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I made a stupid mistake today and made some work inaccessible, delaying two other colleagues work as they are the only ones capable of fixing my mistake. What is the correct way to approach this scenario in regards to how I communicate with my colleague? I am asking as I do not want to come across as panicked and apologetic but at the same time not considerate of my blunder.

One of my colleagues is dependant on the work he cannot access but has indicated it can be retrieved. It just may take some time to do.

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    It may be hard, but you have to tell your colleagues immediately. Describe them exactly what you did, it may help with fixing the Problem. And if it causes an inconveniance for them, swallow your pride and apologize. – jwsc Oct 12 '15 at 17:29
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    We all **** (insert expletive of your choice) once in a while. Just be honest. – Ed Heal Oct 12 '15 at 19:20
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  1. Own up to the mistake and apologize. An apology is never a bad move when you've messed something up, and if your colleagues are unaware of the mistake, it is better that they hear about it from you.

  2. Ask if there's anything you can do to help retrieve the inaccessible work.

  3. Ask if there is anything you can take off the colleagues' plates. If these colleagues are busy, and you've just added more work to their pile, see what you can do to make it easier.

  4. Brush it off and move forward. Everyone in the workforce has made a mistake that resulted in more work for someone else. It happens. You'll probably be on the receiving end someday. So don't kick yourself or dwell on it. Make it right and then move on.

EDIT: As Wesley Long comments below, also be sure to communicate to your supervisor (and theirs, if they're different people) that you made the mistake, and that your two colleagues corrected it. Acknowledging your error and crediting them for their help in repairs will go a long, long way in keeping everything pleasant.

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    A suggestion for this list: Communicate to your supervisor (and theirs, if they're different people) that you made the mistake, and that your two colleagues corrected it. Acknowledging your error and crediting them for their help in repairs will go a long, long way in keeping everything pleasant. – Wesley Long Oct 12 '15 at 17:34
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    Very good idea. I will add that in. – djohnson10 Oct 12 '15 at 17:36
  • In addition, resolve to be kind and gracious when one of them, or some other colleague, makes a mistake that costs you extra work. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 12 '15 at 22:42
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Do you know what to do in the future to prevent this mistake from occurring? Have you investigated whether there may be something you could do to make this mistake even less likely, or what might lessen the damage if it were to occur again? When you make a mistake, the best approach is to protactively talk to those affected about what you can do or will do to fix it. The best apology is to make your colleagues reasonably confident that you're working to prevent it in the future.

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  • It was a stupid command entered into the wrong terminal. The only way I could have lessened the chance of that one occurring was to not do work while sick. – GreenGodot Oct 12 '15 at 18:02
  • @GreenGodot So resolve to report yourself sick and stay home whenever necessary. The risk of "wrong terminal" problems can sometimes be lessened by using different prompts and/or color schemes for different environments. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 12 '15 at 22:44
  • A very good reason not to work when you feel sick is that in many positions, you can do more harm than good. There are some jobs where you just get less work done, but other jobs where you can easily cause damage. – gnasher729 Oct 13 '15 at 11:37

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