Is That Mistake Really The Employee's Fault?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Everybody makes mistakes. The way you handle the mistakes made by your team members will determine how successful you are as a manager. By extension, your attitude and response when dealing with mistakes will also impact the future performance of your team members.

Your team members typically don't mean to make mistakes on purpose. They usually understand that a mistake will reflect badly on them and on the team. In some cases, your team members may not realize they’ve made a mistake, reminds Bill Howatt who writes for the Globe and Mail.

If you notice your cost accountant has been assigning the van pool expense to only one department instead of spreading it across many departments, she may not know any better. Talk to your accountant about her understanding of the expense assignment process. If she believes she's allocating expenses properly, what you have is a failure of training. Take the time to explain how you want the expenses allocated. If the process is complex, ask the accountant to let you review her work after each step. The step-​by-​step review will reinforce the learning process.

How should you react after you discover a more serious mistake? Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire Collaborative Services, recommends the ‘praise publicly, correct privately’ approach. If you first hear about an issue in a big meeting, think before you speak. It would be easy to lose your cool after you learn that a sales rep told an important client nobody would be available to help on a technical issue after hours. You may be tempted to call out the employee, in public, especially if you’re feeling stressed about losing the client. Instead, ask the employee to check in with you after the meeting.

Listen hard to his explanation so you can understand his thought process. Did he believe the client was out of bounds? Did he think he was saving the company money? Once you understand where he is coming from, you can acknowledge what he did right. Then, explain what he needs to change. No matter how angry you are, don't raise your voice and don't make threats. This is not the appropriate venue for you to show your emotions.

You should be in a teaching mode. Make your employee responsible for reaching out to the client to correct the misunderstanding. To maintain your team member’s trust, support him through the process. Ask him how it went and praise him for correcting the situation.

This management approach will build trust and loyalty with your team members.