myself to suit your needs?"). Dropping these attitudes and actually doing the work of making yourself better day by day will lead to greater success. None of us are perfect from the get go; we all have to make some improvements here and there in order to be better versions of ourselves.

4. Reshape your attitudes and behaviors so that you take the criticism properly.

Again, don't get automatically defensive when a coworker or employer calls you out on your mistakes. Yes, it feels rough to hear it, but the reasons behind it are to your benefit. Learn to listen first, and listen thoroughly. Listen first even when the words are coming from a coworker, manager, or employer you don't like. You will come across much more mature and capable. You may even gain their respect.

Take their advice (as long as it's good) and make the improvements they suggest. Remember that sometimes an outsider's perspective is actually helpful, as we don't always realize things about ourselves that could use a little work.

5. Remember to ask for time to improve.

It is okay to ask for that. You're perfectly within the right to ask for more time to improve. You have to make the improvements within the time frame you're allotted. Everyone knows fully well that people's long-standing habits, behaviors, and character flaws cannot be changed within a day's time, let alone on the spot. Self-improvement happens over a span of time depending on what needs to be changed. Please remember that once you're granted that time to change, you need to step it up and make those changes. Use your time wisely and have confidence in yourself that you can and will become a better person.

Hearing negative feedback about things you say and do is difficult, but is something to consider. Get outside of yourself, and learn to listen first before getting defensive. This is still feedback, and it's meant to help you!

Jackie Barrows
Jackie Barrows

Jackie Barrows is an artist, a writer, and all around creative soul who enjoys bringing new ideas and stories to life. She wears many hats as a Graphic Designer, a blogger, and Lead Production Artist for R.A.W. Productions. 

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