Managing workplace mistakes so they don’t become disasters

Blunders. Errors. Epic fails. Balls-ups. Whatever you choose to call them, workplace mistakes happen for all manner of reasons. Perhaps it’s due to lack of attention? Employee stress or fatigue? Confusion over instructions? Poor team morale and motivation? In some cases, it could even be the result of malicious employee behaviour. While you can’t always stop workplace mistakes from happening, you can certainly determine how your business chooses to react and manage the aftermath.

When workplace mistakes happen, there’s no shortage of options at your disposal. Will you come down hard on the offender/s? Make a public example of them? Launch a comprehensive internal investigation? Jump up and down before simply letting things revert back to the way they were? Or perhaps employ the psychological torment of the silent treatment? Whatever direction your business ultimately takes, remember the path you choose can have far reaching HR consequences, both good and bad.

Take the example of ‘Peter’. He’s been a senior employee in a multi-national advertising agency for more than 15 years. Given his considerable experience, he’s often entrusted with overseeing the dispatch of artwork to ensure its accuracy. But one afternoon recently he missed something. The job was for a major banking client, and the error meant his agency was forced to reprint more than 50,000 customer portfolios – delivering a five-figure hit to his agency’s bottom line. Peter was mortified, as was his immediate manager. Both feared admonishment from their CEO, or worse. But it never came. You see, instead of being reprimanded, the error was used as a brilliant case study; a crystal clear example to the entire agency of why attention to detail was imperative.

The CEO’s message was essentially, if an experienced employee like Peter could do it, anyone could. By turning a negative into a positive, it sent a powerful message. It showed leadership. It showed empathy. It showed optimism and forward-thinking. Time will tell, of course, but in our view this course of action sets a powerful precedent and is to be applauded.

By all means, do what you can to minimise costly workplace errors and mistakes. But also remember that crying over spilled milk is, in the bulk of instances, counter-productive and disruptive. It expends a lot of potentially-positive energy that could be far better spent elsewhere in your business and could even lead to further hits to your bottom line through wasted time and drops in productivity through ‘spooked’ staff.

Mistakes will always happen in business. When they do, identify the problem. Address it positively. Move on quickly.

Managing workplace mistakes so they don’t become disasters

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