You Botched a Major Project at Work. Here's How to Recover

Woman slapping her forehead with regret

Even the most seasoned professionals among us make mistakes and mess up big time when we least expect it. But if you're right on the heels of a project you led that went wrong in a very big way, you may be struggling to show your face at the office.

What you need to realize is that in most cases, a single failure won't destroy your career -- especially if you don't let it. Here's how to move on from a major error while keeping your dignity intact.

1. Understand what went wrong

If you make excuses for your recent failure without bothering to figure out why things turned out the way they did, you aren't going to grow from the whole experience. On the other hand, if you're willing to do some digging to see why your project didn't pan out as expected, you might actually learn a thing or two. And once your boss sees that, you'll be that much closer to getting your credibility back. Painful as it may be to revisit your mistakes, it's a process worth going through -- so don't shy away from it.

2. Own up to your failings

It's much easier to make excuses about why things went wrong than to acknowledge your own shortcomings. But if you opt for the former, you're only going to come off as petty and immature in the eyes of your boss and colleagues. Difficult as it may be to admit that you messed up, doing so will serve the very important purpose of earning (or perhaps regaining) other people's respect. And once that happens, they'll be more likely to trust you going forward.

3. Map out a game plan for your next go-round

Just because you botched one project doesn't mean you'll never be trusted to head up another. Still, the last thing you want to do is repeat some of the mistakes you made the last time around. As you gear up for your next big initiative, come up with a solid plan of attack that accounts for the hiccups you experienced last time. For example, if you missed a major deadline because your tech team wasn't given enough notice to provide necessary data, put in that request immediately once your new project kicks off. The more organized you are going in, the better your chances of success.

4. Ask for help and accept input

When you're tasked with managing a project, the last thing you want is other people breathing down your neck, offering unsolicited advice, and attempting to co-run the show. And if you weren't coming off a recent blunder, you'd have every right to look those people in the eye and (politely) tell them to scram.

But since that isn't the case, you'll need to accept the fact that the people around you might attempt to stick their noses in your business. And you know what? It pays to let them. Better yet, actively seek out other people's advice so that you not only benefit from their expertise, but come off as humble. Being open to input and feedback won't detract from your project management abilities; rather, it'll send the message that you're willing to do whatever it takes to get things right.

They say that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and that certainly holds true when it comes to on-the-job failings. So rather than let your recently botched project define you, use it as an opportunity to come out wiser and more experienced. If you show your manager and colleagues that you've learned from your mistakes, then before you know it, your major blunder will quickly become a thing of the past.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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