Employee Mistakes: Reaction Dos & Don’ts

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No matter how hard you try to prevent it, your employees will make mistakes. Even in the most constructive and supportive environments, employees will get something wrong, make a miscalculation, lose something, or otherwise cause an issue— it’s inevitable.

Given this inevitability, it’s important that you, as a business owner, learn how to react when these mistakes occur. Below, you will find a list of essential “dos” and “don’ts” to keep in mind when responding to a genuinely accidental error committed by a member of your team. Keep these in mind, and you should be able to respond appropriately to every employee-related glitch that your business experiences…

DO: Focus on damage limitation

The first thing you need to do when informed of a mistake is ask for information. There are four primary questions you need to either ask of your staff, or get them to ask of themselves.

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?

You then need to find the answers to the following; either through working the solutions yourself, or instructing employees to do it on your behalf.

  • What are the consequences of the mistake?
  • How can these consequences be handled?

Going through these questions should be the first thing you do, even before you speak with the employee who made the mistake. It’s vital you fix the issue, and then you can move on to dealing with the existence of the issue in the first place.

DON’T: Lose your temper

Of course, this is easier said than done. If an employee has accidentally offended a customer, lost a vital document, or misunderstood a task they were asked to complete, you’re going to feel a surge of stress as you try to cope with their error. When stressed, it’s more likely that your temper will flare.

This, however, is incredibly counterproductive. When it comes to speaking to your employee, do all that you can to keep you temper in check. There’s a few strategies to help you achieve this here.

DO: Look into how such an error can be prevented in the future

It’s always worth asking the employee in question how they think the problem could have been avoided. The answers will vary depending on the issue. If a customer has been offended accidentally, then sensitivity training might be beneficial; the loss of a vital file could be prevented with document automation software; and a misunderstood task could be briefed better in future. Walk through what happened with the employee, then strategize as to what kind of fix might be most appropriate.

DON’T: Punish someone for a genuine accident

It’s important to try and keep a sense of perspective. If the mistake has been made through a genuine accident rather than neglect or incompetence, then don’t be too hard on the employee. Mistakes are, as discussed, inevitable, so bear this in mind if you’re tempted to issue harsh disciplinary issues.

DO:  Discipline for serious errors

If the mistake has been made through a lack of judgement, neglect, or other direct fault, then discipline as you see fit. You don’t have to just accept a poor work attitude from an employee, so use this error as a teachable moment that should ultimately encourage them to mend their ways.

In conclusion

If you keep the above in mind, you can be sure that you will be able to effectively cope with all employee mistakes.

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