What to Do When You Mess Up

May 13, 2017

  • Own up to it and take responsibility for it.
  • Fix it immediately.
  • Put a system in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Could be a checklist, could be checks by multiple coworkers before something goes out, etc. Whatever works best for you and your team.
  • Remember that feeling bad about it helps keep it from happening again, but don’t dwell on the mistake for multiple days. Make the necessary changes and keep working.
  • I once messed up a routine server update without doing a backup first. It froze in the middle the and an entire school district lost access to their email. My boss graciously took the angry phone calls and I stayed up all night learning how to rebuild the mail server from various online documentation. I finally got it back up and running with messages restored.
     
    The only thing that my boss said when he came in the next morning was, “Now you know why I stress the importance of backing up before every update, no matter how small. I trust you’ll never make a mistake like that again.”
    He was right. I’m now a fanatic about backing up. My failure got me to institute a process that I’ll rely on for the rest of my life.

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