Four Ways to Handle Mistakes At Work

Four Ways to Handle Mistakes At Work

Making mistakes at work is a natural part of the learning process. But it can be stressful and challenging to navigate. Some mistakes may have minor consequences, and others can have more significant impacts on the organization and those involved. How we respond to mistakes is critical, both as individuals and as a team. Approaching mistakes with a mindset that is open to growth and learning, can help us not only recover from the mistake but also grow and improve from the experience. In this context, it is essential to understand how leaders can help their teams handle mistakes constructively and learn from them.

This post will cover some common mistakes employees can make in the workplace, the impact of making mistakes, what do do if a mistake is made, and how employers can help prevent mistakes from happening.

What are some common mistakes that employees make in the workplace?

Any company stakeholder can make any number of mistakes in the workplace, some of which are more common than others. One common mistake is not following established procedures and protocols, such as failing to fill out required paperwork or neglecting to follow safety protocols. Another mistake is poor communication, which can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and other issues. Employees may also make mistakes related to management of accounts or finances which, if left unchecked, can have serious repercussions to the organization. Another common mistake is not taking ownership of any blunders and failing to learn from them, which can lead to recurring issues and a lack of personal and professional growth. The following is a better explanation of the more common mistakes made in the workplace and what their impacts are if not handled immediately.

Mistakes in Workplace Safety

Making a workplace safety mistake can have serious consequences like causing bodily injury or harm to oneself, and others in the workplace. Some common workplace safety mistakes many organizations see include not wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), not following proper procedures or protocols, and not properly storing or handling hazardous materials. Mistakes like these can result in accidents such as slips, falls, cuts, burns, and even something more serious. It is important to take workplace safety seriously and to always follow proper protocols and procedures to ensure the safety of the entire workplace. If a mistake is made, it is important to report it to a supervisor immediately and to take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Reporting workplace safety issues is critical to ensuring a safe working environment. Whistleblower hotlines are a tool that employees can use to report unsafe conditions, behaviors that may not only put others and the organization at risk, but that also violate company policies and locally or federally mandated regulations. Whistleblower hotlines provide an anonymous and confidential way for employees to report concerns without fear of retaliation. Reporting workplace safety issues via a whistleblower hotline can help to identify potential hazards, prevent accidents and injuries, and promote a culture of safety in the workplace. It is important for employees to know that they have a right to report workplace safety concerns without fear of retaliation, and that employers have a responsibility to investigate and address those concerns promptly and effectively.

Inadvertently Participating in Fraud

Inadvertently participating in fraud in the workplace can have serious consequences, both legally and professionally. Fraud involves intentionally deceiving or misleading others for personal or financial gain, and if you are unknowingly involved, it is important to take action immediately. Inadvertent participation can occur if you are not aware of the fraudulent activity taking place. However, you are still engaging in conduct that contributes to the fraud. It is important to report any suspicious or known activity to a supervisor or the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. Failure to report fraudulent activity can result in legal and ethical consequences, including possible fines, legal action, and damage to your professional reputation.

Using an anonymous reporting channel is an effective way to help organizations identify, address, and reduce the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Anonymous hotlines allow individuals to report suspected fraud or misconduct without fear of retaliation. Anonymous hotlines can be particularly helpful in identifying fraud that may not otherwise be detected through regular audits or internal controls. It is important to note that whistleblowers are often protected by law from retaliation for reporting suspected fraud or misconduct. Therefore, if you have knowledge of fraudulent activity or suspect that fraud may be occurring, consider reporting it through a whistleblower hotline.

How can mistakes at work impact an employee's career?

Mistakes at work can have significant consequences on an employee's career. Depending on the severity of the mistake, an employee may face disciplinary action, including written warnings, suspension, or termination of employment. Even minor mistakes can damage an employee's (and employer's) reputation and affect their chances of promotion or advancement within the company. Repeated mistakes can indicate a lack of attention to detail, poor work ethic, or a lack of understanding of the job requirements, which can negatively impact an employee's performance evaluation and career growth opportunities. Mistakes can also erode trust with colleagues, managers, and clients, damaging professional relationships and hindering future collaborations. Owning up to mistakes, taking responsibility for them and working to correct them can demonstrate integrity, accountability, and a commitment to personal and professional growth. This can positively impact an employee's career advancement opportunities.

What should employees do if they make a mistake at work?

When mistakes are made at work, there are several steps employees can proactively take to address the situation:

  • Take responsibility: Acknowledge the mistake and take responsibility for it. Avoiding or denying a mistake can make the situation worse and damage the employee's reputation
  • Notify the appropriate person: If the mistake has the potential to impact others, the employee should notify their supervisor or relevant colleagues immediately
  • Develop a plan of action: The employee should work with their supervisor or team to develop a plan of action to address the mistake and prevent it from happening again in the future. This plan should include identifying the root cause of the mistake and taking corrective measures
  • Learn from the experience: Mistakes can be valuable learning opportunities. Employees should reflect on what led to the mistake and identify ways to prevent similar errors in the future
  • Move forward: Once the mistake has been addressed, it's important to move forward and continue to focus on work tasks. Avoid dwelling on the mistake or letting it impact job performance

Overall, taking responsibility for the mistake, notifying relevant parties, and working to address the issue can help employees learn and grow from their mistakes and demonstrate a commitment to personal and professional growth.

How employers can help prevent mistakes from happening in the workplace

When mistakes happen at work, leaders play a critical role in how they respond to and handle the situation. Leaders should create a workplace culture that acknowledges and accepts mistakes as a natural part of daily operations. Leaders can set the tone for their team by demonstrating empathy and compassion towards those involved, and avoiding blame or criticism. Leaders should also encourage open communication, allowing employees to express their concerns and share ideas on how to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. Leaders should work with their team to develop a plan of action to rectify any mistakes and prevent them from happening again. This plan should include identifying the root cause of the mistake, implementing corrective measures, and creating a process for ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Addressing Workplace Mistakes

This article references some steps to address mistakes:

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. 

By handling mistakes in a constructive and supportive manner, leaders can help build a culture of continuous improvement and encourage their team to learn from their mistakes and grow both personally and professionally.

Using a Whistleblower Hotline to Help Identify Mistakes

Whistleblower hotlines are used in many organizations to report suspected misconduct or fraudulent activity can help these organizations identify trends in the workplace. By tracking the types of allegations that are reported, organizations can identify potential areas of risk and take proactive measures to address them. For example, if several reports are received about a particular department or individual, it may indicate a systemic problem that requires further investigation. Hotline data can also be analyzed to identify patterns or trends over time, allowing organizations to identify areas of improvement or potential policy changes. Whistleblower hotlines can provide organizations with valuable feedback from employees, which can help improve the overall work environment and increase employee engagement. By regularly reviewing and analyzing hotline data, organizations can identify potential issues early on and take proactive measures to address them, ultimately improving the overall health and success of the organization.

To learn more about implementing a whistleblower hotline, 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.

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