Anxiety and Mental Health issues suck. I know that’s blunt but why not be direct? For me, my largest struggle is with intrusive thoughts. There are days when something happens and it triggers all sorts of “scenarios” in my mind. To the point where I find myself just hiding in bed, hiding online, hiding always hiding…. One of those triggers for me is making a mistake at work. As this is a piece for the Bi Polar Writer, some of you don’t know me. I am a gen xer just turned 50, I have been a finance professional for nearly 30 years. I have a master’s degree in business admin, work in an executive position, I make good money.
That’s a general overview and it’s important because mental health issues affect people from all walks of life. I function well, but I too have days where I just hide. So making a mistake at work, for me is one of my huge triggers. I’ve been a manger of people and have been managed and in both capacities, I have made mistakes, a few doozies too. Work is stressful, there are so many competing emotions that go into work these days. People that don’t experience it are either numb or blessed. You have competition, backstabbing, gossip, accolades, rewards, bonuses… to name a few. Each one of these and including several others (a demanding boss) can inspire anxiety.
What happens if you screw up? If you make a mistake and you know it before everyone else, what do you do? Quick story: many, many years ago (yes, I am ancient) I had to cut a check to a client for over 300K I put the check in the printer upside down, it looked correct but the vital part on the back was on the stub, not the check part. I got it back signed stuffed it in an envelope and mailed it. I realized later what I had done. I panicked I didn’t say anything to anyone, the client called me, he was unhappy, very unhappy.
I had 3 days of anxiety over that mistake. It was brutal, I was miserable and that’s just one example of several small, medium and large mistakes I have made in my career. I survived, but what could I have done differently? If you make a mistake at work, you are not alone. Perfection is the bane of very good, but that doesn’t matter right? If you have anxiety you are going to beat yourself up over it. Here are 5 things you should do if you make a mistake at work to alieve your anxiety:
Take responsibility: Let your boss know and the affected parties know. Apologize and make sure they know you will work to fix the issue.
Fix what you can: This intertwines with the above but fix what you can. Some issues, you can’t fix but be available for the fix. Bottom line, if you make a mistake and can fix it, fix it, even if it means you work late.
Make it a learning moment: Cliché? Maybe but you made this mistake for a reason. Learn what you did wrong, and make sure you implement the requisite changes so that it doesn’t happen again.
Forgive yourself: Everyone makes mistakes, but at this moment you’re up. You must make sure you forgive yourself for making a mistake, everyone makes them. If you beat yourself up too much you might cause harm to your future job performance.
Get back to work: Don’t be tentative. Do your job, build your confidence back up.
I know some of these you have heard before and they are common sense right? Well for those of us living with mental health issues and Anxiety, making a mistake at work can be the catalyst for a spiral of negative thoughts for days if not weeks. Work plays such a huge role in all our lives, it doesn’t matter what you do you are working for money to live. If you screw up, all sorts of things can take place. “What if I get fired?” That’s the big one isn’t it? I know I’ve been there and I have had the anxiety and doubt seep into my soul over work mistakes and it’s horrible.
Making a mistake at work sucks, it happens all the time. You will recover, you will move on and you will be successful. Own it, manage it and learn from it. I can’t promise you that it’s going to be easy, particularly if it affects other people at the workplace. On the contrary it’s going to be extremely hard and you are going to feel very exposed. Take a deep breath, try to remember this list and move past it as fast as you can. You are doing awesome out there, chin up, one day at a time.