11 February 2013

Dealing with Employee Mistakes

Rita returned to the corporate world as a financial manager in a chemical company. Although she had worked in business in the past, the previous six years had been spent as a stay-at-home mother. Eager and armed with a positive attitude, she worked hard to catch up from her long absence.

Rita’s boss, the company’s CFO, was friendly and understanding. She was more than willing to train Rita and catch her up on what she had missed. After two months on the job, Rita began to feel confident in her position, especially after having been told by her boss that her work was good. Then misfortune struck.

One Tuesday night, in a hurry to leave for her son’s footie practice, Rita tucked the payroll cheques for employees in another office in the locked filing cabinet in her office. Unfortunately, she failed to notice the date on them, which would have told her that the packet needed to be couriered overnight to meet payroll disbursement. The next day she was sick and had to take the day off work.

Back at work two days later, Rita knew something wasn’t right as soon as she walked in the door. Her boss told her that the employees at the remote office had not received their pay cheque on Wednesday (payday), and they were most unhappy. Understanding the gravity of her mistake, Rita was concerned that she might be fired. Her boss allayed her fears, and, as a result, Rita was able to come up with a solution. She drove the cheques to the office herself, a one-hour trip each way.

Rita’s very wise boss didn’t rant and rave at her, in spite of the seriousness of her error. In part because of her restraint, a reasonable solution was reached and this type of mistake never happened again. Rita went on to work for the CFO for five more years, continuing to learn valuable lessons along the way.

No matter how smart, thorough, and proactive, every employee is human, and is going to make some kind of mistake. Sometimes, the mistakes are minimal, but other times, the mistakes are more significant, requiring guidance, and even discipline. During these times, the way in which the manager handles things can either make the situation worse or become a positive influence on the employee. In Rita’s case, the way her boss handled things had a direct impact on the resolution of the problem. Her management style helped create an efficient and loyal employee, even in tough times.

The best way to interact with employees who err is to be proactive, establishing guidelines and communications that strongly reflect company values. Avoid scolding or judging, and definitely do not keep rehashing their errors. Make sure that the employee knows that he or she is still considered a valued member of the company. Even if some kind of discipline or penalty is called for, you can still discipline according to company policy while retaining a mentoring approach.

Although challenging at times, handling mistakes the right way provides an opportunity for you to be motivating to the employee while gaining respect. Since mistakes are going to happen, focus on keeping people encouraged and motivated, not beaten down. This can be accomplished by teaching ways to avoid the same mistake in the future while working with them to find solutions.





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