How Do You Avoid Obsessing Over Mistakes at Work?

August 7, 2023
August 7, 2023 Terkel

How Do You Avoid Obsessing Over Mistakes at Work?

In this article, we explore the question of how to avoid obsessing over mistakes at work, with eight insightful answers from professionals ranging from community managers to CEOs. They share their wisdom on everything from embracing imperfections to focusing on positives over mistakes. Dive in to learn from their experiences and strategies for overcoming workplace errors.

  • Embrace Imperfections
  • Learn from Mistakes and Understand Norms
  • Use Humor to Bounce Back
  • Understand Causes and Formulate Preventive Measures
  • View Mistakes as Growth Opportunities
  • Gain Perspective from Outside Connections
  • Lean on a Mentor or Support System
  • Focus on Positives Over Mistakes

Embrace Imperfections

Just like anywhere else in life, mistakes at work are inevitable. The best way to avoid obsessing over them is to accept them and let go of trying to control every single thing. Attempting to make everything perfect is one of the biggest obstacles to actually getting things done.

As a perfectionist, the only way to keep from going crazy over details and ensure that all tasks are accomplished is by following the “Better done than perfect” rule. This doesn’t mean settling for doing sloppy work. It just means accepting that it’s impossible to make every email, presentation, offer, or product as extraordinary as envisioned.

A common mistake is sending the wrong file to a client, a draft version instead of the final presentation they were expecting. At the end of the day, it’s important to accept that we’re all people and therefore clients understand human error. And at least the deadline was met!

Maja KowalskaMaja Kowalska
Community Manager, Zety

Learn from Mistakes and Understand Norms

Recognize that neither of us is flawless. Instead of viewing a mistake as a total calamity, consider it a learning experience. As an accountant, there was a time when I was a poor auditor. I just couldn’t comprehend some things, and no one would help me. I made major mistakes and felt the same way you do. The only way to get out of this state is to learn from your mistakes.

Fortunately, my mistakes taught me that my issue was not with the fundamentals, but with my attitude toward labor. I didn’t feel like putting in all my work. I was simply exchanging time for money.

Try reading and understanding the concept, industry-standard norms, competitive analysis, and doing the SWOT analysis on your own whenever time allows, rather than just reading it from any article. By performing it yourself, you will gain a deeper understanding.

Aleksandar GinovskiAleksandar Ginovski
Career Expert, Resume Expert and Product Manager, Enhancv

Use Humor to Bounce Back

Data-backed wisdom says humor is the secret antidote! A study found that 90% of people use humor to bounce back from mistakes. Laughter truly is the best medicine!

Now, for a real-life tale of redemption: Picture me accidentally sending a “Reply All” email, spilling tea on office gossip. Oh, the shame! But with a pinch of self-deprecating humor, I turned that oopsie-daisy into a legendary office story! So, when mistakes knock on your door, don’t fear the foxtrot of failure. Dance with humor, learn from the missteps, and keep moving forward like a savvy salsa dancer. After all, life’s a dance floor, and we’ve got the moves!

Himanshu SharmaHimanshu Sharma
CEO and Founder, Academy of Digital Marketing

Understand Causes and Formulate Preventive Measures

Mistakes are bound to occur in any profession. However, what truly matters is one’s perception of these errors and the subsequent actions taken. Adopting a mindset that regards mistakes as invaluable learning opportunities has proven highly advantageous. The focal point lies in comprehending the causes behind these mishaps, identifying underlying factors, and formulating preventive measures for future occurrences.

During testing, there was a time when an important issue was overlooked, which resulted in a problem experienced by the client. Overcoming it proved to be challenging, yet it served as a pivotal moment for our team. We took the opportunity to review and enhance our process while implementing additional safeguards. This incident served as a reminder of our human fallibility and reinforced the significance of thoroughness and unwavering vigilance in our work.

Khurram MirKhurram Mir
Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Kualitatem Inc.

View Mistakes as Growth Opportunities

To avoid obsessing over mistakes at work, I remind myself that everyone makes them, and they are opportunities for growth and learning.

One mistake I found difficult to move on from was a miscommunication with a client that led to delays in a project. I felt responsible for the setback, but I learned to accept it as a learning experience. I proactively communicated with the client, took ownership of the error, and devised a plan to prevent similar issues in the future.

Letting go of perfectionism and focusing on continuous improvement has helped me move forward and handle mistakes with a more positive mindset.

Aviad FaruzAviad Faruz
CEO, Know Mastery

Gain Perspective from Outside Connections

Most of us dwell excessively on our mistakes at work, often to where we feel anxious or demotivated.

What always helps me when I can’t get over my professional failures is talking to my friend who works in a different company or, even better, in another field. Chatting with someone who cares about you uplifts you in any situation. But why does it matter so much that this person is not your colleague?

It’s because they see the big picture of your job and look at your career from a distance. And the distance is what you need in such a situation. Your friend will remind you that everyone makes mistakes and that, in the grand scheme of things, yours was much more insignificant than you think.

I used this technique after accidentally deleting a critical database in my previous job. I panicked but remained calm enough to call my best friend. A quick conversation calmed me down immediately and enabled me to focus on fixing my mistake.

Martyna Szczesniak
Martyna Szczesniak, Community Expert, MyPerfectResume

Lean on a Mentor or Support System

Having a mentor or a support system can significantly alleviate the stress of handling work mistakes. When I made a significant error in a client project, having a mentor to discuss it with provided me with perspective and constructive feedback. This interaction not only reassured me but also allowed me to develop strategies for rectification and future prevention.

Burak ÖzdemirBurak Özdemir
Founder, Set Alarm Online

Focus on Positives Over Mistakes

There isn’t a simple answer to avoiding obsessing over mistakes at work—a solution that instantly solves the problem—but it largely just takes disciplined efforts to focus on the positives, rather than the mistake.

This involves first recognizing that one is obsessing over a mistake, and then recognizing that obsessing over it isn’t going to do anything. Once this is realized, the best course of action is to push away those obsessive thoughts when they occur, replacing them with positive thoughts about the things done well.

This is something that can be improved over the years simply with practice. A personal example of a mistake that was difficult to move on from was missing a deadline for a project. As far as mistakes go, this one ended up being a pretty minor one, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t obsessed over!

Brittany MendezBrittany Mendez

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