Women at Work: Deal with mistakes openly and calmly

A young woman, who only has been in her position for eight months, told me her boss got upset with her for the first time this week over a mistake she made on his calendar. I thought to myself, "that is pretty good to go through an eight-month stretch prior to upsetting him."

Reactions to upsetting a boss have quite a range. There are some women who shrug their shoulders and move on as if they do not really care.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are women who will drive home with white knuckles to write their resignation letters they intend to turn in the following morning.

Then, of course, there are the more emotional women who worry about how the relationship will be affected for days and have a rather unproductive remainder of the week.

Let's be realistic. We all make mistakes, and most of our mistakes are minor. We have all had an irritated or upset boss at one time or another. But stewing, reciprocating the anger or in the extreme, quitting our jobs does not help in moving on.


This young woman shared that for about a day she felt less confident in her abilities and a little withdrawn for a day or two.

Making a mistake or irritating someone feels humbling, I agree.

But, if it happens to you, my simple advice is to fix the mistake, brush yourself off and move on confidently in your tasks.

My boss has told me from the day I started employment here, that if I get upset or offended by his feedback, I am only making it harder for the both of us. Furthermore, even though getting feedback makes you uncomfortable, it is a sure sign you are growing in your job and listening as to how you can make yourself better.

In fact, I had one of those moments just minutes ago.

Reasonable managers know no one is perfect and an occasional mistake will happen. However, when you do make a mistake, what they can expect of you is to follow up and fix it. Making excuses, getting defensive or denying responsibility will get you nowhere. As much as you would like to defend yourself, just don't. Fix it and move on.

Over the years, I have learned the importance of taking notes. Any time you have a discussion with your boss on a project or task, start scribbling feverishly! Capture all the details to show you understand and will retain what was being said.

While venting to your coworkers about your boss will give you a brief release, chances are it will get back to your boss. If you have concerns, address them head-on.


Holding a grudge with your boss based on a mistake you made can lead to hiding things. Hiding things such as work not getting completed, an irritated client, or the fact you have questions about the project you are working on is putting the nail on your job coffin.

Lastly, if you are new in a job or been in your job for quite a while, the quick list below on how to react when you make the mistake, will help you calm down and move on.

• Stay calm.

• Attack the problem, not the person.

• Be open and honest.

• Don't lose perspective.

• Try to be empathetic.

• Take the high road.


• Have faith in yourself.

• Don't argue.

• If you disagree, voice your opinion but be okay losing the fight.

• Recommit to doing your job to the best of your abilities.

Kristen Asleson is an administrative specialist with Express Employment Professionals in Rochester. Send comments and ideas to

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