So, you messed up at work?

So, you messed up at work?

Mistakes are inevitable on the job, but it's how you react that keeps you sane. ARETHA LOH dissects three career conundrums.


You forgot your boss' instructions for a specific task.


It's okay, we all get distracted by Whatsapp or thoughts of dinner. In this case, your first option is to ask senior colleagues if they know how to perform the task.

If they don't, arrange a follow-up meeting with your boss, apologise that you may not have entirely understood the previous instructions, and ask her to repeat them. She might be a tad irritated, but this will be better than continuing on blindly.

"Make sure you take a pen and paper - or iPad - with you this time," warns Lynne Roeder, managing director of recruiting experts, Hays Singapore. Clarify additional questions with your boss on the spot so you won't have to approach her again for the same thing.


You didn't credit a colleague for a project collab.


Claiming all the credit not only damages your relationship with your colleagues, but also makes you look bad in front of your superior - nobody wants to work with a scene stealer.

"To salvage your reputation, send a follow-up e-mail to your colleague and boss asap," recommends Lynne. "Explain that you'd like to take the opportunity to thank your colleague for her input and efforts in helping you with the project, highlighting that it was a joint effort."

Alternatively, the moment you realise your faux pas, ask both parties for two minutes of their time. Raise the issue face-to-face with the two of them present, and use the words above as a template.


You insulted a client in an e-mail.


Never insult anyone via e-mail because who knows when it will resurface, whose inbox it could land in, and whether it will come back to bite you.

But if the damage has been done (and you've tried to recall the e-mail with no joy), tell your boss exactly what happened immediately. Do it face-to-face if possible.

There may be repercussions, and chances are, your boss will need to step in. Depending on the severity of things, you may have to pick up the phone and apologise, or let your management apologise on your behalf.

Since there's no telling how the client will react, having the courage to speak up straight away and gaining the backing of your superior is likely to achieve a better professional outcome.

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