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Eeek! How to go about slip-ups at work
Mistakes happen to the best of us
Career 24 Oct 2023
Jeff Koons’ Shattered Balloon Dog Adds to Expensive Art Accidents
The Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Blue) (2021) before and after it was knocked off its pedestal at Art Wynwood in Miami, February 2023. Courtesy Cédric Boero, Bel-Air Fine Art.

Mistakes happen to the best of us. From the greenest interns to the most seasoned CEOs, errors are an inevitable part of the human experience, especially in the dynamic and fast-paced world of art. So, if you’ve made a mistake at work, don’t let it consume you. Instead, follow this guide to gracefully address the situation and turn it into a learning opportunity.

  1. Try and Not Stress (Easier Said Than Done)

First and foremost, take a deep breath. It’s entirely natural to feel stressed when you’ve made a mistake but remember, everyone has been there. The art world, despite its creative veneer, is not exempt from human errors. Whether you’ve misplaced a crucial exhibit piece or miscalculated a project’s budget, acknowledge that mistakes are part of the journey.

  1. Understand the Mistake and Its Implications

Before you address the issue, take some time to dissect the mistake and its potential consequences. Understanding the root cause and potential impact will help you prepare for the conversation ahead. Whether it’s a logistical hiccup or a miscommunication, clarity is key.

  1. Own It and Communicate with Relevant Stakeholders

Now comes the most crucial step: taking ownership of your mistake. Reach out to the individuals who need to be informed promptly. This usually includes your manager, curator, or anyone directly affected by the error. While it may be intimidating, remember that it’s all about how you handle it.

  • Explain What Has Happened: When talking to your manager or relevant stakeholders, provide a clear and concise explanation of the mistake. Be honest about what went wrong and why.
  • Offer Possible Solutions: If possible, come prepared with a few potential solutions to rectify the situation. This proactive approach demonstrates your commitment to making things right.
  • Highlight Implications: Make sure to inform them of any potential consequences that require urgent attention. Being transparent about the fallout shows that you’re taking the issue seriously.
  1. It’s Okay Not to Have All the Answers

Don’t panic if you don’t have ready-made solutions to the mistake. Sometimes, complex problems require collaboration and creative problem-solving. A supportive manager will recognize that mistakes happen and will work with you to find solutions together. Remember, a team is often much stronger than an individual.

  1. Everything Will Be Okay!

It’s essential to keep things in perspective. While your work in the art world is undoubtedly important, unless you’re a doctor making life-or-death decisions, most mistakes can be rectified. Try to detach emotionally from the situation and remember that setbacks are part of growth and development.

  1. It’s Not Personal

Lastly, understand that a mistake doesn’t define your competence or worth. In the art world, as in any other industry, errors are part of the learning process. Taking accountability is everything, and being proactive about resolving the issue demonstrates maturity and professionalism.

In conclusion, making a mistake at work is not the end of the world. It’s a chance to learn, grow, and demonstrate your professionalism. Remember that everyone, from artists to gallery directors, has their share of mishaps. Embrace the experience, and own up to your actions, and you’ll find that taking accountability and learning from mistakes can be a valuable part of your journey.

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The National Gallery - London, UK
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