A couple of years into my career, I attended a seminar where the speaker offered the following advice when you’ve made a mistake at work:
1. Inform your manager as soon as you discover the mistake. The longer you wait the worse it will be for you and the company. The sooner management is aware of the mistake the sooner they can fix it or make plans to lesson the damage. Also, the longer you wait the longer you carry around all that stress. It isn’t good for you.
2. Do whatever you can to minimize the damage.
3. Put the mistake into perspective. Consider will this matter a year from now.
For many years I followed this advice and it has always made a difference.
On the last working day of 2011, I again had the opportunity to put this advice into play. I wired too much money to a vendor. This was a big mistake. It was the last day of the year and we were managing every penny in our company’s bank account in order to have a positive cash balance on our year-end financial statements. Plus, wires are like sending cash, once the money is gone from your account it is gone. Here is what occurred after I made the mistake:
I did not discover the error. My boss did. He called me after I emailed him the wire confirmation, informing me I wired the wrong amount. I immediately went online and tried to cancel the transaction. It was too late. I tried calling my bank representative. She was on vacation. I called our bank’s wire division. I wasn’t allowed to speak to them without a password. My boss gave me his. By using his password I compromised it and it became invalid. They would no longer speak to me or my boss. I called our bank manager. He was able to verify the wire had gone through and that he was unable to call it back. He would have the bank contact the wire recipient and ask them to reject the wire. He did tell me the vendor did not have to do this. While I waited:
I contemplated whether this will matter a year from now - probably not if we were able to get our money back today. I thought about the woman in
Friday nights she stayed especially late for self-criticism. In these sessions members of her work unit – the department to which she was assigned - would stand up and reveal to the group anything she had done wrong. It was the Communist version of the Catholic confessional. Mrs. Song would usually say, in all sincerity, that she feared she wasn’t working hard enough. (Page 43)I was comforted knowing that I did not live in North Korea.
Our bank finally contacted me, the vendor had rejected the wire, the money was back in our account and I was able to resend the wire with the correct dollar amount.
What did I learn from this?
When I am not sure about something I need to ask questions and not assume.
I was confused by the voided check I had been provided as backup for placing the wire. It was not the standard format I use to wire money. I wired the amount of the voided check rather than scribbled amount hand written at the bottom of the check. I should have went back to the manager and said, “I am to wire x amount to account # blah blah blah and use routing number x correct.”
I need to stay off social networking sites while at work.
In Alison Green of Ask A Manager's post 8 New Year's Resolutions for Your Career she writes:
Stop playing online. If you’re using social networking sites or instant-messaging with friends throughout the workday, it’s impacting your work. Sure, maybe you’re still getting the basics done, but you don’t want to just do the basics—you want to build a stellar reputation as someone who routinely exceeds expectations, because that’s what will give you job security and open up future opportunities.Now I am not on Facebook or Twitter while at work, but I do spend time reading blogs and articles online. The problem is I spend time thinking about what I read and not concentrating on my work, which has led to mistakes.
Have you made a "Big" mistake at work? Do you have any additional pointers to help prevent mistakes or advice on how to bounce back quickly? If so please share.