Can You Recover From Mistakes At Work?
Q: I’m embarrassed to say that I really messed up at work. I’m not sure what to do next, and I’m wondering how to win back the good will of my employer. Is it possible to resurrect a reputation at work? - Weeping over Work
A: The answer is yes! You certainly can recover from terrible mistakes at work. In fact, it is an opportunity to improve not only your reputation, but also your overall work relationships.
Rest assured, no one is perfect. Find me a person who has never made a mistake on the job, and I’ll show you a person who has never held a job. We are all vulnerable to errors and misjudgments.
While I don’t know just what went wrong, I do know that the Bible has clear instructions when it comes time to make a change and to transform a life (or a career).
Step One: Humbly Confess
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed...”
Don’t pretend you were not wrong or try to cover it up. Begin the process of restoring your reputation by letting your employer know that you understand the mistake you made. A good way to rebuild an employer’s trust is to let him or her know that you understand their concerns about what happened, acknowledge the problem, and state that you are willing to change. An employer can’t forgive you and begin the process of trusting you again if you insist that you’ve done nothing wrong.
A failure to repent – on the job or in the Christian life – indicates that the behavior will probably continue. If you don’t admit the mistake or if you insist it is no mistake at all, an employer will have every reason to be uneasy about the choice you’ll make if the same circumstances arise again.
It’s better to be the one who admits a mistake than to be found in the middle of a cover up. In Luke 12:2-3, Jesus notes that secrets come out, saying, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”
Most employers are likely to show grace towards those who are honest and willing to admit fault; they want an employee who is willing to learn from mistakes and move on.
Step Two: Work Diligently
Colossians 3:23 notes, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
Even though your employer seems to be the one who controls your work life and whether you are seen as succeeding on the job, in fact, we all work for the Lord. Apply yourself to work heartily – with all your heart, mind, strength and purpose – so that your employer and your Father in Heaven can see that your apology was sincere and that the mistake does not reflect your true abilities and work ethic.
Step Three: Don’t Take It On as Your Identity
Ephesians 2:1-5 states: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
You made a mistake, like all of us have, but by grace, we can all be forgiven – at work, in our personal life, and in our own hearts too. It’s easy to think that you will be defined by a failure. It’s easy to be your own worst enemy, berating yourself for your mistake. But this is not your identity! And remember, one of the glorious things about our faith is that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning.
It’s not the end of the world to fail, but it is an end to your career if you refuse to press on – with integrity, humility and perseverance.
The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis observed, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” Judging by your email, I wager that you have no intention of making the same mistake twice. Congratulations – you’re already making progress.
Crown has some wonderful resources and classes for building a career and living by your God-given design. It’s wise to become an expert in your field, to offer skills an employer can’t live without. But begin this transformation by being the kind of person you would like to hire, begin by being the faithful servant whom God would commend.
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