Making mistakes at work due to stress

Whether you just started your career at an entry level job, or you’re at the top, whether you like to quickly wrap up things, or you take your time to review every task multiple times, every once in a while you commit a mistake that is hard to cover up. 

Making mistakes is entirely normal and if you noticed that you have been making more mistakes at work lately, it could very well be due to the stress encountered at work, or more so, stress that has not been addressed appropriately.

As revealed in a study by IE University, up to 40% of the work day is spent by some workers worrying about something.

Mistakes lead to better outcomes

Do you know that the penicillin that we use for treating bacterial infections was actually an outcome of a mistake by Scientist Alexander Fleming? Even the cornflakes that we love to eat for breakfast were also discovered as a result of a mistake by the Kellog brothers. 

It may be an unpopular opinion, but stress is not always bad and neither are the mistakes. The reaction of our body to stress can help us be focused and prepares us for the challenge ahead. That extra pump of oxygen to the brain, can give a sense of clarity that we may lack otherwise.

That pump of blood and adrenaline, keeps you alert and gives you that surge of energy which your body needs to perform in a high pressure situation. 

Perfection is overrated

Perfectionism is excessively but unnecessarily glorified in our world. It is more commonly believed that a good professional is the one who is intelligent, strong and perfect. However there is a metamorphic function attached to imperfection and making mistakes. Making a small mistake, does not make one indecisive or incapable.

The stress that leads to mistakes can also offer the tendency to focus and conduit the energy in a more productive manner.

If done effectively, worrying or what we call stress, can help a person make better decisions. Instead of being stressed about making mistakes, the same level of worry can be focused on finding solutions and not just preventing the occurrence of a mistake.

Effects of prolonged stress

Increasing workload, high expectations and rigid deadlines can leave anyone overwhelmed and drained physically and mentally, however when stress exceeds beyond a certain level, the brain and body can not cope and results in damage to one’s ability to perform, satisfaction with the job, professional relationships and personal health.

When not managed in the right way stress can lead to anxiety and negatively affect one’s ability of decision making- leading to more frequent and serious mistakes. 

We may not always be able to control our outcomes or external circumstances, but we can definitely work on systems and processes that help to reduce stress and consequent mistakes. 

Overcoming the fear of making mistakes

As mentioned above, a certain amount of stress is good. And we can channel the surge of energy into answering important questions. For example we should ask ourselves:

  • Whether the information or data is reliable and presentable?
  • What are the constraints and loopholes in our processes? 
  • How can we double check our work for quality assurance? 
  • What processes do we have in place to reduce the risk as much as possible?
  • What processes do we have in place to rectify a mistake if possible?
  • Do we have SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in place?

In fact, the mistakes made due to stress can be an extremely important reliable source of developing Standard Operating Procedures. Made a mistake of sending out wrong statistics? Now you know it should be an SOP to have the information vetted by three professionals in the department.

Final thoughts

You see, mistakes are inevitable. In fact it is what makes us human. What is wrong is to feel intimidated and let a few mistakes define you and lead to more stress which then may lead to more mistakes. Being too relaxed can make one lazy and negligent. Being aware of your mistakes can help you to go ahead of the situation before it rockets.

A little bit of stress in work is needed to behave proactively and own your mistake, it shows your responsible approach and relieves others of the burden to bring your mistake to your attention. At the very least, I hope this article as many others on our page touching serious topics such as stress at work, depression or burnout will help you. 

About the author

I am a Girl, that wants to live a Simple Life, and I am in a search of the recipe for happiness.  I invite you to join me on this journey! It will be an exciting adventure in which we will look for the simplicity of life, joy in everyday things, and free time outside the usual hustle and bustle.

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