Dennis, an accountant, was part of an audit team for a large corporation. As he was reporting some data findings to his project manager and the rest of the team, his manager pointed out an incorrect assumption Dennis made that resulted in erroneous figures and that could have legal repercussions. Fortunately, the mistake was found before the results were presented publicly and Dennis was able to correct his reports. Unfortunately, this incident left Dennis feeling incompetent, embarrassed and questioning his professional abilities.

Most of us have made mistakes in the workplace. They happen! Some are small and can be easily rectified. Others may seem larger, impact other people and projects, and may cause embarrassment, frustration and self-doubt. What do you do in order to rebound from an error and continue moving ahead professionally?

Acknowledge It

First off, take responsibility for your actions. If your error is called to your attention by others, or if you notice it yourself, don't try to hide it or assume it will go away on its own. Worse, do not blame someone else for your shortcoming. By acknowledging your mistake, you begin the process of recovering and resolving.

Although surprised and disappointed, Dennis responded to his boss' information in a non-defensive manner. He apologized and did not make any excuses for what he did.

Learn From It

What have you learned from the mistake? What will you do differently moving forward? How might you share your learnings with others? Taking something positive from a potentially damaging situation shows your resilience and continued commitment to your work and responsibilities. You're choosing not to let this mistake stop your progress.

Once the meeting was over, Dennis went back to his office and reviewed his work process. He looked at his data collection process, his calculations and how he formatted the report. He found the mistake. He realized he made some incorrect assumptions when choosing which figures to include in his calculations. He sought out input from his boss to clearly understand the mistake.

Stay Present

Focus on what you can impact. Damage control happens by fixing your mistakes and planning for the future. Mulling over what you should have, could have, or would have done does not get you anywhere, expect feeling dejected and depressed. Ask yourself, "What can I do NOW to resolve this situation?"

Dennis outlined what he needed to redo in order to take the appropriate corrective actions. He also thought who was impacted by his error and how he needed to communicate with them.

Take Action

Take action to fix the mistake and move beyond it. You can actually choose to make the resolution of your mistake an opportunity for yourself, your project or your company. Create something which not only corrects your mistake, but goes beyond correction to enhancement. Show that mistakes don't stop you, but actually compel you to greater contribution.

Once the report was corrected, Dennis re-distributed it to his team and personally follow-up with each of them explaining the modifications. Two of Dennis' colleagues did not understand the problem, so Dennis decided to create a report for the group outlining his corrections as a learning tool.

End It

Finally, allow the mistake and the entire process of addressing the mistake to end. Regain your professional footing, move beyond the mistake and continue on your professional path. Or, in other words, what is done is done, forget about it and move on!

Although challenging, Dennis wanted to show a confident face when the next time came for him to present a new set of reports to his team. He reviewed his corrected process, double and tripled checked his data and sought assistance from his boss. He made his previous mistake an opportunity to learn, move beyond and contribute fully to his team.

Mistakes will happen. You can learn, correct and move on.

Author's Bio: 

Julie Cohen, PCC, is a career coach. She helps her clients clarify and achieve their professional and personal goals including greater career satisfaction and work/life balance. She is currently leading the popular seminar "Overcoming the 7 Barriers to Work/Life Balance" - to learn more, visit