One thing is universally true in the world of business; mistakes happen. Even your top performers will have the occasional misstep, and you’ve likely had your fair share of mistakes, too, during your career.
As a manager, knowing how to properly handle employee mistakes is essential. The goal should be to balance the need to address the issue with ensuring workers feel valued and supported, something that’s often a bit tricky. If you don’t know where to begin, here’s how to approach employee mistakes.
Start with Reassurance
Whether an employee informs you that they made an error or you learn about it through other channels, the first step you should take with the worker is to reassure them. Let them know that mistakes are something that happens to everyone but that it’s also essential to address the issue quickly. This strategy ensures that placing blame isn’t the immediate focus and shifts the spotlight onto what needs to happen next, essentially transitioning the conversation to center on solutions.
After reassuring the employee, it’s time to gather information. Ask them questions to learn more about what occurred. Practice active listening to ensure you’re hearing what’s shared. Paraphrase what you’re told to make sure you have a full grasp of what happened and ask clarifying questions as needed until you have a clear picture.
During this part of the conversation, concentrate on the situation, not only the people involved. Again, it’s not about assigning blame; the goal is to find out what occurred, ensuring you have the information necessary to make corrections quickly.
Teach the Employee
If the employee doesn’t realize that what they did was ultimately a mistake, you can speak to that point during the discussion. The goal is to focus on facts. Explain what policies the action violated or how it negatively impacted a customer, client, or company. With this, the goal is to teach the employee so that they understand why the error is a problem, giving them information that will help them avoid similar missteps in the future.
Get Solution Input
After the employee outlines what happened and understands why the incident is a mistake, ask if they have any potential solutions. Doing so, turns the misstep into a coachable moment. It teaches the worker to find viable answers and learn how to address similar situations in the future should they occur. Plus, it often casts a light on how to avoid those types of errors down the road, preventing mistakes later.
Reflect on the Situation
Once a solution is identified and implemented, spend time reflecting on the situation and outlining any contributing factors. For example, determine if there were processes in place that weren’t ideal or if there were obstacles in the way that made the mistake hard to avoid. By doing so, you have the ability to see if specific areas need improvement, reducing the odds that similar missteps will occur in the future.
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