It’s not the end of the world when someone makes a mistake Copyright: _ig0rzh_ / 123RF Stock Photo








Every leader in every organisation has faced (or will face) a time when someone in their team has done something wrong. By something wrong, we don’t mean gross misconduct, or they’ve attempted to bring down the company, but those little instances where they might not have followed your instructions to the letter or haven’t done something quickly enough, so a milestone is missed.

These minor irritations are often the ones that irk us the most, but they can be the trickiest to deal with. They can derail a project for a while and slow things down or cause you to have to do it yourself in some instances, but they’re usually not serious enough to cause any long-term damage.

So why do so many managers make the person who’s made the mistake feel like it’s the end of the world?

It’s probably because they’re frustrated and will take that frustration out on the perpetrator in the heat of the moment, especially if someone higher up the ladder is doing the same to them. Often these little mistakes can make a well-run project grind to a halt or high-performing department not perform quite as highly for a short-time.

Frustrating? Yes. A show-stopper? Probably not.

When mistakes are made, it’s usually down to people not being sure what they’re meant to do, or because they’re under pressure. Of course, it can be because corners are cut, or short-cuts being taken, but in most instances the majority of people want to do a good job and not make mistakes.

They’ll probably feel bad enough as it is about doing something wrong. Making out their mistake is the end of the world will only add to this and might mean they’ll be scared to get involved again, which could be worse in the long run if you undo all the good work they’ve done previously.

A better approach is telling them you understand it was a mistake and talk about what happened. Was it because you or someone else hadn’t been clear enough? Was the deadline unrealistic so they rushed it? Did they realise a process was flawed but didn’t feel empowered enough to speak up?

Whatever the reason, don’t rush into anything when you’re still annoyed. Instead, wait until the issue’s been fixed and then look at the reasons. It will be far more productive.

Discussing things in a calm way will mean the same mistake isn’t made again. It could be that more training’s needed or a procedure needs changing. You could uncover a problem with your organisational culture where people aren’t confident they’ll be listened to if they speak out.

Honesty’s important too when you have your discussion. If someone’s to blame, they need to be told and face up to the consequences, but an overaction will do more harm than good.

Small mistakes happen occasionally – they’re a part of life in every organisation, so keep them in proportion. They’re never so bad the world will end.