PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Oscars, and how to take the blame at work

Jordan Horowitz, producer of "La La Land," shows the envelope revealing "Moonlight" as the true winner of best picture at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Presenter Warren Beatty and host Jimmy Kimmel look on from right. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Nobody goes through life without ever making a mistake at work. During the Oscars ceremony, someone within PriceWaterhouseCoopers made what is likely to be the most humiliating mistake of their career. They blithely handed Warren Beatty the wrong 'winners' envelope, sparked an almighty debacle, and brought chaos and confusion to the stage. The question is how you can come back from a mistake like this.

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PwC was said to have been in crisis talks after the ceremony, and there have been calls for the company to lose its job coordinating the results - after more than 80 years. It's safe to say that how they handle things over the next few days will be critical.

However, it's not necessarily a disaster for the firm - or for the employee who handed over the envelope. There are five golden rules they can follow that can help us all bounce back from disaster at work.

1. Own up fast - and apologise.
This is something PwC did quickly, issuing an apology to everyone involved and accepting the blame. It's never worth trying to hide from the truth and hoping for the best, because it will look so much worse for you when you boss eventually works out who is to blame. Get in early with a quick, heartfelt apology.

2. Try to work out how to put things right
You can't get the Genie back in the bottle, but there may well be steps you can take to make up for your mistake. When you take the blame, try to suggest your solution at the same time. That way your boss won't feel like you have created a giant disaster and passed it to them to sort out.

3. Work out how to avoid it ever happening again
If PwC keeps the contract for the Oscars, you can be sure they'll be changing their procedures to ensure something like this can never happen again. Likewise, if you make a mess at work, consider how to ensure it won't happen again, and have this up your sleeve when you are talking to your boss about your mistake. If you can assure them this is a one-off, it will fill them with more confidence than if you just pledge to cross your fingers and try a bit harder.

4. Don't try to explain too much
As Warren Beatty discovered on stage at the Oscars, there comes a point when you are explaining how you aren't really to blame when everyone is tired of listening to your excuse. You may well have a valid reason for what happened, but nobody is interested. If you need to explain, then make your point succinctly and move onto your solutions.

5. Own the consequences
There will be fall-out, and you'll just have to deal with it. Whether that's an uncomfortable meeting with your boss or the client, keeping your head down and demonstrating your worth for the immediate future, or accepting consequences from HR, don't try to wriggle out of it. You will earn more respect for facing up to the consequences and showing what you're made of.

The 25 top quotes about career success
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The 25 top quotes about career success
"Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: opportunity."
"Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do."
"Youngsters have got to stop thinking about becoming the next Zuckerberg. It's a trillion-to-one chance. What they need is mater and pater to say, 'Get a job, son."
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default."
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
"You've got to love what you do to really make things happen."
"Don't think what's the cheapest way to do it or what's the fastest way to do it, think 'what's the most amazing way to do it?'"
"You cannot delegate entrepreneurship – if you are going to make mistakes make them yourself."
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
"If you're an entrepreneur and want to start a business, start small. You can start a business on your own or just with a partner or assistant. It's only when you take on your first member of staff that you're more than likely to encounter other problems."
"The entrepreneurial instinct is in you. You can't learn it, you can't buy it, you can't put it in a bottle. It's just there and it comes out."
"Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude."
"If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on."
"If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped."
"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential."
"Whoever decides to dedicate their life to politics knows that earning money isn't the top priority."
"I made my money without sector expertise, contacts or capital. I never had a USP, never had 'first mover advantage' or invented anything, and I didn't even do anything unique or that someone else couldn't have done. What I did have was a Yellow Pages and some determination – and that's all it takes."
"Everyone gets knocked back, no one rises smoothly to the top without hindrance. The ones who succeed are those who say, right, let's give it another go."
"Every day, you have to prove yourself and convince - move forward and challenge yourself. And doubt all the time."
"It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years."
"My dad said to me, 'Work hard and be patient.' It was the best advice he ever gave me. You have to put the hours in."
"Behind every no entry sign there's a door."
"Women need to shift from thinking 'I'm not ready to do that' to thinking "I want to do that - and I'll learn by doing it."
"Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers."

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