You made a mistake. Should you tell your boss?Ted Blackwater ▼ | August 29, 2016
We all make mistakes at work and that's it. We will make it sooner or later, even the best experts among us will make a few now and then, that's life. And the question is: Should you tell your boss?
Difficult situation What you should do when you make a mistake
First, assess the damage.
When you make a mistake, don't just jump "I did it! I did it! Mistake!" First stop for a while and see what did you do, how serious the mistake is and how much time and money you'll need to recover from the damage. Your superior will need that information, so be prepared. That will also show that you are thinking how to make things right.
Then, admit the mistake.
Don't wait, admit it. Yes, we know, you might stand there for 15 minutes while your boss is addressing you with not so nice words, but the longer you wait, the greater damage for the company might be. Business processes are going forward and your mistake may cause a series of other bad events.
Third, go straight to the point.
No intros, no long explanations and - the most important! - no euphemism. Say what happened, what did you do and clearly state that you are well aware that you know you made a wrong move. Also, say what you should have done - it's always good to say to the boss that you know what's your job.
Fourth, don't blame somebody else, and especially don't blame a client.
"He wrote the order so poorly, I didn't understand! And I sent 10,000 pounds of beef instead of chicken. You know, he didn't..." No, no, no. You are just making a terrible mistake because the first question from your boss will be "Why didn't you call the client and asked what he wants?" And the boss is right: Why didn't you?
And, for the end, have a plan.
If you made a mistake, no matter how small or big it may be, you must have a plan what to do. If you think about it for a while, you'll see the reason for that is obvious.
If you don't have a plan, you are effectively telling your boss "I made a mistake, you made it right." When you are six and you broke your grandma's vase, you may say "Look, it's broken!" but you certainly can't tell your superior "Look, I sent the machine to Singapore instead of New York" and stare at her with your big blue eyes.
However, there is one situation in which all those rules are worth nothing: You are afraid of your boss.
Yes, there are companies split to the "One and Only, the Greatest of Them All" and "workers." In which employees are simply too afraid to tell anything to their boss, not to mention mentioning a mistake. In that situation, there is only one way out - through the door. Find yourself a new job as soon as possible. ■