Handling Mistakes Made On The Job
It happens to all of us sooner or later. Somewhere along the line you're going to make
a mistake on the job. This might be disconnecting the company's most prominent
client while on the phone, authorizing an incorrect shipment of merchandise, or
maybe simply spelling your president's name incorrectly on a letter you type.
Whatever the case may be, you need to decide how you're going to handle it.
First off, the mistake may be brought to your attention in a number of different ways.
Perhaps your immediate supervisor will come to you with the news, or you may hear
about it from an out-of-company contact, or you might catch it yourself, albeit a little
late. It all depends on the mistake that has been made.
In all cases, however, the way you handle the matter can tell a lot about your level of
professionalism and job loyalty.
You might try to evade the issue. Perhaps you'll tell your supervisor that the task
was not properly explained in the first place. Chances are, this method, whether true
or not, will not be the most constructive. Even if the task was not properly explained,
you have the responsibility to ask key questions before, during and upon completion
of the task if need be. Putting the blame on your supervisor will not cast you in a
very good light.
Another tactic is to blame someone else. Perhaps the task required a number of
people to complete. Surely one of these people should have caught the mistake
before completion. Again, by placing the blame on others, you send a certain
message to your supervisor; you are not willing to take responsibility for your
How about admitting your fault? Surely that isn't the answer! Oh, but it is!
Managers are concerned with mistakes. Even more so, however, they are concerned
with ensuring that mistakes are not repeated. By admitting your fault you're saying
that you are willing to take responsibility and you're willing to work on methods to
make sure the mistake is never duplicated.
What about mentioning how you feel about the mistake? Again, this is not a bad
idea. Letting your supervisor know that you feel terrible about making the mistake in
the first place will most likely help them see that you realize the significance of your
error and that you will be more careful in the future.
Nobody's perfect. You might be close, but let's be real here. Mistakes are going to
happen. It's a fact. You will need to deal with the consequences one way or
another. That's also a fact. Just remember that the way in which you deal with a
mistake may have widespread ramifications on your possible future with a company.
Your mom was right, honesty really is the best policy!