You Screwed Up At Work. Now What?

It’s tricky to navigate the working world. And it seems that we’ve all been in these sorts of situations before. So before you freak out over your first (or 100th) stuff up, we have expert advice that will guide you through any #FML moment. You’re welcome.

Situation #1: Your boss asks you a question and you draw a blank

Jane Lowder, career coach and founder of Max Coaching (, has faith in you. “Chances are that you know the answer but have been caught off guard,” she says.

Jane says to “Take a deep breath and calmly respond with a delaying question such as, ‘I’d be happy to check up on that and come back to you as soon as possible’ or even ‘I’m finalising an urgent task, can I come back to you on this?’” This way, you’ll be covering your butt for a tad longer. “It also indicates that you’ve taken it on board and are actively working to respond quickly,” she adds.

Situation #2: You hit ‘Reply All’ to a private email by accident

Damn your index finger and its ability to ruin things with the twitch of a click. According to Lowder, there is no way around this stomach-turning mishap. “It’s near impossible to cover up ‘Reply All’ fiascos – even the ‘Retract Email’ function doesn’t work as promised,” she explains.

“Apologise to the private parties whose information has gone unintentionally public, and hope that lasting damage isn’t done.” If you’re worried about the contents of your email getting in the wrong hands, it shouldn’t be in an email, period. Keep it for your after work drinks instead.

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Situation #3: You totally forgot to schedule a meeting, and you’re kind of freaking out about it

There was so much going on today that you didn’t lock in that meeting for your managers. Ruh Roh.

Don’t worry, it can be easily fixed. “If some multi-million dollar contract was hanging off an urgent meeting being held, then the only option is to confess and let the cards fall where they may,” Lowder explains. “But if the matter isn’t urgent, then simply tell your boss you are trying to find a common time that works for everyone,
and slot it in.” Easy.

Situation #4: You shared confidential work information with a colleague, and now the secret’s out

You told your work wife some seriously juicy goss, and now it has spread like wildfire. Lowder delivers the cold, hard truth.

“Covering up this kind of error in judgement isn’t going to work for you,” she suggests. “Your integrity is at stake and – quite possibly – your employment. If you lie, and a lengthy email trail or text thread reveals you were the culprit, then the consequences will be far more dire than if you ’fess up early.” Well, you heard the lady.

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Situation #5: You left early and your boss asks where you were

You faked a migraine and skipped out to enjoy a cheeky late-afternoon wine (or headed to the nearest Monki) but now your boss wants to know where you were. Busted!

When backed into a metaphorical corner, us girls tend to overshare. So this time, ditch the TMI. “Your boss doesn’t need to know all the intracacies of your personal life,” says Lowder. “Keep your explanation short and professional: ‘I had an urgent personal matter, I will come in earlier tomorrow to make up the time, and I’ll be sure to clear it with you should there be a next time.’”

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