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

Five steps to help you bounce back from disaster 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.

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