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How to Do Damage Control at Work

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While work blunders—like Delta’s congratulatory tweet to the U.S. after their World Cup win last night—may be entertaining to watch from the sidelines, they’re never quite so fun when you’re the culprit. (In case you missed it, the tweet depicted Ghana with a picture of a giraffe—an animal that doesn’t actually live in Ghana.)

Sure, a tweet to 450,000 plus followers might not be as severe as your latest work misstep, but there are a few catchall tips for damage control in almost any situation.

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1. Make your "sorry" short: “The best apologies are specific, immediate, genuine, and short,” says Lindsey Pollak, a Millennial workplace expert. Be as polite as possible, but “do not go on and on and on about how sorry you are.”

2. Don't keep secrets: The first step is always owning up to the mistake, says career expert Heather R. Huhman. Pretending it wasn’t you or blaming someone else is just about the worst thing you can do, the experts agree. Because, as we all well know by now, the cover up is always worse than the crime.

3. Show your face: If you're at work, it isn't your BFF whose forgiveness you're seeking. You’ve got to pick up the phone or go talk in person, Pollak says. “Facing the music in person will gain you respect and your apology will be taken much more seriously.”

4. Suggest a fix: Beyond the apology, make sure you have a solution to whatever problem you’ve created, and a plan for making sure it doesn’t happen again in the future, Huhman says. And then of course, be a rock star moving forward so the mistake you made goes right into the past, Pollak says. “No one minds if you make one mistake. What bothers people and hurts your reputation is if you keep making them over and over again,” Pollak says.

Committed a more serious offense? That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed. “I think there are plenty of bosses that are a lot more forgiving than we realize—they recognize we are human beings,” says Huhman. Who knows, you might even be able to joke about it one day—just not, well, today.


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