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Making mistakes on the job

Updated on January 25, 2015


I've done almost everything wrong while learning a new job. I've broken the shredder, jammed the photocopier, spilled coffee all over the desk, dropped a glass of water onto the keyboard, misfiled papers, tossed out important documents,  corrupted electronic files, even plugged up the toilet --- the list goes on. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it.

So I can tell you from firsthand experience it's not the end of the world. These tips may help you handle the situation with grace.

Everyone makes mistakes, they say. Usually you can correct your error or just forget about it and move on. Making a mistake at work, however, can be more serious. It may cause problems for your employer and even affect the company's bottom line. Repercussions will ultimately trickle down to you. Simply correcting your mistake and moving on may not be an option. When you make a mistake at work your career may depend on what you do next.

Admit Your Mistake: Tell your boss about your mistake immediately. The only exception is if you make an insignificant error that will not affect anyone. Otherwise, don't try to hide your mistake. You will look terrible if someone else discovers it.

Present Your Boss With a Plan To Fix Your Mistake: When you go to your boss to confess your mistake, you must have a plan for correcting it. Present your plan clearly. Tell how long it will take to implement your plan and if there are any costs involved.

Don't Blame Anyone Else for Your Mistake: Pointing fingers won't help anyone if you make a mistake. Encourage those who may share responsibility to follow your lead in confessing to your boss.

Apologize for Your Mistake But Don't Beat Yourself Up: There's a big difference between admitting your mistake and beating yourself up about it. Take responsibility but don't berate yourself for making it, especially in public.

Correct Your Mistake on Your Own Time: If you have to spend extra hours at work to correct your mistake, don't expect to be paid for that time. You can also use your lunch hour or come into work early.



I think the worst thing you can do is to avoid admitting your mistake, to cover up the problem. Or to act as if it is not your fault.

Trivializing the error is frowned upon. Consider this incident a learning experience. If you don't know what you did wrong, take the time to investigate. It can be a good opportunity to shine, the way you handle your mistake could impress your supervisor and may set a good example for others. Who knows, your supervisor could learn a thing or two from this.

But at the same time don't make a big deal out of it, don't dwell on the mistake, don't keep bringing up the scenario time after time. Nothing could be more annoying.

The mistake may be something everyone has trouble with. You could offer a solution in this case. Give it a try.

Some managers micromanage hoping to avoid mistakes. This is a tricky situation. I've been there. Approaching your manager and having a brief discussion may clear the air, with a supportive attitude you may both gain a better understanding of each other. I wish you luck with this one.


A new job can be stressful enough without worrying that you’re going to make errors. Everyone makes mistakes because no one is perfect. The best thing that you can do is to put forth your greatest effort to not make any. If you’re starting a new job, there are some simple things that you can try in order to avoid making mistakes.

Learning from the errors that you’ve made in the past is one way to avoid making mistakes at your new job. You should evaluate what was done incorrectly, why it happened, and how you can go about not doing it again. When you attempt to learn from all of your mistakes, you can help to prevent them from happening again.

When you’re at your new job, you should make time to take a few deep breaths when things start to get hectic. If you’re stressed, anxious and tense you may start to make mistakes. Whether you’re at your desk, in an empty room or outside, deep breathing may help to calm you down so you can avoid making any errors.

From the moment that you’re hired you should start taking notes. Some employers will even give you quick tidbits of information during the interview. Take notes on how you should dress, office procedures, deadlines and any other relevant information in order to avoid making mistakes. You can look back on your notes whenever you need them so you don’t have to rely on your memory alone.

If you want to avoid making mistakes at your new job you should double check your work before turning it over to the next person. In some cases, it only takes a few extra minutes to look for any errors. It’s better to take a little time to review your work instead of taking chances by handing it in with possible mistakes.



So you've discovered a mistake that someone else made. Now what do you do. Should you ignore it, confront the person or report it to a manager. Once you decide to report it you've become the bearer of bad news -- not a favorable role. In this case, report it as promptly as possible. You may be asked how, when and why you came across this. Keep this in mind: Why did you and not someone else make the discovery could be in question. So try to point out the mistake as discreetly and as tactfully as possible keeping in mind it may come back to haunt you.

It's wise to give some thought to these things before you report the mistake.

Good luck!


Overcoming Work Mistakes: Learn How To Speak Up And Move On

Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      That's way more clever than I was expenticg. Thanks!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Very nice site!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Very nice post. I certainly appreciate this website. edcdddefeked

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like the sentence "bearer of bad news---not favorable". In deed never thought that you are hero if you catch someone fault and spread to the ruler....In fact you are going to be unfavorable for all people.

    • Tranquilheart profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi teaches12345, thanks for your comment and your support. Cheers!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      This is good info. I always teach students to admit their mistakes on the job before it comes around seeking you. Everyone makes mistakes.

    • Tranquilheart profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Glad you like this hub, Martie


    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Indeed, nobody is perfetc! Great advice.


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