Health and Wellbeing, My head

How to recover from a mistake at work

March 20, 2015
how to recover from a mistake at work

Me experiencing a tech fail


I was recently working on a job and at the final hour there was a technical issue that looked as though I would lose everything. Everything in this instance did not just entail a written post, but also a lot of video footage and photos for a brand.

Naturally, when the proverbial hit the fan I panicked, I swore, I panicked some more and then I may have squirted out one little frustrated tear because for the life of me I couldn’t work out why something I do all the time wasn’t performing the same way it usually did.

Where did I go wrong????

Whether you work from home, or you work in another environment, there are always going to be cock ups. It really isn’t relevant if its your fault or not, because if the responsibility is yours, you need to get everything back up to speed and you also need to know how to recover from a mistake at work with grace.

Preferably with no one ever needing to know about it, but that’s not always possible.

Here’s a quick guide on how to recover from a mistake at work, whether it’s a minor glitch or a monumental cock up.


Losing your shit is very natural upon discovery of a massive cock up, however, it’s tres unproductive. Give yourself 10 minutes MAXIMUM. Get up from you work station, have a drink (I’m thinking water but if whiskey is more appropriate…) and calm yourself.

how to recover from a mistake at work


If you think maybe if you tried a few different things that maybe it would maybe be ok….. STOP.

Try it once or twice but do not lose hours trying to sort something if you have no idea how to fix it and you’re poking around in the dark. We may be referring to technical issues, but I have also cocked up by sending clients CD’s with the wrong files for their presentations, or accidentally sent an email to the wrong person, or forgotten to order one person on the table’s dinner.

In fact, I’ve cocked up heaps at work in the past. Shit happens.


This is a big step because this step is the first step towards owning your cock up. You need to front up, tell them exactly what’s going on and see if they can help you sort it before the bush fires sweeps out of control.

In my field of work, finding someone who knows much more than me is often very comforting because when cock ups cock up and I don’t understand technically what’s happening so someone with more knowledge than me helps keep my panic at bay.


If you can sort the cock up in a timely fashion, no one ever need know about it and everyone can go about their daily business none the wiser to your near tragedy… however, if all is lost and your cock up is monumentally mega you need to own it, and let your boss/client know what you are prepared to do to sort it out.

Some things cannot be sorted and you need to start from scratch or apologise to someone with a bunch of flowers or a bottle of something special, but owning it – even if you get fired – will gain you respect. Mistakes get made, machines fuck up, humans do too. It’s just life, but shying away or passing blame doesn’t help your cause.

how to recover from a mistake at work


I lay awake all night after my recent cock up, which was not actually my fault by the way – a technical glitch which affected my deadline so the fault was still at my feet. In the wee hours I had come up with a game plan, so I knew that there were steps I could take to try to sort it out and if they failed then I was at square one.

Re-shoot, re-edit, re-write.

In the morning my kids wanted to climb into bed with me for a cuddle and a chat before we got up, and I thought is this cock up that bad?

No one is sick.

No one is dying.

No one will be hurt. Or maimed. Or bitten by a shark.

Everything else can be sorted out, so simply take the steps, breathe the breaths, and stop freaking the hell out.



If everything is well and truly farked, can you do a work around?

Can you quickly come up with a solution rather than dwelling on the problem?
What about a couple of solutions so when you do Number 4 – FACE THE MUSIC –  you can offer ways in which you can lessen the impact on anyone else involved and therefore appear to be a problem solver rather than a pain in the arse.

And my job?

Thankfully, I salvaged everything at Number 3, although I required a hefty dose of number 5 and 6 and chilled, crisp pinot gris.

Tell me, have you done a doozy at work? What happened???

Do you think this list could help you next time?


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  • Reply Kate March 20, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Great article Danielle. I always feel like the best step is owning the mistake and working the best ways to rectify it. You always learn and grow from these mistakes.

  • Reply Kim-Marie, Chief Dreamer at Kimba Likes March 20, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Love this post, babe! I’ve both stuffed up and helped people recover from stuff ups and fix it. I had no website for 6 weeks, partly because of my stuff up and partly because of someone else’s stuff up. I didn’t know enough to ask the right questions, which certainly didn’t help.

    The trick is to learn from your mistakes – but goddamn, that’s hard too!

  • Reply Sonia from Sonia Styling March 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    This is such good advice! Definitely own up as quickly as possible and try to think through how to fix it – sometimes you can only do that with help, so be brave enough to ask for it if you need it. x

  • Reply [email protected] April 5, 2015 at 6:30 am

    Thanks for these tips, I am always trying not o lose face at work and these will def help. I am a big fan on just learning from mistakes and moving on. And you’re right, if no one’s died from my mistake, I should probably just let it go rather than hang onto it.

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