We all mess up and make mistakes, and when they're work related, they can be tricky and costly. Here are some common missteps and how to get out of trouble when they happen:
Making an inappropriate joke. When you get into a hole, don't keep digging. Don't try another joke to offset the first. Acknowledge that you offended and apologize.
Caught talking about someone behind his or her back. Don't pretend nothing happened. Own your gaffe. Your apology depends on the offended party. You might want to go short and sweet: "That was out of line. I'm sorry. Next time I'll talk to you directly."
If your boss or a manager is the offended party, try this: "I'm so sorry about what I said. I was frustrated and let it get the best of me. I hope you'll be able to forgive me because I truly enjoy working here. I won't talk behind your back in the future."
Insulting someone without realizing it. Own your mistake and try to deflect. Let's say you make fun of ballroom dancers and your manager then tells you he loves to ballroom dance. "You do? We'll, I've been wrong about other things, that's for sure!"
Many CEOs say that a key part of career climbing is knowing when you made a mistake and fixing it fast. Letting small mistakes turn into bigger problems will cause you to suffer personally and professionally.
How about making the resolution for 2012 that Outback Steakhouse CEO Elizabeth Smith abides by:
Acknowledge a mistake (not always easy to admit), fix the problem and move on. She calls it "failing faster."