How to Help When an Employee Makes a Mistake

By Brittany Loeffler on May 1, 2020

While some mistakes are avoidable, employees making mistakes now and then is unavoidable. We are only human and make mistakes from time to time. However, when it comes to employees making mistakes in the workplace, the consequences can be dire. Whether it’s not meeting a deadline, adding a wrong number to a spreadsheet that throws off data, or whatever it may be, as a manager or supervisor, it’s important to know how to help employees recover after making mistakes.

It’s easy to get angry and reprimand your employees, but what makes a great leader is helping your employees avoid making mistakes and feel comfort in knowing that their mistake won’t be held against them forever.

employee makes a mistake

via Unsplash

First Offenses

We’ve already covered the basics – everyone makes mistakes. Nobody is immune to it. So, when it comes to an employee making a mistake for the first time, it serves as a learning experience. Hopefully, if they are attentive and self-aware, they will never make the mistake again.

As someone in your role, you should acknowledge that the employee has made a mistake, but don’t harp on it. Simply let them know of their mistake and encourage them not to make it again. Let them know they need to be more careful.

Second Warnings

It’s when your employees keep making the same mistake that it’s time to intervene and give them warnings. This can be in the form of a verbal or written warning. Let your employees know that if they keep making the same mistake over and over again that there will be serious consequences. Explain to them how their mistake ripples through the company and how it affects other employees. Making a mistake once is acceptable, making it twice means that person should be held accountable.

Offer Solutions

Instead of reprimanding your employee for making a mistake, sit down and have a conversation with them. Let them know some strategies for solutions as to how to avoid making the mistake again. If your employee missed an important deadline, offer solutions for time management or how to increase their productivity. Assure them that if they think they may miss a deadline to talk to you about it so you both can work something out to make sure the deadline is met.

A good leader doesn’t always let their employees figure things out on their own. They need some guidance.

Don’t Hold a Grudge

There are some people who obsess over embarrassing occurrences or mistakes that they have made in the past. This can take a toll on their mental health and their confidence, especially at work. You want your employees to be sharp and confident in their jobs, so do not hold a grudge against someone. When an employee makes a mistake, address it once, forgive them, and move on from it. Don’t keep bringing it up or making sly comments about it at the office Christmas party. When you move on from it, your employee will be able to move on also.

Limit Opportunities for Mistakes

Examine your business processes and identify areas where mistakes are most likely to happen. Once you’ve identified this, you can work on your processes to limit those opportunities for mistakes. When you work to find solutions to mistakes before they happen, your employees will be less likely to make them.

If you cannot find a way to prevent mistakes, put a plan in place for when mistakes do happen. How can you handle the situation? How will you fix the mistake?

Be a Great Leader

When you take on the role of a supervisor or manager, you take on the responsibility of being a leader. There are good leaders and there are poor leaders. It’s your decision as to which one you want to be. As a good leader, you will be empathetic when an employee makes a mistake. You will work through the mistake with them and offer solutions to avoid it in the future. You should be admired rather than completely feared by your employees. Employees should feel comfortable coming to you with issues they may experience at work and trust that you keep a calm and helpful approach. Be the kind of leader you would want to work for.

Recovering from Mistakes

Some mistakes at work can be pretty serious while others are just mere annoyances. No matter the scale of the mistake, as a manager or supervisor, you should be able to help your employees recover from it. Offer solutions to avoid making the mistake again. Let them move on from making the mistake by forgiving and forgetting about it. Identify opportunities where mistakes can be made and either take those opportunities away or plan on how to fix it. Lastly, be a good leader to your employees.

By Brittany Loeffler

Uloop Writer
Brittany is a senior English major with a concentration in creative writing at Temple University. After growing up in a very rural part of Pennsylvania, she found her calling in the streets of the big city of Philadelphia. Aside from writing, she enjoys reading, movies, baking, and photography.

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