Becka Wall | @beckawall

Someday, it’s going to happen. You’ll be going about your day, and then BAM – it dawns on you.

It could be an e-mail with an ominous subject line, or a response to work you thought was fine but, was definitely – clearly – not ideal.

You f*cked up.

They say you learn from your mistakes, and, whoever they are, boy, are they right. I went from gliding along to stopped in my tracks in under a minute, but I have begun to understand a number of things about work, life and the reality of human error.

Don’t worry, though – it’s all going to be okay. How do I know? Because I lived to tell the tale – The Tale of My First Big Work F*ckup.

Here’s what I learned along the way:

We just had to.

Communication is key. The minute you realize you screwed everything up, message your boss. E-mail, IM, Text, Slack, Carrier Pigeon – whatever it is you need to do to fess up. It seems counter intuitive – you’ll want to crawl under a rock and hope nobody notices you messed up, but trust me, you should not do that. Your boss is on your team, and they want to make sure they’re ahead of whatever angry e-mails might be coming their way from their boss.

Next step: damage control. This lightbulb moment is just the beginning. Soon, your Big Work F*ckup will travel up the chain of command, and might potentially become a Massive Work F*ckup if you’re not careful. Make sure you are clear with your superiors and team about exactly what happened, and provide any context you can. Over explaining is better than under explaining.

Keep people updated. Your Big Work F*ckup will probably have reverberations beyond what you realize. Let people know how it’s playing out – and stay connected with everyone in your company or organization it might impact. Offer to help them in any way you can to combat the Big Work F*ckup.

Listen to Swifty.

Take a deep breath. Forgive yourself. This is, quite frankly, the hardest part. You messed up big time, and you’re going to be really hard on yourself. Try not to be. Everyone makes mistakes, and today just happens to be a big mistake day. It doesn’t mean you’re not good at your job, or that you aren’t still trying hard. It’s all OK. Deep breaths.

Call your mom, best friend, significant other, work BFF, whatever. Today was tough, and you shouldn’t shoulder it completely alone. Tell your go-to person what happened and what could help – a space to rant, or cry, or just to sit in silence together on the couch eating cookies.

Ask your boss for constructive feedback. Once the dust settles, you should go to your boss and talk about what you could do better or fix about the process for next time.

You got this, office warrior. Be strong.