Four Ways to Handle Mistakes At Work

Four Ways to Handle Mistakes At Work

This post might provide some good insight to anyone who has made a mistake at work. We've all done it. And that one mistake you made at work may not be the last. After all we are human.

For most of us who make mistakes at work, this can trigger the 'catastrophic world is ending response'. For others, they shrug and get on with things.

 I tend to fancy the former.

There's a fine line between making an unintentional mistake at work, and skirting the line of doing something unethical, intentionally or not.

As we start heading back into the office and figuring out what our “new normal” will be, the likelihood of making mistakes, and a misfiring of communications is very likely. As companies begin managing a differing state of flux, there may be moments of misalignment.

Mistakes are going to be made. So it's a good time to remind employees and stakeholders of the behaviours expected of them now and how to avoid some common workplace mistakes.

  • Mistakes in Workplace Safety

Workplace safety mistakes can be quite common and can involve any concern with the safety at the workplace, and health and welfare of people engaged in the workplace. Some commonly seen workplace safety mistakes can include obstructing an exit route, inadequate guarding of moving machine parts, lack of record keeping, and improper reporting of injuries or illnesses.

This is especially important as companies try to navigate rules and regulations around COVID, and ever changing health guidelines. It's important that employers put adequate safety measures in place, especially for employees who are working on the front lines so they know what safety mistakes not to make.

  • Mistaken Fraud

Mistakes can happen when it comes to financial matters. But fraud is always a concern for businesses and can involve willfully withholding assets for the purpose of using them for personal gain, pocketing money from a cash register, or vendors giving employees money in exchange for continued service. Businesses can incorporate rules and boundaries with specific job roles to ensure that no financial mishaps happen, intentionally or not.

  • Make No Mistake About Inclusion

Every employee will have their own fears about what the workplace should look like, or how they feel coming back into a public workspace. And these fears will vary from one employee to the next. Try to set an open and inclusive culture where all employees needs are met. And don't skimp on what might seem trivial to management, because it may not be trivial to your valued employee. They should feel like they belong and are accepted in the workplace no matter their fears.

What can management do when mistakes are made?

According to this article, here are some easy steps to take:

Be proactive

As soon as you know you've made a mistake, try to address it before it gets out of hand. Being proactive will show your team that you are aware of the problem, and this will relieve others from that all too familiar discomfort of bringing it to your attention. Being proactive and reaching out to those who have been impacted by your mistake will show them that you are making an effort to create a better workspace.


Saying sorry and offering a genuine apology that acknowledges your mistake is not a weakness in character. A rule of thumb to apologizing is to never be defensive or make your apology about yourself. Those around you only care about your impact, not your intent.

Making amends with those impacted

You will rebuild trust if your mistake is corrected. Be open with those around you about what you've learned, and how things will be different. Without making any correction, any apology is worthless, and people will quickly lose trust in you. People tend to remember faults rather than strengths. This makes it even more important to never ignore a mistake you made and to take action quickly to make things better. 

Using a Whistleblower Hotline to Learn About Mistakes

A whistleblower hotline is more than a tool for employees to voice their concerns. For many people, speaking up publicly about any wrongs they see, or inconsistencies they witness can be hard. And if an employee is on the receiving end of a mistake, or impacted by a mistake, and does feel scared to confront their colleague, using a whistleblower hotline as a suggestion box, or comment box can alert their colleague of the situation. This way, that colleague making the mistake is given the best possible opportunity to acknowledge the mistake, rectify it, and learn from it. Using a whistleblower hotline ensures that problems are handled internally and that staff do not feel deterred to report something unjust or illegal, or just a plain mistake.

To learn more about implementing a whistleblower hotline to help rectify mistakes and enable employees to freely voice any concerns, contact us today.


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photo Amanda Nieweler
About the Author
Amanda writes for WhistleBlower Security about ethics, compliance, workplace culture, and whistleblower hotlines. Amanda brings her nearly two decades of risk and compliance experience to the WBS blog where she is dedicated to helping people and companies promote speak-up cultures.