How To Recover From An Epic Fail at Work

recovering from an epic fail at work

How To Recover From An Epic Fail at Work

Have you ever got into a situation where you have planned something and the execution just didn’t go as expected? Next thing you know, it turned from bad to worst and found yourself in a spectacularly embarrassing situation? And now, whenever you remember it, you just tell yourself that it was an epic fail.

Mary P was having a tough night at work. She was a waitress at a Manhattan restaurant when a large group came in at the end of the evening, by which time she was already tired.

Their dinner didn’t go well. People ordered dishes that were already sold out. Some people received their appetizers as others finished their entrees. Mary got their drink orders wrong.

The group remained polite, but it was obvious they weren’t pleased with the service. So when Mary freaked out after realizing she had thrown out the steak that one of the guests had asked to be wrapped up to take home, it was understandable.

And that’s when she made a huge mistake. Rather than fess up about what she did, she took the cook’s suggestion: “Just take it out of the trash, wash it off and, put it in a box. They’ll never know.”

And that’s just what Mary did.

What she didn’t know was that someone had propped the door to the kitchen open. When she returned to the table with the to-go box and said “Here’s your doggie bag!” she got a table full of dropped-jaws.They just stared at her. Finally one of the diners said “We saw what you did with that steak.”

OUCH. Not only did Mary get busted giving people food from the trash, but she was called out for trying to hide the fact.

You might not have made as humiliating a blunder quite as spectacularly as Mary, but chances are, you have made (or will make) some mistakes of your own. But you don’t have to live in shame; here’s how to turn that epic fail around.


Your heart is racing, your cheeks are flush and suddenly it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest. It’s natural. But here’s the thing: A panic attack isn’t conducive to wise decision-making. You’re going to need to relax as best you can. If you need to, go outside and take a short walk. When you get back, start assessing the situation.


You don’t need to send a blast out on Facebook and let the world know you’ve had a brain malfunction. However, you do need to give a heads up to the people who are going to share the pain with you.

Not only is this the courteous thing to do, but it will create an environment in which more people will work to find a solution to the problem in this epic fail situation.


Now is the time to brainstorm for a way to fix the mistake. It’s not always possible to devise a solution on your own. But if you are able to do so, bring your idea with you when you go to inform people of your gaffe. Which brings us to…


“Well, I forgot to deposit the funds and now we don’t have enough money to make payroll. But it’s all Jenny’s fault! If she didn’t buy that third round of margaritas last night, I never would have forgotten!”

Throwing someone else under the bus isn’t just going to earn you a new enemy, it will cost you the respect of others. Feel free to explain why you made made the mistake (“I should have realized I needed some assistance on the project, and asked for it so that it shouldn’t have turned out an epic fail.”) but do so without accusing someone else. (“They gave me too much work!”)


That’s right — the benefits. Now that you’ve made a doozie of a mistake and was an epic fail, you’ve got a great new selling point.

Recounting past boondoggles lets others know you’re human. In a survey done by The 10 Company and Gotham Research Group, business bloggers said they feel leaders that admit their mistakes come across as more relatable and in touch with reality.

In addition, you’ve got a great new story to tell. We’ve talked before about how important storytelling can be for start-ups and building your brand. While talking about a past failure might not seem like a great way to build your brand, it demonstrates that you’ve have had experiences from which you’ve grown and that you’ve got the self-confidence to admit it

So relax. A goof at work isn’t going to end your career. In fact, it could be a boost.

So whatever happened to Mary P., the waitress? She confessed what she did without making an excuse. She apologized straight out.

Turns out the group left her the biggest tip she ever got.


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