Tolerating employees’ mistakes

One of the big issues a manager confronts is in the extent he has to tolerate mistakes from his subordinates. How much of it does he tolerate, and when does he decide to get back at the colleague? Mistakes of what nature does he tolerate? And, what is the type and level of punishment he metes out to erring employees?

Rooted in the personality

Committing and tolerating mistakes has many psychological dimensions to it. Often, it is dependent on the manager’s or the subordinate’s upbringing.  People who have grown up in a stern atmosphere normally think that mistakes should never be tolerated. Some even see punishing colleagues for foibles as a way of getting back at their own tormentors in their early years.

At the same time, some subordinates like to keep repeating mistakes if they have cultivated what psychologists call the “anti-social” behavior, which makes them obstinate and insensitive to rebukes and chides. They sometimes go against orders or the norm simply to get a “kick” out of it. So, who is to be blamed for it?

How lenient should a manager be?

How lenient a manager should be is dependent on the gravity of the mistake and the person who committed it. Even when a mistake is committed unwillingly, it may have major repercussions for the organization. The way to prevent this is to be judicious in handing over responsibilities to subordinates.

Also, the mistake has to be weighed in relation to the employee’s nature. When an employee committed to the organization makes a mistake, it is more likely to be tolerated and forgiven than one that is made by a person of dubious commitment and loyalty.

Never make it personal

Good managers draw a line between the personal and the professional. They separate the act from the person when giving a dressing down. This too, they resort to only as a final step after giving sufficient changes to improve. They address the root of the problem, which is the reason for which the employee is making mistakes repeatedly, and try to fix it there. Bad managers cry foul at the first instance, thinking that a firm way of dealing with mistakes at the beginning will act as a deterrent and prevent future mistakes. This may work for a while, but will usually result in cultivating negative feelings in the subordinate.

Make them understand

The bottom line is that irrespective of their outlooks; managers should tolerate mistakes that are unintentionally and honestly done, and make the erring employee understand the consequences of these mistakes. This goes a long way in reducing errors and bringing about good manager-subordinate relations, which go a long way in contributing to the organization.



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