There’s nothing worse than making a mistake at work, and having someone announce it to the whole world (at least, that’s the way I have been made to feel before).  When you are new at a job, it’s better if your supervisor comes to you in private and explains the error in a way that you understand and won’t repeat.  We are all human, and mistakes, errors, failures, and deficiencies are all realities and “facts of life”.   I have been fortunate enough in my many years of work to have had some excellent and very patient mentors. 

Fixing and preventing mistakes on the job is everybody’s business.  Teamwork is a way to combat mistakes.  Be honest with your co-workers and ask for their advice and feedback.  How do you treat others when they make a mistake?  Is it the way you want to be treated when you make yours?  Many successful persons have made mistakes and know that others will, too.  

Don’t blame others when you are wrong.  Take a step back when you mess up, and regroup.  Learn from this, and carry on.  After all, we are all human.  Don’t criticize others or constantly blame someone else.  Think about how you are going to take corrective action by: first, fixing it; second, keeping it from happening again, and third, sharing what was learned from the experience with others in your workplace. 

You hear all the time about foods, medicines, vehicles, and other items being recalled.  Someone, somewhere, made a mistake.  Thankfully, it can be fixed if we pay attention to those recalls.  Regardless of the reason, a product was not doing the task for which it was intended or designed, and continued use may risk life, quality of life, or property.   Oversight, even with computerization, can still occur.   Some occupational safety errors can be serious and may not be fixable.  We must all be vigilant about this type of mistake.

One of the reasons we falter is by taking on a workload that is too heavy to be accomplished successfully.  Don’t feel that you are a bad employee.  Ask your supervisor for advice as to how you can remedy work overload.  The tasks may be divided up with others, or done during different times – many times a new set of eyes will see things completely different than you do.  If you ask for help,  your boss will see that you are trying very hard to complete those duties.  Remember, when you make mistakes, you are doing something.  You will gain from them by not repeating them, and will try harder.  

In an excerpt from “CEO Material: How To Be A Leader in Any Organization,” by noted author and executive coach, D.A. Benton, this excellent approach to being a good leader is explained: 

  • I don’t care if people make mistakes.  I only care about what they learned.  Everybody, every day, makes mistakes or at least is imperfect.  If they avoid them, no one learns anything, and it causes everybody to be afraid to admit what they did.
  • I forgive them immediately and remind them of four or five things they did well.  My mentor taught me to reinforce the positive and de-emphasize the negative.
  • Employees who mess up are ultimately better employees because they had a second chance…like getting a dog from the pound.
  • Early on in your career, mistakes feel like a big deal.  They are seldom a big deal.  The quarterback doesn’t sit on the bench after a bad throw, does he?  No, he gets out and runs another pass.  Instead of thinking you need a machine to kick your own butt, go throw a touchdown!
  • Almost all mistakes are forgivable. 

I have certainly made my share of mistakes, and still do.  But I also have learned that most of them are “fixable” and I plan to keep on trying!  I hope you will, too.