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How to Talk to Your Boss When You Make a Mistake

I looked at my boss and took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t get that proposal finished in time and I know that let you and the team down.”

I could feel the knots in my stomach tighten.

I hated making mistakes at work and I hated admitting them to my boss.

But I had learned that shifting the blame or making excuses only damaged my integrity, so I stood firm.

“I’m planning to finish proposals the night before they’re due from now on, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

He looked at me and thanked me for accepting responsibility and creating a plan to ensure success going forward.

And then he gave me another proposal to work on.

I couldn’t have felt more grateful – my willingness to own my mistake had strengthened the trust my boss had in me, rather than tearing it down.

It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

If you’re wondering how to talk to your boss next time you make a mistake, I invite you to follow the below framework during your conversation. It’s helped me many times over the years and I think it will help you, too!

1: Apologize and own your mistake.

I wanted to apologize for failing to get that proposal to Client ABC done in time. I know this let the team down and I take full responsibility for it. I plan to apologize to the team after our conversation.

2: Share what your plan is to make sure this same mistake doesn’t happen again.

I’m going to finish future proposals the night before the deadline from now on, to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

3: Ask if there’s anything else you can do.

Is there anything else I can do to help rectify this or any additional feedback you have for me on how I can do better next time?

As always, I’m here for you. Come on over to Instagram (@katie.haahr) or shoot me an email ([email protected]) – I always love seeing your names pop up in my inbox!


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