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4 Steps to Turning Professional Fumbles Into Confidence Boosters

Career Advice |

It can happen to all of us. Sometimes you make a mistake on the job, a complete fool of yourself in a presentation, or get overly emotional with your boss. Often, there’s no way around it and you just end up sucking. You may find solace in hiding under your desk wondering what just happened, which is obviously the only thing that can hide your red face. It’s rough, right?

I get it. Yes, desk hiding is all well and good for about five minutes. However, it isn’t exactly the most professional choice. It certainly won’t do much to help you solve your professional mishaps. Actually, you’d have a much better chance at countering your flops if you get up from under that desk, sit down in your big comfy office chair, and figure out what you’re going to do about your mishap immediately, if not sooner.


When you’re ready to come out of hiding, check out these four steps to turning professional fumbles into confidence boosting experiences:

1. Accept that you made a mistake

Acceptance is the worst, am I right? You just end up replaying that bad speech or the way you tripped over yourself in front of your CEO over and over. It’s like a horrible review in The New York Times; you just can’t shake it from your brain.

Here’s the hard truth: We have to accept when we make these mistakes. Look, we’ve all spilled something on ourselves in front of someone important. We’ve all said the wrong things on a vital conference call. We’ve all looked totally unprofessional at one time or another. And that’s OK. The important thing is to accept that we’ve made mistakes and understand something has to be done about it. Got it? Great. Moving on.

2. Create a game plan for fixing it

How are you going to counter your professional fumble? The easiest way is to create a plan for fixing it. Let’s say you used some dated information in a weekly report and your boss called you on it. You initially feel like a complete idiot, but after you get over that inner groveling stage we talked about, you may want to list some ways you can do better in the future.

Own up. How about sitting down with your boss and explaining why you used the wrong numbers? You may say you could get someone to double-check your work or go through a better system of checks and balances. Whatever you decide, creating a game plan for your errors can help your boss to see that you didn’t do it on purpose and that you are creating the steps necessary to really nail it next time.

3. Confidence, confidence, confidence

You’ve heard that phrase “it’s easier said than done,” before, right? Well, sitting down with your boss to essentially say, “this is why I was bad at my job that one time,” isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to do. In fact, I’d wager you’d rather not address the problem at all. That’s where our little friend confidence comes in—because without confidence, you may as well go back under that desk. However, to get the job done, you have to believe you can actually do it.

Yes, you used the wrong numbers in your report, which may have led to a slew of other problems. You’re embarrassed and understandably so. Regardless, you have to face the repercussions. In this particular example, it means sitting down with your boss to discuss the incident. You have to believe that you deserve the chance to redeem yourself and prove you have the ability to be better next time.

To get there, you need confidence. Don’t have the moxie you need? Well, borrow some from somebody else until you grow your own. Nod your head, say you can be a weekly report rock star, and gain a little gusto. You really have nothing else to lose.

4. Move forward

To this point, getting over your professional fumbles was all talk. You’ve accepted that you made a mistake. You’ve created a plan to get over that mistake. You’ve gained the confidence to address your mistake. Now what? How about actually moving forward with your plan?

Few people, especially women, actually follow-through with what they want. Well, you’ve gotten to this point. Why not just go for it? You could continue to wallow in self-pity or you could move forward with your plan and get the ball rolling. What’s it gonna be?

Have that meeting and gain some valuable takeaways from it. While I know you’re probably scared, you have to rip that bandage off and be brave. Be dynamic, be audacious, be bold. In the end, moving forward is all you can do if you want to solve a professional ‘oopsie.’ Here’s a little secret: You probably want to be a problem-solver instead of a problem-hider.

Yes, professional flops and fumbles are unfortunate. However, if you take the steps necessary to fix these flops, I promise you, from one former desk hider to another, you’ll be in a much better shape than you were before.

What do you think? What are some other ways to turn professional flops into positives?

 Photo courtesy of FanPop

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Wow Jennie! I for one have fallen prey to a failure / mistake at work. It sucked. I had a huge project fail that I was leading. Huge! But I did the steps you outlined here as well and was able to put my wounded pride back on the shelf, with a little self-care. Own up to it - check! Tell my boss what I learned from it - check. Make sure my projects were huge successes after that - check. (or at least be sure I didn't make the same exact mistakes again!).

This is great advice you've outlined here for how to get over it and get on with it. One mistake, no matter how big, does not have to define you. Everybody makes mistakes and has failures in their career - if they don't then they aren't stretching. But how you deal with them is how you are defined, not by the mistake itself.


I love this, Lisa: "One mistake, no matter how big, does not have to define you." It's soooo true. We have to learn not only rebound from mistakes we make, but also to not be terrified of possible mistakes ahead. Fantastic point! Thank you!


Love these tips, Jennie - owning up to that mistake will not only show off your moxie to your boss, coworkers, or colleagues, it will also be a great confidence booster once you've made it through the experience!


Thanks, Dana! I'm happy you agree. Thanks for chiming in!


For me, the hardest part, or at least the part that I'm at now, is daring to believe and realise, that beyond hope, that, a truly bright future here for me now.


Ooh, Sheila. That's one massive angst you're sitting with there. Here's a little soul-searching question for you: do you WANT there to be a truly bright future where you are now? If so, why? If not, are you ready to find something better that deserves you?


I agree it is important to acknowledge when you make a mistake and take steps/action to fix it or do it right the next time. I do think, however, that it is not always appropriate to sit down with a boss and explain why something went wrong, unless they want to hear an explanation or have a discussion. If they do have the time and are willing to discuss it, then it is also important to not make the explanation look like a total excuse. All in all, I think the most important thing is to take steps to fix it in the future!


Exactly! And if you are going to meet about it, make sure you come prepared with the correct information and a game plan for distributing the corrected numbers to those who heard the presentation. Take constructive steps to redeem yourself as an expert in your supervisor's eyes because you want her to trust you in the future when you're again in the spotlight.


Hi Lauri! I concur. It's very situational. Depends on the severity of the oopsie, how long you've worked there, your position in the organization, etc. However, we have to not be terrified of these kinds of conversations when they are warranted. Thanks for your comment!


This is great advice not just for the workplace, but for every aspect of life. Facing your mistakes head on as opposed to hiding from them not only helps to resolve problems faster, but generates respect by proving yourself to be confident enough to accept the blame.


Sooooo true, Olivia! I've often said that the secret to my happy marriage is my willingness to say the following: "You were right. You were right. But more importantly, I was wrong."
End of argument right there.


This is so helpful. I need to be reminded every so often that I'm not the only person in the world to make mistakes, as ridiculous as that sounds!


Oh my gosh, not ridiculous AT ALL! I think all ambitious women feel like that. I know I often do! Yet, I've always found that I learn from my mistakes a helluva lot quicker than I do from my slam-dunk-successes. The more embarrassing, the more growth. Thanks for chiming in!


I love the advice about being a problem-solver rather than a problem-hider. It's so simple, but it also makes it really serious why not fixing things can be bad.


I'm glad it resonated with you both, Alexandra and Francesca! Thanks for commenting!


I agree!! It's always worse to try and cover up something than to be honest and realize you made a mistake.


These are all so important, but the hardest part is to let yourself learn a lesson from your mistake, instead of refusing to admit you made one!


Well put, Maggie! Why is it so damn scary to admit we've screwed up - especially when it was completely unintentional?! I personally respect people who 'fess up much more than those who cower from or (worse) cover up their mistakes. Admitting your mistake is powerful and commendable.

Coach Jennie

Coach Jennie (Jennie Mustafa-Julock), a life coach who specializes in helping people crank up the volume on their goals, ambitions, and missions thereby transforming them into self-actualized, adventurous, audacious individuals. Check her out on Facebook, Twitter, and through her book, Audacity Rules.