Mistakes in the workplace are inevitable. After all, we’re human, and try as we might to operate error free, our own software is far from perfect and we occasionally let one slip through the filters.

For individuals or teams pursing something new…a new project, a new approach, a new program, mistakes offer powerful teaching lessons if you respond to them calmly and constructively. (Anger is your adversary as a manager, and while you might be seeing red at what you believe was an obvious and avoidable gaffe, your team needs to see calm concern, otherwise, you endanger the teaching opportunity.)

When otherwise capable and mostly error-free performers suddenly make a series of mistakes, something is typically wrong…too much work, too many fast-approaching deadlines or, potentially non-work,personal pressures. Constructive feedback and coaching are appropriate here.

If you gain a sense the sudden onset of mistakes have their roots in non-workplace issues for this otherwise solid performer, a dose of empathy and some much-needed momentary schedule relief might just help the individual regain his/her footing. In some circumstances, reminding the individual of outside counseling and support services is an important step for you to take. (Note: everything has a time limit, even your ability to tolerate a good performer who is checked out due to personal pressures. Use up your patience and then use it up again, however, set a limit for a return to normal and keep to the limit.)

A situation many managers mismanage involves the average, mistake-prone employee who fails to respond positively to feedback, coaching or training. When this well-intentioned, veteran individual continues to make what you deem are rookie mistakes, it’s time to assess the situation and plot a deliberate response. The on-going mistakes are symptoms of a bigger problem.

Assuming the feedback has been clear and constructive and you’ve provided ample training, support and an appropriate number of do-overs, no manager, team or firm can tolerate someone who cannot hold up their end of the quality standards. You either need to find a role more suitable for the individual…one that is less ambiguous and more programmed, or, you have to place the individual on a last-effort performance program that resolves with a cure or a timely and fairly managed exit.

Fair warning, many managers struggle to achieve the right blend of support, feedback, training and time with these situations. They either prolong the pain indefinitely, which to everyone around them looks like they tolerate poor quality, or, they pull the trigger too fast without reasonable due process. Both are mistakes.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I’m a fan of managing humans as humans, not treating them as automatons. People who run into personal roadblocks are grateful for a momentary break and will reward that break with high performance and loyalty. Others are thrust into jobs too early or without the requisite support and that’s a managerial crime that you must remedy. However, there’s a tolerance range on mistakes, and when the range is violated for too long, your best game-plan is swift action.

Originally published at artpetty.com. Published with permission.

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