How to Recover From Mistakes When You Work Remotely

Dear Sophaya, 

It has been a rough week. I have a lot of autonomy with my job and that’s great, but it means I don’t have anyone giving me back up. I was late to one conference call because I forgot what time it was supposed to start and then double booked two clients because I wrote the time down wrong for one meeting. And, I blew a deadline for a project report. This is not typical of me. I am meticulous at keeping my calendar and getting the work done. My manager hasn’t said anything, but I’m worried that she will doubt my ability to manage things if I’m not in the office. I did a lot right this week, but I am hung up on what hasn’t gone well. How can I maintain the trust I’ve built up?



 Ask Sophaya Remote Nation

Dear Recovering, 

Been there done that….as we are all human, mistakes are inevitable. Recovering from missteps takes focusing on the lessons learned and accepting responsibility up front then delivering a strong showing going forward. First step is self-forgiveness. Easy to say stop beating yourself up as it’s clear you are bothered by this turn of events, but it’s important you focus on learning the lessons so they don’t get repeated in the future rather than focusing solely on your goofs. Working remotely can prey on your mind if you let it. The more you think about things, the bigger and uglier they get. If you focus on the goofs, you might start to internalize them to the point they start to define you until every little thing that goes wrong validates your worse fears that you’ve lost your edge, and everyone knows it. 

Examine the root cause of this series of events. It seems like there were a string of things all in a row. What’s up? Are you over-committed? Over-tired? Are you dealing with a sick child? Is something bothering you? Be honest. When you are working in an office where people can see you, these kinds of things become obvious to those around you because they see you are off your game. When you work remotely, you need to speak up because no one knows there’s a problem unless you say so.  

There is no shame in asking for help or acknowledging you are struggling with stuff. There is also no shame in sharing your troubles with work friends you trust. By speaking up, asking for help or addressing the root cause, you can reduce your stress levels and eliminate the likelihood this will happen again. Saying things out loud always helps me to put things in proper perspective; helps me to see things clearly and even allows me to not take myself so seriously sometimes.  

While its true trust is a fragile thing, not speaking up to address these bumps with do more to cause strain than tackling this thing head on. Address the elephant in the room….just because your boss hasn’t said anything doesn’t mean they don’t know there’s a problem. Or they may not even be aware there was a problem in the first place. It’s hard to know unless you speak up. If you try to avoid the issue and stay silent, then you will always be wondering what she’s thinking. Things will get awkward and strained, trust between you will suffer. Don’t wait. Schedule time with your boss and come clean. Acknowledge the problems, own the responsibility and then reset expectations as to how you will address difficult moments more proactively in the future.  

Best of luck! Let us know how it goes!

Do you have a question about navigating remote work? Let us know.

Photo by Siavash Ghanbari