Published November 14, 2011
Mistakes happen. Whether you are a politician or a plant manager, you will slip up and make a mistake at work from time to time. The key is knowing how to handle your gaffes to get past them as quickly as possible.
In the past couple of weeks we have seen some excellent examples of crisis management play out in front of us. Republican presidential candidate hopefuls Herman Cain and Rick Perry have both made some serious negative headlines recently, but they have handled their situations quite differently.
Proper crisis management techniques in everyday workplace situations are vital to mitigating a bad situation and recovering quickly. Your actions during a workplace crisis will show people your true character, says Gary Rosen, crisis management expert and president of Gary Rosen Communications.
“In this day and age of social media, for anyone, especially if they are famous, to think they can out fox the public is beyond stupid.” The facts always make their way out.
When it comes to dealing with your own workplace crisis, Rosen says reputation is critically important. To make sure you handle your workplace slip-up situation correctly Rosen offers the following tips:
Get in Front of the Story: Controlling the message is critical, and you want to be sure to get it right the first time. According to Rosen, the first step is to come clean and admit your mistake with your inner-circle; you can’t get good advice if you aren’t up front with those who are closest to you.
Often there is a certain level of arrogance that causes high-profile individuals to believe they are beyond reproach. Being honest with your closest colleagues and listening to their to objective advice will help form a strong action plan to help put out the fire.
Rosen pointed to late-night talk show host David Letterman’s handling of his sex scandal as a good example of getting ahead of the story and controlling the message. By immediately going in front of his national audience, admitting to what happened, and then apologizing, he maintained control of the story. “Essentially, the story was dead a few days later,” says Rosen.
Be Sincere: “When you apologize, mean it” says Rosen. You have to own your apology and be sincere in the actions you take to make amends. He warns not to fall prey to blaming others. When you start pointing the finger you look defensive and create enemies that may not have even existed prior to the incident. “Everyone gets a second chance if you tell the truth,” says Rosen; it’s important to take ownership of your part of the problem.
Know Your End Game: Rosen advises creating a coherent strategy to deal with a situation and stick to it. As tough as it may be, you have to take yourself out of the equation and try to be objective about the extent of the damage and what you need to do to get back in the good graces of your colleagues.
The bottom line is people are going to find out about a mistake; we live in an age where nearly everything is recorded. Don’t try to hide behind ridiculous excuses and senseless stories. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s about how you handle those mistakes that reflects your character.
Remember, reputation is everything. Rosen summed it up: “no matter who you are or who you think you are, don’t let your ego get in the way of your future.”
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook