THE BLOG
08/23/2013 02:01 pm ET Updated Oct 23, 2013

Crisis Control:4 Tips for Handling Mistakes at Work

I am in the midst of a real PR "crisis" at the moment.

An editor at a national publication sent me an urgent request for information, and her email somehow landed straight in my junk mail. I didn't realize she was trying to reach me until a few days later when she followed up. Naturally, what she is looking for isn't something we have right on hand. As we scramble around to get everything together, we might miss the deadline. Needless to say, this honest mistake could cost me a major placement: a PR girl's worst nightmare.

Look, we all make mistakes at work; this is an unavoidable fact. I promise, you even the CEO gets things wrong every once in a while. People don't remember the mistakes you make; instead, they remember how you react to them. In the heat of the moment when your boss or client is reprimanding you, it can be hard to keep your cool. However, the way you act in these situations can prevent a small mistake from turning into a full-blow crisis.

Due to the lost email, I am reaping the consequences of this mistake. Here are four ways to defuse the situation before it gets blown into something bigger:

1) Admit responsibility. While interning at fashion PR firm, People's Revolution, owner, Kelly Cutrone taught me one of the greatest lessons: When you mess something up, acknowledge, apologize, and simply ask, "how can I fix it?". Once a mistake is made, there is nothing you can do about it. Instead, you can only seek out possible solutions. Don't waste energy making excuses and deflecting blame; this will only make you look more incompetent. Spend the time thinking of ways to quickly fix the problem.

2) Don't panic. A few years ago, when I first started my business, a situation like the one I described above would have sent me into a tailspin. But not anymore (I am finally getting older and wiser). Yes, I would love for the information to miraculously appear, so the editor can get what she needs to secure the placement. However, that is not the reality of the situation. We have to wait for multiple people to submit the data, and that will take time. Panicking in a work environment only elevates the situation. When emotions run high, decisions are not made rationally, and more mistakes will be made. Instead of worrying about what went wrong, take a few deep breaths to clear your head, so you can fix the issue at hand.

3) Acknowledge the inconvenience. When you make mistakes, chance are they will impact others around you, so take the time to say, "I'm sorry". More times than not, people don't mind going putting forth extra effort, if they feel they are being acknowledged. Sometimes something as simple as a few kind words can go a long way.

4) Be honest. This is a lesson that your mama has probably been reminding you of since your days in the cradle, but it still carries true in the business world. In a moment of panic, it might seem easier to lie, and defuse the situation. However, in the end, being honest will get you a lot further. Yes, if you are honest with your boss or customers, it might not be the answer they want to hear, and their initial reaction might be negative. However, if they later find out you were lying, their reaction will be even worse. Mistakes will always happen, but once you tarnish your reputation, it is nearly impossible to get back.

I know it seems obvious, but sometimes you just have to decide to not let mistakes ruin your whole day. If you do, the negative will take over, and then you will continue to make mistakes. When things don't go according to plan, it can be hard to not let your emotions get the best of you. Even at our workplace, we are still humans, so sometimes we need to step away from our desk, and take a few deep breaths before acting on something. These simple steps can help to lessen the blow of a mistake.