We all know the saying, “nobody is perfect,” but in the workplace we aim to be. In honor of National Courtesy Month, here are five polite ways to recover from mistakes within the workplace:


1. The Escape Plan  Whether it’s a meeting or a presentation, allow plenty of time to use the bathroom and get a coffee beforehand. If you forget, be smart and discreet.
  • A simple “excuse me,” will do
  • Enter quietly without your cell phone or turn it off
  • Use the back or side entrance, as opposed to the front
  • Sit in the back of the room if you are worried about causing a distraction
2. Workplace Relations When we work with someone we don’t like, it can be stressful. However, creating an amicable team atmosphere warrants a better experience.
  • Remain professional and keep your emotions in check
  • Get to know your coworker better. Sometimes learning new traits or understanding how they work can help
  • If significant issues arise in the workplace, address them immediately with HR
3. Missing an Approaching Deadline As you look at your calendar, you realize that the assignment is due tomorrow. You’re going to miss your deadline, but there’s still hope. Try these tips to minimize conflict with the boss:
  • Accept responsibility
  • Notify them immediately that you cannot meet the deadline and thoroughly explain your reasons
  • Immediately and sincerely apologize to your supervisor in person
  • Suggest possible solutions and ask if you may begin to implement them
  • Create calendar alerts or timeline of how this can be avoided in the future
  • Set alarms on your phone and be strict with your time management skills to avoid the same mistake in the future
4. Honest mistake Business professionals make mistakes. It can be embarrassing to admit the truth, but confronting mistakes immediately helps in the long run.
  • Don’t try to hide your mistake
  • Own up and accept responsibility
  • Don’t blame others for your mistake
  • Apologize and learn from it
  • Move forward and continue to do good work to build trust with your coworkers and boss
5. Wardrobe Malfunction Whether your trousers or skirt accidentally rip or your neckline is too revealing, it’s important to maintain a professional appearance in the workplace. Here are some tips to avoid awkward wardrobe malfunctions:
  • Research the workforce wardrobe culture before the interview
  • Carefully read the written dress code policy, and observe the unwritten code; follow them
  • Pack an extra top and bottom, just in case of a coffee spill
  • Before you head out the door, ask yourself if your attire is suitable to meet your significant other’s family members

Sharon Schweitzer, Sunny Kim, and Esther Sanchez co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Sunny Kim is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently a junior journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin with a minor in Korean language and certificate in business. She is also the founder and president of UT Asian American Journalists Association. Her main focus is storytelling people’s diverse experiences relating to race and culture. Connect with her on LinkedinEsther Sanchez is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently attending the University of Texas at Austin as a Journalism major and working to earn a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and a certificate in Computer Science. She plans to use these skills to tell stories through virtual reality from around the world. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo credit: Pxhere