Create a Workplace That Learns from Mistakes


Mistakes happen. As frustrating as that may sound, mistakes are inevitable because humans are imperfect beings. In fact, most crashes and injuries are the result of human error rather than factors outside of a worker’s control.

Depending on the severity of the error, an employee making a mistake can be understandable. It is important for managers and supervisors to separate acceptable mistakes from unacceptable mistakes and to be mindful of how they respond to each.

Acceptable mistakes are those that come from trial and error. Consider Thomas Edison: When asked about his failures when trying to invent the electric light bulb, Edison replied, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that did not work."

Mistakes are part of an employee’s learning, growth, and maturity. Creating a blame-free work environment can pay big dividends when an acceptable mistake occurs. Rather than being critical, make employees feel safe making mistakes. This approach promotes learning, invites innovation, improves morale, and increases employee retention.

Unacceptable mistakes can stem from an employee’s intentional decision to violate company policies and procedures, such as speeding, theft, or sexual harassment. Employees should be held accountable for their actions, but be mindful of how you initially react. Emotions can get the best of anyone, so take time to collect yourself, gather the facts, and involve the human resources department before responding.

Even if an employee’s bad mistake warrants immediate termination, handling the situation professionally and respectfully speaks volumes to your staff.

Here are a couple of tips to consider when dealing with employee performance issues.