How to handle mistakes like Downton Abbey

Even if you don’t watch it, surely you’ve heard of the British show Downton Abbey. Two weeks ago they released a series of publicity photos for the upcoming season and one photo in particular got all the attention, but for all the wrong reasons. The stars of the show were dressed in full period garb (the show takes place in the 1920s) but someone had left a plastic water bottle on the mantle behind the two actors. Plastic bottles of course, were not introduced until the 1960s.

As you can imagine, the internet went crazy making fun of the show for their oversight. The show could have ignored the criticism hoping that it would go away, or wait it out until the new season gets underway. Instead they responded with the picture below.


They acknowledged their mistake and had a sense of humor about the whole thing. They also took it a step further and used their fame to raise awareness for WaterAid, a UK-based non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean water to the world..

You will make mistakes in your career. We‘re humans there’s no avoiding it. The big question is how you are going to handle it. Acknowledging the mistake and genuinely trying to fix it should be the only course of action. It’s tempting to do nothing and hope the storm passes, but that can only lead to more distrust from the wronged party. And in today’s internet age that can only spread. Granted a small business’ mistake might not go viral like the initial Downton Abbey picture, but word of mouth travels fast, with or without retweets. It’s better to be proactive by owning the mistake (and maybe even laughing about it) than to let things get out of your control and wind up on the defensive.

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