You’re a few months into your new job, and you’re an absolute rock star. You’re really starting to get the hang of the role, you know what you’re doing, and you actually like your job.
One Friday morning you’re feeling a little too comfortable, things are going a little too smoothly and OOPS. You’ve just sent an email to a few thousand people…without noticing there was a private, not for everyone’s eyes email chain with sensitive information attached underneath.* What’s your response?
A. Ignore it. Who’s going to scroll to the bottom anyway? (Hopefully not your boss.)
B. Send out an email to everyone asking them to ignore the message.
C. ‘Fess up.
D. Quit, change your name and move out-of-state.
If there’s anything I learned in grad school about crisis management, it’s stop and assess the situation, no matter how minor. While initial embarrassment may make D seem like a good answer, remember that everyone makes mistakes early in their career. Shucks, even the big boss still makes mistakes sometimes.
Once you realize your mistake, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I fix this myself?
- Who needs to know?
- Who is affected?
For a mistake like the example above, it may be tempting to choose option B and send out another email – but that’s like asking someone not to think of a pink elephant. When it’s a big audience and a minor mistake, sometimes it’s wiser to not draw attention to it.
If you’re new at a job, and to the workforce in general, I would not recommend ignoring and hiding a mistake, even if it’s tiny. Any boss worth working for will understand that mistakes happen. Take responsibility, apologize, offer a way to fix it and move on.
The most important thing you can do when you make a rookie mistake? Learn from it, and never do it again.
*This may or may not be a personal experience that actually happened to me.