What to do when you’ve messed up

We all make mistakes at work. It’s human nature. But when those mistakes happen, knowing how to apologize effectively is important. Otherwise, you risk jeopardizing your relationships with your colleagues, boss, or clients. Here are some tips on how to apologize at work.

Acknowledge your mistake immediately

Mistakes are inevitable; however, owning up to them and acknowledging them as soon as possible is essential. Doing so shows that you take responsibility for your actions and that you want to reach a resolution with the colleague who has been affected. Acknowledging mistakes quickly also displays good communication skills and healthy relationships between the parties. So next time you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to say, “I messed up” and own it!

Take responsibility for your actions

Owning up to your actions and taking responsibility can be difficult, but it is vital in developing yourself as a person. Instead of blaming someone else for your work, work to find out what went wrong and how you can work towards fixing it. This kind of self-evaluation and ownership will not only help you learn from your mistakes but also build strong work and personal relationships with those around you. Just remember–taking responsibility for your actions will always work out better than trying to transfer the blame elsewhere.

Offer a sincere apology to the other person

A sincere apology should be honest, humble, and empathetic. It should include expressing remorse for the mistake and demonstrating a genuine understanding of how it affected the other person. This means avoiding vague statements like “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings” and instead saying something more specific like “I know I hurt your feelings and I am truly sorry for that.” A sincere apology can go a long way in repairing relationships and building trust.

“I deeply apologize for the way I acted and for the hurtful thing I said. This wasn’t my intention, and I’m so sorry for letting those words leave my mouth. My goal is to humble myself in this moment and hope that we can move on from this misstep without causing any more damage. Again, I truly apologize and appreciate you taking the time to listen.”

Explain what you will do to prevent the situation from happening again

When you make a mistake, try to figure out what went wrong and how you can do something different in the future. When apologizing, tell the other person you are sorry and explain how you will do things differently so it won’t happen again. Show that you understand what happened and want to fix it. Making a plan to avoid similar mistakes in the future also shows that you are committed to making things right.

“To ensure this situation doesn’t occur again, I’m committed to doing some necessary soul-searching and personal reflection. As a result, I plan to be more mindful of my actions and how they might affect others. Additionally, I’ll strive to be more transparent and communicative with important stakeholders such as colleagues, friends, and family so that everyone can stay up to date on what’s happening in the situation. Finally, I’ll focus on maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct in all areas of my life. With these steps taken, I’m certain that similar unpleasantness can be prevented from repeating itself in the future.”

Thank the person for their understanding

When apologizing for a mistake, it is important to thank the other person for their understanding. This shows that you recognize the impact of what happened and are grateful for them taking the time to listen. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in expressing your gratitude, but it is also important to say more than just those two words.

“Thank you for taking the time to listen and understanding my perspective on this situation. I sincerely appreciate your willingness to work through it with me so that we can both come out of this experience in a better place.”


If you’ve made a mistake, don’t try to cover it up or make excuses. The best thing you can do is to man (or woman) up and take responsibility for your actions like a responsible adult. Acknowledge your mistake, offer a sincere apology, explain what you will do to prevent the situation from happening again, and thank the person for their understanding. If you want to become a confident communicator and avoid making embarrassing mistakes in the future, sign up for my course Speaking Mastery. It’s guaranteed to help you improve your communication skills or your money back. Thanks for reading!


  • 1. Acknowledge (Verb): To recognize or admit that something is true.
  • 2. Apology (Noun): An expression of regret for a mistake or wrong action.
  • 3. Confident (Adjective): Having faith in oneself and one’s abilities.
  • 4. Cover up (Verb): To hide the truth of a situation by making it seem different than it really is.
  • 5. Embarrassing (Adjective): Causing someone to feel ashamed, uncomfortable, or foolish.
  • 6 Expressions (Nouns): Gestures, words, looks, etc., used to show feelings or opinions.
  • 7 Genuine (Adjective): Real and sincere; not false or artificial.
  • 8 Gratitude (Noun): Feeling thankful; gratefulness for something done on one’s behalf.
  • 9 Humble (Adjective): Modest; without too much pride and ego.                               
  • 10 Soul searching (Noun): Examining one’s inner thoughts and feelings deeply.

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