Have you ever been in a situation where you made a mistake at work and were concerned about how your boss would react? Did the thought ever come across your mind that you would just keep your mishap to yourself? Maybe you thought that the mistake was small enough where if you fix it, no onewill know about it...
I have definitely been in this situation. Sure, a small voice will tell you that no one has to know what happened and the work day can return to normal. To be honest, it could very well happen that way. However, you can never really be certain, can you? What a sinking feeling it would be if your boss confronts you aboutsomething you didn't hide well enough. Ultimately,
its just not worth the risk.
My experience of being honest about my mistakes at work
I was serving as a project manager of a multifaceted product launch. Within this launch, there weremany moving parts and several outputs to oversee from idea conception to production and completion. For example, there were webinars, informational guides and other resources that were educating consumers. on specific topics. The informational guides were being mailed out to several types of stakeholders which meant their addresses were on different lists and contained different introductory letters. In addition, some of the letters were being mailed internally by us and others were being mailed by an external printer who printed the guides. In all we're talking about thousands guides and cover letters to be mailed! of
As the production ceased and the mailing commenced, I moved onto other projects. A few
weeks later, I was cleaning out my desk and found the left over samples and overrun from the printer. Within that pile of samples were a stack of letters and guides that were supposed to be sent out to thepast presidents of the organization! I forgot that we set aside a group of letters that were to be mailed internally by us. They were going to be late sending this to one of the most important group of stakeholders.
Needless to say, I panicked. What should I do? Should I even send them out at this point? We were sending these out almost a month late. Some of the past presidents may not even be expecting them. I thought to myself, maybe I should just file these and act like I didn't see them? Eh, something else told me to hurry up and stuff and seal the letters by myself as fast as I could in order to get them out the door by express mail. Afterall, we had saved a lot of money in the budget by mailing out the others by standard mail. So, that's what I did. Part of me felt that since I took care of the problem, there's probably no need for me to go and worry my boss about it. However, I felt a heavy, nagging feeling that I should anyway. I'm glad I did.
My boss had left for the day but I emailed her. She came to my desk the next day to discuss what happened. I took full responsibility for my oversight. She was very grateful for my honesty and assured me that this was more of a process issue than a negative check against me or my work ethic. She was also grateful about the fact that she didn't have to worry about fixing the problem since I found the most efficient way to handle it considering the circumstances. She even shared one of her past experiences of when she made a mistake on the job and gave me tips for avoiding this problem in the future.
What was the result of me admitting my mistake?
1.) I created an open line of communication with my boss - Because I was honest with her about my mistake, she felt that I could trust her to react with professionalism instead of condemnation which caused her to be honest about her own experience.
2.) I showed that there were opportunities for improvement within our internal processes - The product launch had a lot of pieces that required tracking of production at different stages. We decided that it would be best to have mailings be sent out by one source (either internally or externally) instead of creating more things to keep track of on our end. Quality Control is essential for the growth of anorganization.
3.) I proved that I was credible - The action of being honest told my boss that I have a good work values, that I can think outside of myself to foster the success of the organization (seeing the big picture), and that I can be trusted with small things. If I had covered it up and someone had found out later, it would be hard for my manager to be comfortable with me handling higher level tasks.
Another note about being honest.....
If you are faced with having to fess up about making a mistake, you need to say something to the appropriate people pretty quickly. Sitting on this information shows that you were contemplating being dishonest and that you don't trust that those involved can handle the information. Your integrity and credibility will also come into question by waiting too long.
If you truly feel like you cannot be honest when you make mistakes at work, then you should look for other employment. You should never feel like you will be intimidated, harassed, or condemned for being honest. Honesty should bring out the best in people and their relationships at work; not the worst.
Being honest can provide opportunites for you shine.
Don't fear being honest!