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How to save face when you have blown it


We’ve all been in this position: you are under a lot of stress, deadlines are piling up and problems are mounting. There is one particular problem that will not afford you the luxury of having much thinking time so you can craft what you think is a proper response. Maybe you feel backed into a corner to respond because it seems time sensitive, the project seems threatened or maybe it’s your reputation at stake. Whatever the reason, you picked up the phone and made the call or maybe you drafted an email and right after you hung up or hit the send button, you knew you had blown it.{{more}} How do you rebound from that? How do you save face and repair the damage you may have already done to your reputation, your team or even your company? Here are a few things to consider:

Remove the emotions. Usually when we blow it, our emotions are running the show at that moment. Kick them out of the driver’s seat so common sense and sound thinking can once again prevail. Take a deep breath and weigh the cost of your response. Even if your emotions are warranted, this is still a business environment, and diplomacy and tact will take you further than an emotional response.

Think before you talk.

When you first realize you may have blown it, some of us have the tendency to keep talking and dig ourselves into a deeper mess than we were originally in. You know when you’ve blown it, so before you continue talking or trading emails or other communication, take a step back so you can think.

Talk to an advisor.

Get a mentor, a mature friend or colleague with experience dealing diplomatically with people and tough situations and explain what is happening, so you both can determine, the best way forward.


Chances are an apology may be necessary, but why is it when it’s time to apologize we try to think of the best apology that still makes us look great? Sometimes a simple “I am so sorry” or “I apologize” is all it takes. Don’t waste time; say it and be done.

Don’t dwell on it.

Recently I had to apologize to a long-time partner for a major oversight. We both quickly addressed the issue and agreed it was over; yet, a week later, as I reconnected for the first time, I found a way to reference my error. My partner quickly reminded me that we had already dealt with the matter and it was now over. Resist the urge to bring back up matters that were deemed settled.

Rebuild the relationship.

Look for ways to strengthen the relationship without going overboard. It might be inviting them out for drinks, asking their opinion on a project, including them on a project or just keeping them in the loop. Whatever it is, make the effort to rebuild the relationship. If there is no interest from the other party, you’ve done your best; now move on.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to

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