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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

This Is How to Recover When Your Career Risk Backfires

person taking a risk
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Sometimes, in our careers, we make decisions that turn out poorly.

Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from taking risks in the first place. But it’s helpful to know how to rebound quickly so you can be more successful going forward.

Here are five risks you might take—and how you can recover like an all-star when it doesn’t work out.

1. Accepting an Assignment Beyond Your Level or Workload

You’ve found yourself on your boss’ “Most Trusted” list and been handed an incredible opportunity. The problem? The project has unreachable goals or requires much more expertise or time than you’re capable of. Now you have to tell your boss it won’t be completed the way they wanted it to be.

How to Recover

Level with your manager that this isn’t likely going to be done on time or with their expected results. Provide constructive feedback and offer a more realistic solution (say, pushing the deadline back or bringing in another team member), and decide together whether the project is still salvageable.

(And the next time your boss comes calling, make the expectations super clear before you agree to the assignment.)

Read More: This Is the Email to Send When You’re About to Miss a Big Deadline

2. Applying for an Internal Transfer (and Then Not Getting It)

You let your boss know you’re looking to switch teams and applied, but then you didn’t get the role. Now you have to go back to your manager and convince them you’re still happy to work for them.

How to Recover

Approach your manager to let them know that you weren’t looking to leave their team, rather that you saw an internal opportunity that you just couldn’t pass up. If you were given feedback when you were turned down, discuss it with them—and if there are opportunities to improve within your current role and develop those skills that appealed to you in the transfer role, ask your boss if she’s open to that conversation.

Regardless, show that you’re satisfied with your position by doing your best possible work and putting in 110% effort.

Read More: How to Have the Career Commitment Talk With Your Boss

3. Escalating an Issue Above Your Boss

You brought an issue to your manager a while ago but it hasn’t been dealt with, or you need to call their conduct into question. Your only option is to go above them to their manager, but that puts you in a tricky spot—should your boss find out what you did.

How to Recover

Give your supervisor some time to reflect before approaching to provide context on why you took the issue above them. Clarify that it wasn’t personal and remind them—politely, of course—of the times you tried to take the issue to them, or why you felt conflicted about their conduct. Ask if there’s a more effective way that you can communicate this and be open to what they suggest.

Read More: Is it Ever OK to Go Over Your Boss’ Head?

4. Disagreeing With Senior Leadership Publicly

Sometimes you hear an idea from someone higher-up than you that’s just a little too out there. If you’re the type to be vocal about this—or, rather, it accidentally slipped out that you think your boss’ new proposal is a “terrible idea”—you might find yourself falling out of favor with key members of your team.

How to Recover

Sit down with whoever you disagreed with one-on-one. When you meet, be sincere and apologize for what you said and how and when you said it. If sitting down isn’t an option, consider sending an email.

If they’re open to it, provide constructive feedback as to where you felt the project, initiative, or task fell short, and come prepared with a well-thought-out alternative. 

Read More: How to Disagree With Your Boss (Without Getting Fired)

5. Speaking Out on an Unethical or Uncomfortable Situation

Taking a stand for your ethics can be a huge integrity move. But whether you called out a co-worker, your manager, or group of colleagues, your reputation might take a hit—socially and professionally.

How to Recover

If you find yourself caught in the aftermath, your best route is to talk it out with the person. Express why you felt uncomfortable with their behavior and help them understand how their actions put you in a compromising position. Then, figure out together how you can avoid this situation moving forward.

Read More: This Is the Best Way to React to a Request From Your Boss That Makes You Feel Uneasy

You’ll notice a pattern here: Good communication is key to getting over any tough hurdle, and a successful conversation can go a long way in repairing even the worst outcomes.

But ultimately the best thing we can do is learn and grow from these mistakes. We can’t walk around on eggshells for our entire career, nor should we take the exact same risks as before. Use your second chance to make smarter decisions—and the experience of bouncing back to remind yourself that nothing you do can’t be fixed.