Mary-Cathryn’s Response to “Made a work mistake? Seven smart things to say to your boss”

Even the best employees will make mistakes at work from time to time — it’s part of being human. Leaders want their team members to come to them quickly and honestly acknowledge the issue. However, many may hesitate to do so out of a fear of punishment or damage to their reputation.

Trying to hide a mistake is never the way to go; if you share the mistake with leadership and let them know you want to help make things right, you can work together to quickly resolve the issue and minimize — perhaps eliminate — any negative consequences. To help, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share things you can say when you’ve made a mistake at work to calm the anxieties that may arise on both sides.

1. ‘Here’s exactly what happened.’

An honest explanation is what is needed from someone making a mistake. We are all human; we make mistakes. Owning a mistake is something that some people avoid. I always say, “I do not know what I do not know,” and that runs true with mistakes. If someone makes a mistake and I do not know about it, then it cannot be fixed. – Brandy McCombs, IBC

2. ‘I made a mistake, and I won’t make any excuses.’

Honesty is always the best policy. If someone makes a mistake, proactively brings it to my attention and admits to making the mistake without making excuses I will almost always work with them to find a solution. Doing this shows character and should be rewarded, not punished. Everyone makes mistakes. –Brock Berry, AdCellerant

3. ‘I need your help.’

They should say, “I have made a mistake. This is what I think we should do, and I need your help.” As a leader, you should create an environment where everyone feels safe to let you know that they have failed, and now we all get to learn from it. Fail forward fast! –Paul Herring, 101 Solutions LLC

4. ‘I want to do what I can to fix this.’

I appreciate team members who are genuine and take responsibility for their actions. Stating, “I made a mistake, but I want to do what I can to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future” is important. –Christen McCamie, Nesta Real Estate Consultants

5. ‘Here’s what I want to do to correct it.’

“I made a mistake” is half of the discussion. The other half of the conversation should include, “and here is what I can do to correct it.” Accepting responsibility is important, but so too is accepting your role in correcting the problem. Having solutions already considered lessens the anxiety associated with the original mistake. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing

6. ‘I have ideas to keep this from happening again.’

Acknowledging the error and taking responsibility for what happened is of first importance. Then the employee should offer potential solutions to the problem and action steps that will ensure that the error does not reoccur. They should come in with these solutions prepared. This shows management that they really care and know how important it is to avoid this error in the future. – Zee Ali, Z-Swag

7. ‘I have learned from this.’

Encourage a culture of honesty, integrity, and forgiveness. We’re all going to make mistakes, so confess it right away, take ownership of it, do everything you can to correct it and make it right, and then learn from it and move on. It’s important that employees see the bosses behave this way too because that will show them the company’s values in action. – Mary-Cathryn Kolb, brrrº

Original Post: Biz Journals