Things to Do to Ameliorate Your Mistakes at the Office
I remember my biggest oops ever since I joined The Company. It was when I was tasked with finding alternatives to several office equipments. I easily found them over the Web and gave my boss several recommendations. He agreed to my suggestions and sent me to compose an internal memo to the guys at procurement. I quickly submit the letter back to get his signature on it and there went the memo along the requisite red-tape.
About a week later, my boss summoned me to his office and asked, “I just called procurement and one of the guys said that our request was green-lighted and the orders has been taken to their designated suppliers. But he said that our price estimate for one of the items on our request was over by half. Did we quote the right price?” “I think so, Boss. Let me check my archives just to be sure.” I shot to my PC and opened my saved webpages from my earlier research. You see, I saved every webpage I visit during my research and named each one of them according to the product name. I opened the questionable item’s saved page and there it was displaying my glaring mistake: I had mistakenly saved the page with the name of a lesser class of the product. Dang! I entered the correct price but labeled it with the wrong item!
To make a long story short, I went back to my boss, – sweating, of course – admitted my mistake and apologized, some calls were made and the lapse was straightened out. I learned my lesson and today I found a blog entry about ten actions that would’ve helped me more back then. I think the most important things for me are:
- #1: If possible, come up with a plan to fix the problem. Don’t just walk away and wash your hands of the situation. True, other people might have to be involved in solving the problem. However, if you caused the problem, you are responsible for coming up with the plan to resolve it. The plan needs to address the actions that need to occur, the people who need to take them, and the amount of time you think the actions will take.
- #4 & #8: Tell the affected parties and apologize to them. Let those affected by your mistake know what happened, but spare the technical details for now. Instead, focus on how the situation affects them: what limitations are in place, what functions are unavailable, and how long these limitations and lack of function are expected to last. Most important, offer any workarounds you can. Ask for their suggestions as well. Also, taking a second to apologize will go a long way toward restoring you to good graces.
- #7: Prepare and issue a “lessons learned” document. “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Maybe you’ve heard these or similar sayings. Their point is clear: We need to understand the mistake we made so that we can avoid it in the future. Documenting the mistake, and the steps taken to resolve it, are key in this regard. In doing so, be sure to cover the conditions that led to the mistake, the steps taken to correct it, and the measures taken to prevent its recurrence.