How to React to Employee Mistakes

Guidance on Correcting Errors – Does Your Employee Deserve a Second Chance

Was the flaw an honest mistake or was it intentional?

“Sometimes life gives you a second chance, or even two! Not always, but sometimes. It’s what you do with those second chances that counts.” – Dave Wilson

There are instances in which an employee does deserve a second chance. Remember, we are all humans and we all make mistakes. If the issue is something that can be corrected – it may be worth it to give your employee a chance to fix the problem. Take the following into consideration.

Did he/she make an honest or legal mistake?

Look at it this way – GOOD employees actually make a lot of mistakes, that’s how we all learn, right? Did your employee express regret for their mistake or provide a genuine apology? If it truly is a priority for them to correct the mistake, allow them to do so. When you have your initial talk with them, discuss ways to prevent the same mistake in the future and consequences if the error continues to happen. Consider the employee’s history – does this person have a proven record of adding value to your company? If the answer is yes, ask yourself if the mistake outweighs the benefits this person has presented you. Let’s face it – mistakes are not fun to deal with, but 9 times out of 10 employees are likely to digest it as a lesson for the future.

With that being said, some offenses are unacceptable, deeming a termination mandatory. Take note of the following:

Did the employee steal? Did the employee harass another co-worker? Is he/she not sorry for their mistake? If they don’t readily devise solutions for the problem or are not open to solutions, it’s probably time to terminate. Sometimes a violation is too large to overcome or forgive, and you’re left with no alternative option.Look at the big picture.

“When you have all of the facts and details, weigh them carefully in your mind along with any logistical implications the termination could bring.” – Deborah Sweeney, CEO of

When an issue arises with an employee that makes you question whether you should dismiss it or not, try to avoid letting it go the first time. Do not wait until it becomes a bigger issue. Approaching the situation the first time will save you a big headache in the long run.  Did he/she make the mistake because of lack of information or was the mistake made intentionally? Maybe your employee isn’t aware of the mistake(s) they are making. If you’re under the impression that they are intentionally making these mistakes without talking to them about it, it becomes a huge misunderstanding.

When you catch the issue, correct it with urgency. Take the time to sit down and discuss the issue with your employee and take the necessary steps – this may include an agreement or some type of paperwork in regards to a 30/60/90 day plan. Get their commitment to it and evaluate their level of regret.  For long-term positive results, praise your employee on their commitment to correct the mistake, provide an opportunity for them to improve, and use your forgiveness to increase their loyalty to you.
“Successful second chances don’t accept mediocrity. They ignite passion for excellence.” – Unknown

Carroll, K. Fri. 29 Apr. 2016. “How to React to Employee Mistakes.” LinkedIn. Retrieved from