How do you "keep calm and carry on" after a massive screw up?
August 14, 2013 9:18 AM Subscribe
I messed up big time at work. Like...really big time. How do I deal with the ball of stress and panic and guilt burning in my stomach?
posted by anonymous to work & money (35 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 26 and just entering my third month at a new job. It is at a large and prestigious company. I come from smaller companies. I knew the workload would be higher volume and it was going to be crazy intense, but I welcomed the challenge.
Unfortunately this is one of those jobs where you can do 99% of everything right, but if you're off 1% it ruins everything my team has worked towards over however many weeks. And while I've made a sizable amount smaller mistakes in my first few weeks here, two weeks ago I made one really big, harmful mistake. It was a tiny oversight but as a result, we lost a lot of our clients money. I took responsibility, set up a meeting with my managers and told them how I plan to prevent this from happening in the future. I developed a system of checks and balances, wrote it up on my own time, and shared it with them. They were pleased with my efforts, and I felt confident this would not happen again.
Then it happened again. I was confused because I used my system of double-checking, but the same exact mistake still slipped by me. I realized this time, it had nothing to do with double-checking - it was a failure on my part to understand the initial instructions of the project correctly from the very beginning (the instructions were actually very clear, which is why everyone is so confused that this happened - I just didn't interpret them correctly, if that makes any sense at all), so no matter how much I double, triple, or quadruple checked, I was checking against instructions that I had read the wrong way. The scariest part is I was 100% confident I had done everything right, so asking anyone for clarification didn't even occur to me.
But how it happened is all beside the point now. Two of the same mistake in a row has made our client relationship extremely shaky in a really short period of time. And while my manager appreciates me taking responsibility for my actions, it all means nothing because at the end of the day the client doesn't care who did what - our entire team looks bad. In short, I was told that this is the type of thing that we can easily lose a client over, and if we lose a client our entire team is out of a job. Because of me. I wouldn't even know how to live with myself if it came to that.
I've felt sick, nauseated, trembling, embarrassed, panicked and anxious over the last 48 hours. I am afraid that everyone on my team hates me - they work so hard on these projects and then I ruin it and am now putting their jobs and careers at risk. My manager is somewhat sympathetic, and said that we all make mistakes - but that I really just need to stop making them now because this is too much. I feel like I work so hard, I come in early and stay late and really try to go the extra mile - and my boss recognizes that - but they need me to do better. They really, really, really need me to be perfect from here on out. I will try my absolute best, as always, but I'm so nervous because I'm starting to learn that sometimes trying my best isn't good enough.
How do you deal with this pressure? How do I deal with the potential guilt of costing people their jobs? How do I even concentrate on my work now when I'm filled with so much stress and anxiety? If worst came to worst and everyone got let go, I wouldn't even know what to do anymore. I don't even know if anyone would hire me if it worst came to worst - word would get around about what happened and I'd have to find a new career (and I don't even know what else to do). I otherwise like this company, my coworkers, and this job. But now I just feel like complete, 100% utter shit - like a complete failure. How do I let it go and get back on track?