Someone is constantly making mistakes

Everyone has made mistakes during their career. Whether the mistake is a minor oversight or horrendously bad call of judgment, mistakes happen.

The best thing about mistakes is that we learn from them – but occasionally it doesn’t work out that way.

What do you do if someone working for you is constantly making the same mistakes? Here are some guidelines to help you out.

Set company standards

Too often people are left to guess at what is expected of them. Don’t wait for mistakes to happen before you provide guidance.

There are many things that you will consider common sense, but these are based on your view of the world and the experiences you’ve had.

What is completely obvious to you may be a complete mystery to someone else, so set the tone and make it clear from the beginning.

Assess the problem and needs

There is usually a cause for mistakes. The most common mistakes (typing errors, emails to the wrong people, forgetting a piece of work, failing to meet a deadline) are usually due to breaks in concentration.

The individual may be overloaded, either at work or due to stressful home conditions. If this is the case the person may simply need to be told to slow down and get the small things right. It might be just enough to raise the confidence to a level where the mistakes occur less frequently.

Perhaps you could suggest that they schedule certain tasks for when they are more attentive. Most of us have a peak time of attention during the day. The very start of the day and, for some, immediately after lunch is the typical high performance periods.

Give Feedback

Feedback is different to simply telling people they are wrong. You must give a detailed explanation of what should be done instead. It isn’t enough just to say that something is wrong – provide details of how it affects people down the line. It will give the team member a better understanding of the importance of their role in the organisation and their responsibilities.

It is tempting to take the task or responsibility away from someone that is failing to complete it successfully. In some situations this may be best, but in most cases it is better for the individual and the team to turn a mistake into a learning experience.

Draw the line as to what is acceptable and give ongoing feedback

Even the most patient of managers has to draw the line somewhere. At the end of the day there’s a business to run and ongoing mistakes can’t be tolerated forever. It takes skill to determine where this line should be drawn, and some will prefer it to be stricter than others. However, clarity and communication is ultimately important. 

Document errors to aid you in providing objective feedback and explanations. It will also give you perspective on whether the situation is improving or not. If the trend isn’t changing after you have intervened and taken the steps already mentioned then it could be time for a shift in responsibilities for the mistake maker.

Feedback doesn’t end with a single conversation. Be sure to follow up regularly, and offer praise when you see improvement.

When a mistake is repeated there is an underlying problem that isn’t being addressed. Nobody likes making mistakes, so we can assume that people are trying their best not to make them.

The issue can often get clouded with embarrassment as some people go to extremes in trying to ensure their mistakes don’t get discovered.

If you take the approach that you want to help the person get better at their job you are on the right track!


Eve Ash has produced a wide range of videos to help people learn effective people management skills and communication skills. Now she is producing comedy films to help people at work Laugh, Discuss and Learn


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