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Your Employee Made a Mistake—Here’s What to Do Now

Even your best employees will make mistakes. It happens, whether they’re star employees or just your average Joes. How management addresses the situation can make all the difference in helping your employee get back on track, and in turn, create a more productive and meaningful team.

Once an employee has made a mistake, whether it’s showing up late repeatedly, not completing a task for a client, or simply cutting corners, you have to act quickly but thoughtfully. These can be sensitive conversations that many managers feel uncomfortable having. That’s why we put together a few tips to help you begin to address the situation directly with the employee. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Don’t assume.

Snap judgments only produce blame—not solutions. Begin the discussion as an open conversation and ask questions rather than making accusations:

  • What could you have done to produce a better outcome?
  • In your words, what happened?
  • What can your team do or what resources would help you in the future?

Don’t wait.

Waiting until the problem builds up is never the solution. For an employee to grow, they need feedback. That includes both positive and negative feedback. Rather than waiting until something negative occurs, as soon as you notice a mistake or potential problem, it needs to be addressed.

Do consider past performance.

Has the employee had a series of issues? Have they had great performance and reviews from colleagues until now? This is something to consider. If an employee has had multiple issues in recent months, it may be time for an official write-up and documented action. For employees who have had better performance, consider giving them a warning.

Do be mindful of your language.

When discussing the mistake, start with a positive comment. Let the employee know they you notice more about their performance than the mistake. When it comes to discussing the negative, be sure not to speak over or interrupt the employee while they are speaking and avoid accusative language.

In any situation, it’s important to get to the bottom of why the mistake was made and how it can be prevented in the future. With regular feedback and a supportive team, nearly every employee will flourish.

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