We are all human. Go ahead, say it out loud. Mistakes are inevitable. They are a part of life, and frankly, without them, there would be no room for personal growth.  However, as an executive assistant, you have probably experienced your fair share of “freak outs” over a mistake or two, whether it’s you or your boss who is freaking out.

gasp, a mistake

Get it together, take a deep breath, and remember CARP. That’s right, a four letter word can help you stay positive and professional through a bad situation.

Control the Situation So you made a mistake and the bomb has gone off. The first thing you want to do is control the situation before it gets any more chaotic or dramatic than it needs to be. Gather the necessary information you need to quickly address the problem: who is involved and what was the mistake? The why isn’t important right now: why the mistake was made is an unnecessary piece of information that can be addressed once the issue is under control and fixed. For now, focus on containment.

Acknowledge the Problem One of the worst things you can do when you’ve blundered is try to cover it up. Nothing stays buried in an office. Instead, acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake and let others know what steps you are taking to fix it, or get help fixing it if you can’t do it on your own. Did you accidentally book your boss for two meetings at the same time? Let your boss know you made the mistake and tell him/her that you are happy to contact the parties involved to reschedule. Taking responsibility for your mishaps shows that you are honest, and it builds trust—as long as you don’t let it happen again and again.

Refocus Yes, you may get yelled at. People will be angry. You may even be written up. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of your professionalism. If you need to take a quick restroom break, do so, but return to your post prepared to take the steps necessary to fix the mistake you’ve made.

Problem-Solve How can we turn this wrong into a right? Problem solving involves gathering information, distributing information, and suggesting actionable solutions to address the issue at hand. Whatever you deem the best solution, be sure to take the steps necessary to implement that choice, and follow up to ensure that this time, the task has been carried out without any hurdles or gaffes.

As a gatekeeper, administrators are often thought of as indestructible know-it-alls, but even the most complex computer systems in the world sometimes freeze up or experience a glitch. Life is 1% what happens to you and 99% how you react to it. Managing your errors gracefully is a difficult but necessary lesson to learn.

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