I get angry when my coworkers make mistakes

A reader writes:

I’ve got a question regarding how much “mistake tolerance” is expected in the workplace.

Just to give you some background, I’m a (tech) team lead, which, in my case, means my daily job is not very different from that of other team members, except for the part that I get to make technical decisions concerning the projects we are doing. That includes, deadlines, technologies, methodologies, features to be included, etc. and most importantly, I decide whether a piece of work by any team member is acceptable. However, I don’t “manage” people; that is, I don’t give time off, I don’t give them feedback, I don’t decide their raise, etc. There’s a manager to do that.

Now to the main question. I have very low, almost zero, tolerance for mistakes. Whenever I see a mistake in anyone’s work, especially trivial ones, I will get very angry. The rationale in my head is always “We have ONE job and one job only, and that’s to get this done! No excuses.” As such, I will remove the person from the project, in addition to having a detailed (sometimes heated) conversation with both the person and our manager on why such mistakes are not allowed in my team.

So how bad is this? I know my intolerance could probably be attributed to some sort of OCD, and sort of know it is not good. But I just cannot forgive mistakes easily. Do you have any advice?

Yeah, what you’re doing sounds pretty bad.

I see two issues here: First, your expectations about normal amounts of errors are off. And second, you’re taking it really personally when mistakes happen and you’re having an emotional reaction where one isn’t warranted, rather than handling it professionally. (Which, as people are pointing out in the comment section, is a mistake in itself! So there’s some irony there.)

On the first issue, people are going to make mistakes because you work with humans, not robots, and humans make mistakes. If someone makes a mistake occasionally, that is normal — and you should see it as normal and not an outrage. Perhaps you’re the very rare person who truly never makes mistakes in your work. If so, you’re something of a unicorn. That’s not typical. If you are that unicorn, good for you — that’s a rare talent. But if you want to work with other people, you have to recognize that you’re not normal; if you expect others to be unicorns too, no one will want to work with you, because you’ll be out of touch with reality.

Now, obviously there’s a point where someone is making too many mistakes. And that brings us to the second issue, which is how to handle it when that happens.

Right now, you’re reacting very emotionally: you’re getting angry and having heated conversations. There should rarely be any need for that at work, and by doing it, you’re almost certainly alienating people and making no one want to work with you. That’s a big deal — not only are you making working with you a bad experience for other people, but you’re also impacting your own professional reputation. That will matter when you’re looking for a promotion, a raise, or a new job, or even just when you want to be included on something that other people don’t want to work with you on.

Here’s the thing that you’re losing sight of: At work, you have the tools you need to solve problems calmly and rationally. Getting angry and emotional says to other people that you don’t know how to do that. It makes you look out of control, and it can make you look inept. You don’t want that.

Your goal needs to be to solve the problem, not to punish people or let them know how wrong they are or how much they frustrated you. Instead of having a heated reaction, you just need to deliver information calmly and clearly.

That means that if someone makes a single mistake, all you need to do is say something like this: “I found mistake X. Can you take a look at it and fix it for me today?” If relevant, you can add, “Let me know if you’re not clear on what I’m talking about and I can walk you through it” and/or “Can you figure out how that happened so we can make sure to avoid it in future rounds?”

And if someone makes mistakes regularly, that’s a pattern you need to talk to their manager about, since their manager is responsible for addressing it. And that should be a calm, matter-of-fact conversation — as in “Fergus is regularly making mistakes like X and Y. I’ve pointed it out to him, but it’s continuing to happen and I’m concerned about the pattern. It’s causing me to have to redo his work and making me reluctant to keep him on the project.”

But there’s almost no reason to ever have a heated conversation over a mistake. This stuff shouldn’t be so emotional.

If you find that you can’t control your emotions about mistakes, it’s probably worth exploring with a competent therapist — because a pattern of strong negative reactions to something that doesn’t warrant that intensity is usually connected to something more deeply rooted, and likely isn’t about work at all.

{ 355 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Bend & Snap

    Wow.

    You know, if you give people feedback on their mistakes, they’ll usually quit making them. Nobody’s perfect and everyone has room to learn.

    But nobody wants to work for, or with, someone who’s going to get angry about routine mistakes and boot them off the project (!!!!) when they happen.

    Reply
    1. PieInTheBlueSky

      OP’s intolerance for any mistakes may be driving away talented people who may have choices about where and with whom they can work. This may result in OP having to work with less talented and less experienced people, who are more likely to make mistakes, thus setting off OP’s anger more often!

      Reply
      1. Kate

        In addition to losing talented people, OP may have good people on her team who start making mistakes because they are distracted by the fear of experiencing an OP blowup if they do make a mistake. People are more likely to correct their mistakes following a calm, rational discussion, not if you are screaming and hollering at them.

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        1. YuliaC

          I second this. I am much, much more likely to make mistakes when I know that someone is watching me like a hawk ready to swoop down.

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            I legit forgot the alphabet when my manager was (non angrily) standing over my shoulder. If you give me directions “fix X problem in Y file,” I’ll get it done no problem. But he has a habit of standing behind me and saying “go to Y file…” and waits while I do it… and basic common knowledge flies out of my brain. He’s never been angry (thankfully), but I’d be doubly nervous if I had an angry person watching my every move.

            Reply
          2. Annie Mouse

            Oh yeah, I agree. I can take charge of almost any situation at work. I can make decisions that are literally the difference between life or death when I have to. And it doesn’t phase me much (I’m a fan of the ‘duck’ approach to things, calm on the surface and paddling underneath!) But stick me in a room with a not particularly ill patient, my crewmate and a manager keeping a eye on us and I turn into an unsure, nervous person, second guessing everything I’m doing!

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          3. LN

            SO much this. I failed the driving test twice, even though I’m a perfectly good driver, because I kept making stupid mistakes knowing that someone was breathing down my neck watching me and judging me. It’s really really detrimental.

            Reply
        2. RL

          I know I make more mistakes when I’m afraid of the consequences of making mistakes. Being under scrutiny (especially by a volatile, angry manager which was my experience in the past) has always been a distraction for me that causes me to make more errors than typical.

          Reply
        3. Sally

          As the corollary – if you give people a safe space for making mistakes, they will often produce better work all around.

          Reply
          1. Anonymouse

            True.

            I also get frustrated when coworkers make mistakes but I have a “mistakes matrix” to figure out how annoyed I should be and how we go about addressing it.

            1) How new is the task? (New, current or something old they used to do but haven’t done for awhile)

            2) How difficult is the task? (Easy to complex)

            3) How often do they do this task? (Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly?)

            4) Have they been trained on this task?

            5) Has the process for doing this task changed?

            6) Are they supposed to be doing this task?

            7) How big is this mistake?

            8) How often is this mistake /mistakes in general being made?

            So if Jane is doing the quarterly Tea Flavour report which is complicated and the way we do them has changed I’m more likely to point out things she’s forgotten and/or give her dummy one in the new format to refer to.

            If Wakeen, Jane and Preston are all making the same mistake on the raspberry tea brewing process then we need to retrain/go over it.
            Minor annoyances.

            If Wakeen keeps making frequent mistakes on tasks he is well trained in and does regularly then I’m going to be annoyed but address the overall pattern with him:
            look into anything that might be causing problems, give more training / guidance/supervision, PIP if doesn’t improve over time and transition him out of need be.

            Or if Jane makes a huge mistake particularly on a task she isn’t supposed to do (I.e decides to do budget forecasts or allocate company funds when she is just supposed to handle petty cash) she might get a severe warning or fired depending on how serious it is.

            But having a zero tolerance policy for any mistake and kicking someone out of the project is not the way to go.

            From your letter it doesn’t sound like you even try to figure out the root cause of the errors or try to correct them as you see them for simple things.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              yeah, going straight to mad means you never do any analysis to see what the REAL reason is that the mistake was made. And sometimes the mistakes are coming NOT from someone’s carelessness or recklessness.
              And they will KEEP coming if you don’t figure out the underlying reason.

              Reply
        4. Paige Turner

          I wouldn’t blame someone for deliberately making a small mistake in order to get out of working with the OP…that said, the fact the OP is realizing that this is a problem, and was willing to write in about it with a good amount of self-awareness, is a strong first step toward fixing things.

          Reply
        5. MsChanandlerBong

          Kind of like how Elizabeth gets so nervous and is more likely to break a teacup because Hyacinth is so disapproving. Or how I always manage to knock over something at my husband’s aunt’s house because she’s such a neat freak (nothing wrong with that, but she is nasty about it) that all I do is worry about dropping a crumb on the floor (seriously, I have managed to knock over a potted plant and drop a hard-boiled egg on the floor at her house due to my nervousness, and she reacted exactly as I expected–I haven’t been to her house since!).

          Reply
      2. Been There, Done That, Not Going Back

        Let me tell a little personal story about working with someone who was in the position of deeming my work “acceptable” without actually being in my chain of command. This person was also a perfectionist, to the point of scolding me and lecturing at length that my screencaptures were “completely wrong and had to be redone” not because I’d captured the wrong screen, or captured the wrong feature’s pop-ups, but because in the background was a URL that said “staging.12345” instead of “prod.12345” and what if someone saw that behind the feature actually being illustrated and typed it in and couldn’t reach that server? THE WHOLE TEAM WOULD BE BLAMED FOR THAT!

        My reaction wasn’t “I have one job and I have failed your expectations. I deserve this.”

        My reactions were, in order over time of this person not changing their approach:
        1) Wonder at length why someone out of my chain of command thought this kind of treatment was remotely appropriate. (Also wonder – out loud – if anyone in the history of ever has typed in the URL of a screenshot just to see what happens.)

        2) Do everything in my power to work around that person.

        3) Start losing sleep from stress. Exhaustion = less “perfection” and accelerated the process until I…

        4) Found myself bursting into tears when I parked in the company parking lot. Repeatedly.

        5) Take the very first job offer and a $10,000 paycut to get the hell away from this person and anything they touched

        6) Discover, to my wonder and surprise at my new job that when I’m out of a toxic work environment that I’m actually competent and even innovative.

        Reply
        1. Sally

          I’m sorry you went through this! It’s not the fact that the person wanted the screenshots re-done in a certain way – some people are sticklers for certain things – it’s the way they approached the feedback. A simple, “Hey, I know this seems minor, but I noticed the URL isn’t right and I’m pretty picky about these things. Will you please redo the screen shots and/or photoshop in the correct URL? And please keep it in mind for next time – I think some of our clients will care about these details.”

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            This! There are a lot of “small details” that I don’t understand why they’re a big deal. It may just be my boss’s personal preference, or it may be a bigger deal than I think. But this is a way to calmly point out what the small detail that’s wrong is (and if it actually is a big deal, explain why), without getting angry. Been There, that sucks and I’m sorry you had to take a pay cut, but I’m happy you’re out of there!

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              Exactly. Gods know there are minutiae in things that I might not be aware are important. And the specific example of going to the URL? There is a reason that writer/producer Aaron Sorkin was very careful to buy out a certain url. When he wrote the (admittedly lousy, for other reasons,) episode that included a mention of a website called lemonlyman dot com, he made sure the studio OWNED IT. Because within hours it got scads of hits.

              There’s a reason that movie phone numbers always start with 555 and that is not a valid exchange in any country that has a coordinated phone system with the US. Because people see it on screen and call it.

              People used to hear songs with phone numbers (think Echo Valley 2- 6809 does that date me? I mean it’s the Partridge Family,) and call it.

              It is possible (not likely) but possible that YES, someone will see a url in a training photo or a description of a site photo and try to get to it.

              HOWEVER most people not getting there will not get ticked off and presume it’s the screenshot of web things version of Lorum Ipsum. Those that do get ticked can be calmly explained that for security reasons during ramp up and whilst the site or programme is being produced you do not use live URLS to keep people from accidentally clicking something not finished and having the programme fail.

              The reaction of the checker to the programmer/designer however is not the way to explain we’d rather have the actual usable site in the photo. Even if it’s because clients are stupid, but also possibly to be able to make sure the most current screenshot is in use.

              TL:dr people do actually go to things in screenshots, in movies, in TV etc. But that’s no way to tell someone you would prefer an actual current shot. You just don’t do that to your people. It makes them not want to work for you/with you.

              Reply
        2. But you don't have an accent

          I had this happen to me, too, except she wouldn’t tell me what she wanted different. She had made up her mind I wasn’t “ready”, and so in the 5 categories she could rate my work, she would rate me down in one of the 5 categories without any explanation. And it would be a different category each time.

          I was so dejected by this, because it was holding me back from getting to do my actual job (I was still in training until I was approved). Eventually my manager stepped in and took a look and she deemed ready to go within the hour so that was nice.

          Reply
        3. Stone Satellite

          Another specific consideration for this case is that showing internal-only URLs could potentially leak critical security information about your infrastructure, so it could be a really big deal. But if that’s the case, someone should tell you why it matters because a) who can memorize all the arbitrary rules? It’s much easier to remember things that have a reason, and b) you’ll have a better chance of catching related mistakes by yourself in the future, because you know why the first one was a mistake and can extrapolate.

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      3. MashaKasha

        +1000 that was my first thought too. A quality tech professional, who makes an occasional mistake (because we all do) has dozens to hundreds of companies to choose from, depending on location, where they won’t be yelled at and booted off projects anytime they copy/paste something wrong. OP’s best staff will leave if they haven’t already.

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        1. Pepsquad

          The problem may also be what do you determine as a ‘mistake’ – I think the fear and stress and walking on egg shells feeling may be the issue because perhaps their expectations aren’t clear and you’re never sure whether there’s going to be some sort of blow up over some minor detail that you weren’t even aware would be considered a ‘mistake.’

          Reply
          1. Chinook

            When teaching ESL, we differentiate between “mistakes” and “errors” because there is a huge difference when it comes to learning.

            A mistake is made when the speaker does something wrong that they know is wrong. It is the speaker’s responsibility to figure out how not to do it again. A perfect example of this is a typo – you know how to type, you just didn’t do it correctly.

            An error is made when the speaker doesn’t know what they are doing is wrong. It is then the teacher’s responsibility to show them why what they did is wrong and how no to do it again. In this case, the spelling error isn’t a typo but maybe a word they didn’t know had a silent K.

            Thing is, from the outside looking in, there is no way to know if something is an “error” or a “mistake.” As a teacher (or supervisor), it is your job to help the person figure out which it is and then encourage them not to do it again.

            Reply
              1. Pepsquad

                This is sort of what I mean, although this is different slightly because the teacher is teaching a learner, this relationship is clear from the outset, and it should be known that there will be mistakes/errors as they’re learning. With LW’s problem I’m connecting it to almost a domineering parent, who at any moment might swoop in and rearrange what you saw as a clear way of doing things and get transfixed on what you saw as something that was a tiny thing but it makes them uncontrollably angry, although I’m connecting that to JessaB’s example. It would really take your sense of control, security and comfort away, because at any moment for something very minor, that once again you might not have known could be considered a mistake – JessaB’s example again, the rug could be pulled from under your feet.

                Personally as the LW is having such an extreme reaction I would recommend they speak to a counsellor, this does sound like the actions of a domineering parent, and I wonder if they are re-enacting a pattern they experienced as a child? But either way seeing as it’s such an extreme reaction, and clearly detrimental to the staff and the way the LW is feeling (they’ve written in concerned about this) I’m recommend speaking to someone.

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          2. Mary

            There’s also the possibility that LW’s system just isn’t designed that well. If people are making a *lot* of mistakes, or people failing to input data absolutely perfectly causes major, major problems – your system sucks. If you can change the tech, you should. If you can’t change the tech, you should change the training that happens before the data input or the processes and checks which happen after it.

            But repeatedly firing people from the project because you see “perfection” as more important than retaining people with knowledge / experience of the system – that sounds like a horrendously backwards way to meet your business priorities.

            Reply
    2. The Other Dawn

      Yeah, I’m not clear as to whether people are booted off the team after one mistake OP deems to be trivial, or if it’s a few mistakes. Either way, that seems like a huge overreaction. Even if it’s larger, more serious mistakes, there’s a process for dealing with that. There are several steps in between someone making one mistake and needing to be removed from the team. And if OP is removing people after one mistake, I’m surprised there’s even a team left to speak of.

      Reply
    3. aebhel

      Yep. It’s not just that OP is seriously overreacting and certainly alienating people, it’s that their reaction is actually counterproductive. People don’t make mistakes on purpose, and if you give them useful feedback, they’ll improve. If you just yell at them, that… doesn’t actually help at all.

      Reply
      1. nonymous

        Also, if OP has gotten to this point because when they gave reasonable/useful feedback no one adjusted appropriately they need to understand that the org culture may very well be that lower standard and OP is the odd person for not conforming.

        Heck, my whole department wouldn’t exist if people actually knew what they were doing.

        Reply
        1. Anonymouse

          Because a few people *may* not have taken useful feedback in the past doesn’t mean OP gets to punish and scream at current team members.

          But I get your point. OP you need to relax.

          This doesn’t mean ignoring mistakes. This means changing how you react to them and the people who make them.

          People don’t make mistakes to spite you or because they don’t care. Everyone makes them. Even you.

          You need to shift your thinking when you come across a mistake from:

          “I’ll fix this by getting rid of them. How dare they present ME with a mistake.”

          to:

          “How do we fix this? And how do we make sure that it doesn’t happen again?”

          You need to work WITH your team to get the best results. Remember team =

          Together
          Everyone
          Achieves
          More.

          Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          yeah, my whole job is fixing mistakes other people have made. Of course, they’re focusing on a bigger picture, and not getting bogged down in the level of quality control I do means they have mental time and energy to take bigger risks.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        People get defensive when attacked.

        And then they don’t listen. They don’t learn. They -won’t- listen or learn.

        Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I also worry that it will make people disinclined to come to OP when they need support in troubleshooting an issue or dealing with a systemic or structural challenge. If OP flies off the handle for minor mistakes, then people are not going to be willing to be creative, to take risks, or to come to OP before a big mistake happens. It creates a culture of terror, suppresses talent, leads people to make mistakes for fear of being screamed at (as Kate notes), and destroys team cohesiveness and communication.

      OP, it’s really important to stop doing this. If you think it’s rooted in your feelings, etc. (you note some kind of “OCD”), or if you don’t think you can make this mental shift on your own, then I would discuss it with a therapist. This is a big deal and deserves your attention/time to resolve.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I’d avoid coming to OP to ask for a damn post-it, let alone for help or troubleshooting. I guarantee this team is becoming dysfunctional, failing to communicate, and failing to innovate because of OP’s attitude.

        Reply
      2. Gen

        I worked through an example of this where one managers screaming and threats about ‘mistakes’ led to an employee not reporting a massive security hole that had been located by accident. He wasn’t supposed to be in the screen he was in when he found it so he kept his mouth shut. It didn’t just cost us the project, the projects failure caused the closure of a whole dept :/

        Reply
        1. Boop

          I want to hear more about the fallout from this – who eventually shouldered the blame? Were there any changes to the workplace as a result?

          Reply
      3. Dust Bunny

        They will.

        I had a boss like this once and we would do ANYTHING to avoid dealing with him. If he was off and called to see if we were busy and needed help, we’d tell him we were fine even if we were running ourselves ragged, because being massively overworked was still easier than dealing with his temper, and the rest of us could roll with whatever happened.

        So, yeah, don’t underestimate how big a problem this is or decide that it’s somehow an asset and everyone else needs to measure up. OP, you’re a bully. Maybe that’s not your intention, but that’s how it’s translating. You’re not doing yourself or your team any favors.

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      4. Purple snowdrop

        Yeah, I found a mistake in our work today, which isn’t my fault, but because my line manager and my team have made it clear that they are realistic people who realise that Sometimes Things Go Wrong, I didn’t just tell them… but investigated to see how far back this error went, even though I knew it was highly unlikely anyone would ask. My line manager appreciates it.

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      5. Julianne

        Totally agreed. There is a woman at my workplace who is a subject-matter expert in a subject that is related to what I do. I’m sure she has knowledge that could help me improve at my job. But one time I sent her an email asking a question, and her response was terribly off-putting – not a harsh overreaction, but condescending and self-important. So now I do everything I can to avoid any interaction with her, which has mostly been very successful. I think I’ve spoken to her twice in the past year, and both of those times were brief yes/no exchanges. (“Do you have the Chocolate Teapot reports?” “No, Gladys has them.” “Okaythanksbye.”)

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      6. TootsNYC

        I worked with a guy like this; he was in charge of our day-to-day schedule, and he would get mad and yell and throw his stapler at his desk (we had nice wooden desks, and his has thousands of little triangular dings). And then people would come to ME with information he needed.

        I would encourage them to tell him, and they literally said to me, all of them, “I’m scared to.” I’d point out that if they approached him with an apology, he’d fall all over himself to make them feel better about it. They still wouldn’t. “You can tell him, right?”

        I finally sat down with him and said, “Your temper is out of control, and you are sabotaging your ability to do you job. People won’t come to you–they’re afraid. So they come to me, and of course I can tell you, and sometimes I can even handle it, or provide them a very accurate guess about what your response to them would be. But that’s not my job, I don’t really have time. But even more than that, YOU aren’t getting the information YOU need. I don’t know how you fix this, but you need to figure something out, because it’s hurting you.”

        He toned it down, and things go better.

        Reply
    5. Snark

      Yeah, the taking people off the project with a fiery dressing-down is really beyond the pale. That’s beyond strict, that’s retaliatory and abusive, and if I were your superior, you’d either be on the street holding a hot severance check or you’d never be in a position to evaluate someone’s work ever again, regardless of your technical competence.

      OP, you have a serious problem that is going to harm you personally and professionally, if it has not already. Your expectations for absolute perfection and no errors is completely unrealistic, and your reaction when someone inevitably makes an error is punitive and frankly disordered. You need to learn how to control your overreaction to mistakes, and forgive those who make them, before you become even more of a liability than you are currently, and you are one. I can think of nothing more corrosive to the morale of your team than what you’re doing.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        Oh, and for all your “no excuses” attitude, I guarantee you have made mistakes doing your job. Absolutely guaranteed. So learn a little humility.

        And other people likely caught them and fixed them for you, because nobody would EVER DARE to confront you with them.

        Reply
        1. Dweali

          Maybe they didn’t confront but I bet there’s someone who made a list of them (possibly even sending it to OP’s boss)

          Reply
    6. Blue

      Yeah, there’s a big difference between a one-off error and a repeated mistake that continues after correction. I think there are one-off errors that can be catastrophic enough to remove someone from a team, but those are rare. I have never had a colleague who literally never made a mistake or mishandled something, and that includes the best and most valuable performers. Who could OP possibly have left to work with if they get rid of every person who makes any kind of error?

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    7. SystemsLady

      This is a hidden part about what upsets me about the whole Google manifesto – that guy doesn’t seem to understand that being able to relate to your colleagues is /a really important and valuable engineering skill/.

      I’ve seen so many technically extremely talented people fail because of interpersonal issues. Male and female.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        yeah, completely aside from the accuracy of his “biological traits” argument–at what point did it become a “truth” that competitiveness and aggression were the most valuable/powerful/desirable traits in any business that wasn’t war?

        (and even in war, or diplomacy, which is was by other means, the “interpersonal” aspect is a phenomenally valuable tool)

        Reply
  2. Murphy

    I’m curious about how OP’s manager handles these heated conversations and regular removal of employees from projects.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      I was wondering that as well. I’m pretty surprised the OP hasn’t been spoken to about how she’s acting in these meetings.

      Reply
      1. Lance

        Or, much as I hate to say it for OP, that the OP hasn’t been removed from the team lead position, or possibly the team itself. That’s just how bad these kinds of reactions are.

        Reply
        1. Doug Judy

          I worked with someone just like OP. My manager basically gave her a pass because she was good at catching the mistakes and was very good at her job. He feared all these errors would go unnoticed if she wasn’t there.

          In our one on one meetings he acknowledged she could be overly critical (she kept spreadsheets of everyone’s mistakes) and that he’d address it with her, but her “gentler” approach never lasted more than a week. I’m no longer with that organization and I was the 3rd person in that role in two years. I don’t know if they’ll ever notice that she’s the common denominator in the equation.

          Reply
            1. nonymous

              It is a legitimate root cause analysis method. Realistically Doug Judy’s manager should have been tracking this stuff, if it was important. And if the manager wanted to delegate the task of collating this info, they should have addressed this with transparency.

              For example, errors get categorized and a rolling median of those coded “staff user errors” is published weekly (so people can internally address deficiencies) plus the top 3 other error types are brought up in staff meeting to brainstorm process improvement strategies.

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            2. General Ginger

              I track a very specific set of errors for an inventory/data entry team I work with, and I do it in a spreadsheet by user. This enables me fix the errors a lot more efficiently, for one. But also, yeah, it helps me see who might be struggling with this specific issue, and needs some help/additional training/etc. Though this is definitely not keeping “spreadsheets of everyone’s mistakes” — it’s quality control for the process, and it doesn’t factor into anyone’s performance reviews or anything like that.

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        2. Snark

          Yeah, if I were manager, there’d have been another tech lead months ago, and OP would be an individual contributor no matter how technically competent. And honestly, if I saw my tech lead dressing down an individual contributor in a meeting this way, I’d be adopting a very similar tone with them, directing them to turn the wick way down.

          Reply
  3. Putting Out Fires, Esq

    Not yelling at your coworkers about getting emotional about routine mistakes, being professional in other words, is as much a part of your job as not making mistakes.

    Reply
    1. ZSD

      Yeah, it shows that it’s not really true that “[they] have ONE job and one job only.” Part of the job is, as you say, being professional.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        I can’t help but think of the recent Googlebro manifesto controversy. Particularly in highly technical fields there’s this misguided notion that 100% of your job is just doing your core technical tasks and that things like professionalism and social interaction are meaningless distractions only valued by less competent people. But, like I said below, no one wants to work with a brilliant jerk.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          And in my experience, the brilliant jerk shines about 10% as brightly as he thinks he does. “Competent narcissist” is a less flattering, but usually more accurate, characterization than “brilliant jerk.”

          Reply
          1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

            Brilliant jerk is a myth. No such thing exists. There are only jerks who are good at the flashier aspects of their jobs.

            Reply
        2. Agnes

          I thought the weird thing about that was that, even if you granted his premise, you could come to the exact opposite conclusion. One can imagine an all-female company writing a memo about how, obviously, men would never succeed at engineering because you need to work in a team and take into account all these different stakeholders, and men are just naturally too competitive.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            Yeah, I saw a lot of comments along the lines of “If you believe that women are naturally better at human connection, then the conclusion should be that tech companies should be hiring them in droves because that’s the area they’re most sorely lacking.” I don’t think most tech companies are dying for more/better coders – there’s plenty of those out there.

            Reply
        3. Desdemona

          That’s really interesting! I have seen the “we have one job” mentality before, but I hadn’t connected it with the idea that building relationships at work would bear a stigma with those types. I wonder if that’s why Googlebro assumed he’d seen quality sacrificed for diversity? Not because the “diversity” hires were actually less capable, but because while they were as good, they brought something more to the team that he’s not able to see as anything but a mark of weakness?

          Reply
      2. Marzipan

        Arguably, in the context of these errors, the OP has one job, and that job is to rectify the problem in an appropriate way. And realistically, she isn’t doing that. She is making a mistake, a significant one, repeatedly, by approaching errors an extreme and counter-productive way.

        It’s easy, in what sounds like it’s a technical role, to think in absolutes – something is either right or wrong. But this situation is making me think about an interesting piece I read the other day (in a context I won’t go in to, so as not to derail the thread completely) talking about how that ‘pure’ technical work is really run on human interaction; and how the skills of dealing with people become progressively more important as you become more senior. So I guess another aspect to this is where the OP sees herself in future – if she wants to move into managerial roles, these skills will be especially important. (The good news is that they can be learned, but it does take time and commitment and work to achieve that.)

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          This is very true. Ican speak from experience in saying that yes, when I was at lower levels, I was much like this person. Very black and white in regards to what is expected. Thanks to great mentors, this flaw was pointed out to me and I was able for the most part to correct it. I still see this with some of my coworkers though both young and old. And they often wonder why less technical people are promoted into management. It is because they cannot control their often times ridiculous reactions to very minor things whereas those promoted can.

          As I started to learn the broader contexts of business, how they are ran, and what is ultimately important, I was really able to tone down these reactions. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that Wakeen isn’t sending those emails with the correct subject line most of the time, and honestly management IS NOT going to fire him over it. I would recommend this as a way to correct this behavior if nothing else seems to help. Start seeing the bigger picture of your role and their role combined with the company’s ultimate goals.

          Reply
  4. seejay

    The last person who got emotional, angry and heated towards me, regularly, about the quality of my work wound up:
    * not getting a raise
    * demoted
    * put on a PIP
    * having to find another job
    and ultimately also proved that their quality of work was actually quite below the standards that they seemed to think it was. In fact, I regularly have to redo a lot of what was done previously since their work is sloppy, untested and slapdash.

    It’s one thing to have high expectations and expect good quality work out of people, another to get angry and lead to bullying behaviour… and it *can* come to bite you back in the long-run. Please, for the sake of your coworkers, reign in the expectations, people are human and doing their best.

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      I was thinking along very similar lines. Even if OP is FANFREAKINGTASTIC at their job, if people start leaving repeatedly because the are unable to work with you productively for any length of time, I think it’s a matter of time before OP may begin seeing the consequences of such behavior and may themselves be moved to another department with much less human interaction, demoted, or otherwise managed out. No one, including your manager, wants to work with people who behave the way you are behaving for any length of time.

      Reply
  5. CaliCali

    The irony here is that in your zeal to punish (not correct, punish — loudly and demonstrably) others for their mistakes, you’re making an egregious mistake in the way you’re handling it all. I would ask yourself this question: what are you trying to prove, and who are you trying to prove it to?

    Reply
    1. fposte

      That’s where I went–OP, you are repeatedly making a mistake here. Do you think the best thing to do would be to speak to you heatedly and remove you from team leadership?

      I edit, and I work with other editors and a stable of regular writers. And I know how easy it is to go down a rabbit hole of annoyance at an error; as you’re realizing, though, that’s about me and not about their performance or the final product. You can’t bully people into not making mistakes, and some mistakes are inevitable. So what’s an acceptable number of errors, and what other tactics might you bring to bear?

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Yes to all of this. The correct approach is to fix the mistake and figure out how to prevent it from happening again. Anger and punishment are not about that.

        Reply
  6. Chinook

    OP, AAM is right on. I am in a job where some mistakes can have heavy environmental, safety and/or regulatory impacts, so our risk tolerance in general is very low (basically, if my company releases any black liquid in public, it will make national news and it will be a sign that someone in my department failed).

    But, I am blessed to work with people who understand that we work with humans and humans make mistakes. Because these people react to mistakes calmly in a manner similar to which AAM describes, people are open to admitting to mistakes once they are discovered, which means they can be fixed much more sooner and steps can be taken to avoid them in the future. But, if our bosses reacted like you do, I can guarantee that mistakes would be covered up and passed around so that no one would take the blame. This means the root cause would be forgotten/avoided in attempt to not be yelled at.

    Basically, if you want to reduce the number of mistakes that happen, you have to allow all mistakes to come forward in such a way that they can be openly remedied and examined. The phrase I heard from DH’s military life that I have come to embrace is “lessons learned.” And you can’t learn the lesson if no one is willing to admit that the lesson happened.

    Reply
    1. AnnaleighUK

      Well said – I work in building safety control and basically if we screw up, people could literally die. However people are human, and human factors will always mean errors. People also learn from their mistakes and they’re not getting the chance here if they’re being pulled off projects.

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        That’s why there are checks and balances. That’s why there’s someone in the role checking for mistakes. My job doesn’t deal with life or death by any means, but there are at least three different levels of checks for pretty much every thing we do. If the expectation was that everyone was to be 100% perfect 100% of the time, then a whole bunch of jobs just wouldn’t exist.

        Reply
      2. Lindsay J

        Yup. My job has similar consequences for failure. And at every job I’ve had in this industry, the orientation has involved watching a video about human factors, and how to mitigate them if possible.

        We also have a “no fault” safety reporting line. If you have knowledge of any situation regarding safety, even if you were involved, from “we were pushed too hard to make this deadline and important corners were cut to meet it,” to “I misread the bag tag and used the wrong screws” to “coworker sourced parts on the black market and pocketed the profits,” to “multiple people told me different things about this and I’m confused as to who is right and I think I might have done it wrong” you can’t be punished on the basis of the report.

        We want to know why things are going wrong and how to fix them, and getting people to tell you what happened and why they think it happened that way is a big part of the picture. And people won’t tell you when something went wrong if they’re afraid of being punished for bringing it to light.

        Reply
    2. Matilda Jefferies

      We generally have the same philosophy in the privacy world as well. Obviously the impact of a privacy breach is different than that of an oil spill, but the same principle applies. If you punish people for making mistakes, they will stop telling you about them. And if they stop telling you about them, then you have no way of fixing them, and potentially you have an even bigger problem than you would have had if you had heard about it earlier.

      There are serious consequences for deliberate wrong-doing, of course. But you never want to punish someone for an honest mistake, for all the reasons listed here and elsewhere in the comments.

      Reply
    3. Fishgal

      Well said, I worked in a job where the last person to find the mistake got reamed. It was a survival of the fittest type work place and I brought that mentality to my new work and floundered for awhile because of it. It didn’t help that one worker at my current employer would l ave things half broken so that the next person me would break them but that’s a while other story.

      Reply
    4. Snark

      I’m in a field with similar issues, and that’s why we peer review and QA/QC our deliverables before a client ever sees them. But the collegial atmosphere of mutual trust and respect is absolutely critical to that. If I got ripped a new orifice every time someone found a typo, I’d find another peer reviewer – or just do it my damnself, SOPs notwithstanding.

      Reply
      1. Djuna

        See, I was wondering if reframing stuff would help this OP. If they have approvals on work (deeming it “acceptable” vs forcibly ejecting someone from the team for an error), then if they looked at themselves as a peer reviewer, rather than an “approver” they may relax a little and understand that a review process exists to *catch and repair* errors.

        Even with the best editorial eye in the world, you can become blind to errors – especially if you’ve been working on something for a long time. You need someone with fresh eyes to catch the things you’re (unintentionally) glossing over because you’re rereading a thing for the 50th time that day. And you need that person not to judge, but to correct the error. And if it’s a repeated error, maybe mention that. Calmly.

        If the team is under pressure, or stress (maybe because they have a peer with an incredibly short fuse?), errors will increase. My team is under a lot of pressure right now (we have no shouty people, it’s our busiest time of the year and we’re short-handed) and we’re all looking out for one another when it comes to reviewing work. It eases my mind to know that if I let a typo though, one of my eagle-eyed colleagues will catch it, and fix it, without thinking I’m an imbecile for it.

        If there is constant churn on a team, the errors will also go up because people are new, and people are learning. You have to let people learn, including through mistakes. It’s tough enough joining a new team, and that’s without having the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head ready to drop at the first sign of a typo. OP needs to change their perspective, drastically and quickly, or they’ll be all them and no team.

        Reply
    5. Collarbone High

      I just read a fascinating article about air traffic controllers — arguably one of the highest-stakes jobs in the world — and how they encourage a culture of learning from, rather than firing for, mistakes for exactly this reason. A mistake is considered an opportunity to examine the entire system for potential problems and used to train other controllers all over the world to spot what went wrong and remedy it if they’re ever in a similar situation.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        Building safety standards seem to develop in a similar way – there is some kind of design mistake that leads to problems (deaths, generally) and then codes and standards are revised to correct for that. There was an accidental gas explosion right down the street from me a couple of weeks ago, and the NTSB and some other agencies were here right away to start a loooong investigation and (if needed) revise standards.

        Reply
      2. Another person

        That’s actually my dad’s job–retraining air traffic controllers who make mistakes/need a refresher in certain procedures after incidents.

        Reply
      3. Amy

        I work in manufacturing and we work in a similar way. When something happens it’s investigated and either new rules are implemented or best practices are reinforced. An email goes out to the whole company describing the incident, without naming names, why it happened and what we’re doing to prevent it in the future.

        Reply
      4. TootsNYC

        Watch a few air-crash videos, and see how important it is to thoughtfully and calmly examine mistakes.

        Hugely problematic systemic problems can be discovered and corrected when mistakes are treated as puzzles to be solved, and not sins to be punished.

        Many, many mistakes have their roots in something that has nothing to do with the incompetence of the people making them.

        In my job, I got a piece of text in which someone had written, “Here, here!” instead of “Hear, hear!” My first instinct was to feel scornful–but I realized also that this person simply had never read this phrase. Or they’d only encountered people who didn’t know.
        I didn’t want him to keep making this error, not even in his email to his mom, let alone work–so I wrote him a memo to say, “This is a mistake. It means ‘listen to her!’ Maybe that will help you remember it.”

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          Nice example. And you’re absolutely right about high stakes situations. It’s dangerous to try to mitigate real risks like this in an emotional, heated, and irrational way, where more time is spent being offended by an error than at recognizing, examining, correcting, and trying to prevent similar ones in future.

          Reply
    6. KellyK

      Absolutely! A culture where people get reamed out over mistakes is a culture where people cover up mistakes or try to blame others rather than fixing them.

      Also, in areas where avoiding mistakes is really critical, you don’t do that by only hiring perfect people who never make mistakes. (Even if the task *is* done by robots, fallible humans still have to program the robots.) You do it by having processes in place like checklists and peer reviews to make sure that mistakes are caught.

      So, OP, every time you find a mistake, look at it not as your coworkers failing but as *your process succeeding.* Your reviews exist to make sure mistakes are caught. Every time you find a mistake, that’s something that can be fixed, and that’s a win for you and your team.

      Also, if you *never* found a mistake, that would mean one of two things. Either your review is unnecessary because your team members are thoroughly peer-reviewing each other’s work and catching everything before you see it, or there are mistakes that you’re missing.

      Reply
      1. Risha

        There are few things more terrifying than the unit of work sent off for QA and no bugs have come back. My assumption is not that I did everything 100% correctly the first time, it’s that QA and the client haven’t tested it properly yet.

        (Yesterday I noticed that we’ve been sending out notices marked as ‘Assesment’. In production. For at least half a year. And yes, I was the one who programmed that notice.)

        Reply
        1. Anonymous 40

          I work in QA and agree completely. Nothing frustrates me more than feeling like we haven’t tested something thoroughly enough. I can’t sleep the night before the go-live of a system I don’t feel confident about, especially if our testing time was cut or the technical team dismissed concerns we brought up. Missing something I could and should have caught really gets to me.

          Reply
          1. Purple snowdrop

            I QA data every so often, and yeah, if everything matches first time I start deleting bits of data to make sure they do get flagged. Normally I find that I’ve made a mistake and can then fix it.

            Reply
        2. Stone Satellite

          If I write a test for my code, and it passes the first time I run it, I assume the test is broken (and make sure by changing something so that it definitely should fail, just to make sure that it does). Nothing ever works the first time … if it does you should be highly suspicious of it.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        So, OP, every time you find a mistake, look at it not as your coworkers failing but as *your process succeeding.*

        Oh yes!!
        We had a boss who acted as though the sky had fallen when someone found a mistake at a very late stage. I was new at that job, and the team I’d come in to work over were always so puzzled. “But we CAUGHT it! It didn’t go into print. Everywhere else I’ve worked, that was a good thing.”
        Of course as dept. head, I’d want to look at it carefully to see if there was any systemic thing we could do to head it off, but normally they’d already begun that process before I’d gotten back from the meeting to be notified.

        Because THEY didn’t want to make mistakes, and they were already on the case! Sometimes they had suggestions for process changes that made things safer (thereby doing my job for me)..

        Reply
    7. Lora

      Yep. I make drugs (my employers prefer to say, “we make medicines” because it sounds nicer). If I screw up, multiple people die.

      The way we control for errors is by 1) performing an FMEA to determine where the most critical points in the process occur 2) designing engineering controls (i.e. not people Being Careful, but an automation sequence or sensor checkpoint) to detect the error and alert the humans 3) train train train train people until they are nearly dead of boredom but they can do the process in their sleep 4) pre-defining quality criteria: a small error is categorized as Not A Big Deal, write a note in the margin and move on with life, a medium size error is categorized as a Deviation that requires an investigation/root cause analysis by subject matter experts and a repeated Deviation is addressed by a corrective action. All our products are quarantined before they are cleared by an *independent* quality group who does not have incentives to skew the error reporting in any way.

      None of the corrective actions ever include yelling at anyone. They might include re-training someone, or revising a training program to be better, but yelling is not an option. The errors are deliberately structured in regulations and industry standards specifically like this because folks like you figured that people just weren’t paying attention good enough, and if they were yelled at they’d be more careful to pay attention. And it didn’t work, over and over.

      There are many industries where quality is so critical that there have been procedures and methods for quality control developed. If you truly feel that strongly about it, probably you should work on adopting some of those methods, rather than yelling at people.

      Reply
    8. CanCan

      The solution to that kind of zero-tolerance for mistakes is multiple verification/testing/approval layers, so that when something happens, it’s due to multiple mistakes by multiple people.

      Reply
  7. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Are you the team lead because you have the most experience at the company? Are you the team lead because you are the most knowledgeable about what you are implementing? In either of these cases, those are not the best or only reasons someone should be team lead. Maybe you should step down from that for awhile. Be a part of the team again, and see how the parts work together. And hopefully the new team lead will be better suited to managing people and you can learn from her and then try again.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      This might be a really great tactic for our OP as she figures out how to recalibrate.

      A change in perspective could be really powerful.

      Reply
  8. Blue Anne

    OP, another concern I have about this situation is that if your team members know this is how you react to mistakes, they’re going to conceal mistakes from you. That’s just human nature. No one wants to be yelled at. So there may be other mistakes that are being covered up or corrected in a sub-optimal way.

    Reply
    1. dawbs

      Yes.
      In dealing w/ safety issues from mistakes @ my workplaces, we’ve had to accept that mistakes will be made. we can’t stop all mistakes.
      What we CAN do is add layers of protection. So that the mistake on layer 1 is less likely to line up with the mistake on layer 2 and mistake on layer 3.

      It’s still possible for all the pieces of swiss cheese to have all the holes line up, and go all the way through so that mistake makes to to a real and dangerous place, but the more pieces of cheese you add, the lower those odds.
      And if I create a place where I KNOW about the location of ‘holes’ and the likelihood of them, I can help create betterlayers.

      Reply
    2. Bolt

      I fully agree – nothing is worse than the terror of making a mistake when you know your superior will flip out on you and remove you from what you are doing.

      My supervisor used to literally take my chair and make me stand behind her (like a child) while she lectured me and fixed my mistake – once it was only that I had handwritten a “1” to look like a “7” so she whited-out ALL of my numbers and re-wrote them with everyone watching. I almost cried.

      I ended up getting very good at hiding things to cover up any mistakes when I discovered them. When I did have to go to her with a problem or she picked up on something I had hidden, I’d be literally shaking all over and holding back tears.

      Leaving there was the best thing I EVER did.

      Reply
  9. Kim Possible

    Yeah, this is the kind of behavior that makes people want to quit jobs.

    This is the kind of manager that makes people leave work, go home to their spouses/family, and tell them how awful, terrible, horrible, etc. that their manager is. It’s certain you’re making these employees’ experience at work unbearable by acting this way.

    You immediately take your employees off a project for mistakes, but it’s not out of the question that you’ll soon have not enough employees for a project if your behavior continues.

    Reply
  10. Marzipan

    Without meaning this in a nasty way at all, are you sure this job is a good fit for you? It sounds as though your expectations of what people working on a task can achieve are not realistic, and it sounds as though this is having a really significant impact on you. I would certainly not want to find myself getting as angry at work as it sounds as though you get on a regular basis; I imagine that would be very uncomfortable. Do you think this specific type of work is right for you?

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Another really good point.

      OP, this can’t be a happy way to work. Be sure you’re watching out for yourself, and your soul, and your spirit and heart.

      Staying in a place that is turning you into someone horrible is not good self-care.

      I had a roommate situation once in which the relationship had gone sour. I had some legitimate complaints; I’d halfheartedly tried to work them out, but it was clear my roommate was never really going to see my point.

      I mentioned to my mother once that when I’d walked past her sitting in MY recliner in the living room, watching her endless TV while I holed up in my bedroom to get away from it, I’d had the urge to slap her in the head.
      My mom immediately said to me, “You need to move out, or kick her out. This is turning you into someone you do not want to be. Just end it.”

      Look out for yourself, here. It’s not just about how miserable your coworkers/employees are. You -can’t- be happy.

      I second the idea of talking to a therapist, even if it’s only that it gives you a dedicated time and place to think out loud about why you’ve become this sort of person. And what you can change. In yourself, in your job, etc.

      Reply
  11. Snarkus Aurelius

    One day, you’re going to run into a person who is really bad at his job, and no one is going to listen to you. Why? Because you you treat that guy the same as you would a person who made a random, one time mistake. If your reaction is the same to every type of mistake, people will stop listening to you because your perspective is so skewed.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that if you make mistakes yourself, people will jump down your throat. Mistakes are annoying but expected. Hypocrisy is another beast altogether. If you’re the hardass that you say you are, then your coworkers will not only enjoy relishing in your mistakes but they’ll be on the look out for them.

    You remind me of the manager who piled on an employee who walked into a conference room to fix something when someone else was on the phone in the room but that employee didn’t know a person was in the room. **There is nothing more annoying that being berated for doing something you didn’t originally intend to do.** The average mistake is something a person immediately recognizes and knows how to deal with it. But you sound like the type of person who harps and complains about it to the point you remove the person altogether (!).

    Think of it this way: if you dropped a cup on the floor by accident and it shattered, would you be interested in being reminded over and over again that you shouldn’t have done it and why dropping a cup is a bad thing? Would you be okay with having your kitchen privileges permanently removed?

    Reply
    1. Important Moi

      “Hypocrisy is another beast altogether. If you’re the hardass that you say you are, then your coworkers will not only enjoy relishing in your mistakes but they’ll be on the look out for them.”

      +1

      Reply
    2. CMDRBNA

      THIS. I learned this the hard way. At a place I used to work, when I really did have a legitimate issue with someone, it was kind of brushed off because I had had all sorts of interpersonal conflicts with other people in the past. It was really a wake-up call about my own behavior and I worked hard to change that about myself, and to really LET THE LITTLE THINGS GO.

      Reply
    3. Anon today...and tomorrow

      Agreed! I worked with a woman who would constantly monitor the behavior of others and make “reports” to the boss. Her job function was to train new people but her reports were about all the staff and usually about stuff like who was chatting too long, who was shopping online, or who was a few minutes late for their shift. The day came that we did get a toxic person on the team and during the training it was really clear that this new person was awful. My co-worker filed reports but it was dismissed and this toxic person made it through training and onto the team. Within 6 months most of the staff had quit because of this toxic person, myself included. I know the trainer felt bad…she would tell us that she tried to stop toxic person from coming into the team but nobody would listen. We knew that nobody listened because she cried wolf too many times.

      Reply
    4. Bolt

      The cup analogy reminded me how my mentally-unbalanced mother handled dropping a cup!

      If we broke a cup we couldn’t go in the kitchen for hours without getting yelled back out plus we’d be lectured for the whole day about not breaking cups (like we rebelliously dropped it in rebellion or something)…

      Once my friend broke a cup (why she bit the glass I will never know) and my mom banned her from being alone in the kitchen, all future friends were given plastic cups only and warned of my friends prior transgressions.

      No one wants my mom as a manager… no one.

      Reply
      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        The cup example came from my dad. When I was seven and dropped a cup and it shattered, he needed to know why it happened and why I thought that was something that should be done. I had one job when unloading the dishwasher, etc. (Yes, he said that.)

        I love the assumption that people make mistakes on purpose to ruin someone’s life.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous 40

          Wow. Asking a kid (calmly and positively) why something happened and how they can avoid it next time can be a legitimate technique in some instances. Using it to shame a kid is horrible.

          My son had preschool teachers one year who were like this. They made kids publicly apologize for anything they did “wrong.” We didn’t realize just how twisted the situation was until he got sick at home one night and threw up on the floor. The moment he was done retching, he stood up and apologized to his teachers and classmates, who weren’t even there.

          Reply
      2. CM

        Wait, that’s… not normal? I’d hear about the dropped cup for days and then it would unexpectedly come back to haunt me weeks or months later after I hoped it was forgotten.
        Hmm. Maybe time to go back to therapy.

        Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          Sorry but no, it’s really not.

          My dad was like this. I have been known to have to avert panic attacks after spilling things.

          Reply
        2. Anion

          Dude, my mom was verbally abusive all the time, and would fly off the handle and scream (often while throwing things, occasionally while hitting us) and call us names because of a mess we’d made or we asked her to take us somewhere and she didn’t want to or whatever reasons she had (think Mommie Dearest; that movie was honestly familiar to me)…but I don’t think even she ever flipped out over something like accidentally dropping and breaking a glass.

          I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve that.

          Reply
    5. The Meepster

      This is eerily similar to a situation that I’m going through on the other side of the coin (I have a mistake intolerant team lead), and the Crying Wolf mindset also happens to the people on the team. If typing a 1 instead of a 2 or something similar gets you a five minute lecture on how *awful* it is, how you *need to be more careful* and think about *how much time you wasted*, it’s hard to tell when you’ve done something really egregious. So that has lead to people on the team either not caring about anything or becoming very anxious.

      It has also made me internally roll my eyes when I’m receiving a long lecture about how a typo was a “waste of time” when it’s only a keystroke or a click of a button to fix. Like, the lead is literally spending way time kvetching about it than they spent fixing it. Which also makes it hard to take them seriously.

      Reply
      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        This was another point I wanted to mention: the time wasting. In addition to the OP’s co-workers looking for his mistakes, you have the OP harping on mistakes to the employee and supervisors. Plus the time it takes to replace an employee every time the OP kicks someone out of the group.

        All of these waste the employer’s time.

        Reply
      2. Lindsay J

        Ugh, my boyfriend was like this for awhile.

        Okay, I left the shower curtain open. Don’t lecture me about why it’s important to close it. Don’t call me into the bathroom and make me close it. Close it yourself. It takes one second. And if it bugs you, mention it in a proportional matter later. “Hey, by the way, you left the shower curtain open. I closed it, but try to be more aware of it.” Anything more is getting an internal eye-roll because it’s really not a big deal, any time spent addressing it is more time than it took to fix in the first place, and making me fix it was not going to stop it from happening again.

        We talked about it and he stopped once he understood how much it bothered me. But when he was doing it I felt like a dog getting their nose rubbed in their mess (which doesn’t work and isn’t appropriate for dogs either) rather than a human being who occasionally forgot to do a small thing that wasn’t an ingrained habit, had no significance to her, and had no real consequences.

        Reply
        1. Anion

          “We all forget things. That’s what reminding is for.”

          (Two points if you recognize that one!)

          Out of curiosity, why *was* it important to close the shower curtain? Because I honestly can’t see any reason why it would be. I can see why someone would prefer it be closed, but I can’t see why it would be *important* that it be closed.

          Reply
          1. Former Employee

            Probably because when you close the shower curtain it is stretched out and will dry. If it’s open and all bunched together, it is less likely to dry.

            Dry is better because:
            1. If it’s still wet when you go to take a shower and then stretch it out across the tub, it may suddenly spray water on you and the surrounding area, usually the floor;
            2. If it has a chance to dry it may be less likely to develop mildew, etc.

            Reply
            1. Anion

              Oh, duh. Of course.

              I haven’t had a shower with a curtain in like seven years; I know we used to keep it closed but I just couldn’t remember the reason, lol. Thanks!

              Reply
    6. Tara

      I very much agree! I had a coworker that was a supervisor at the same level as me, and we covered different shifts and our manager would always come to me with what this other supervisor would complain to her about and get my perspective on the ‘offending’ employee, because she knew she couldn’t trust this supervisors view of other employees because she over-complained.

      Reply
    7. Ramona Flowers

      “If you’re the hardass that you say you are, then your coworkers will not only enjoy relishing in your mistakes but they’ll be on the look out for them.”

      Or: how my old manager came to be fired.

      Reply
  12. nnn

    Dear OP,

    If, like me, you find technical problem-solving work far easier than emotional work, something you can do in parallel with what Alison suggested is work on mistake-proofing your team’s processes. Is there a pattern to how mistakes slip through? Is there a way to disrupt that pattern? A checklist to make sure all the steps have been followed? A script or a bit of code to make sure the output is compliant and, if it isn’t, flag it for review before you even see it? A personal quality control protocol?

    Once you’ve set yourself the project of mistake-proofing your team’s processes, then every mistake that occurs is simply a bug report resulting from the user testing of your mistake-proofing project.

    Reply
    1. Cassandra

      I was thinking this as well. The OP doesn’t say much about what his team’s toolset or processes are like, but for many easy-to-make mistakes (e.g. in code punctuation/spacing style, something I am routinely terrible at) there are validation or reformatting tools that help. I certainly hope the OP isn’t the type to forbid use of such tools because “Real Coders(tm) do it right every time!”

      I also wonder about code-review processes. Do they exist? Who is reviewing? (If they do and it’s the OP, then yelling is bad practice — code review is supposed to be a no-blame fix session.) What other QA exists before code handoff to the powers that be?

      Pair programming might be another worthwhile process innovation; ask the team if they’re up for trying it.

      Reply
      1. Akcipitrokulo

        Devs here have a stylecop that does not allow code to be checked in unless it follows certain rules (where blank lines can go, must have space between // and comment, etc). This means that any mistakes in formatting never go into trunk….

        Reply
        1. Kalamet

          This is something all large teams should do. In addition to this, my editor is configured with an extension that highlights style issues as I’m writing them, so I don’t even have to wait until the end to fix them. Establishing little tools and processes like this makes a massive difference in quality short-term.

          Reply
    2. Naomi

      I love this. When I see a mistake in someone’s work–especially an intern or new employee–that’s useful feedback, because sometimes it’s a sign that our training processes or documentation are missing important information that people who’ve worked here longer “just know”. In which case, the real problem is solved by updating the documentation, not blaming the employee.

      And when you’ve caught a mistake, you can tell the person who made it how to prevent it happening again. In the long run, that will result in fewer mistakes than transferring someone off your team every time they go wrong, because your teammates will encounter all the common errors and learn to avoid them.

      This also reminds me of another point: if you’re working in a technical field, I expect you have some sort of bug tracking system. This is exactly what those systems (and QA testing) are for! You may have heard “if men were angels, no government would be necessary”? Well, if engineers were robots, no bug reports would be necessary. Part of working in tech is knowing that bugs happen, and having processes to find and fix them.

      Reply
  13. ZSD

    As a person with actual (mild) OCD, I want to say that this doesn’t really sound like “some sort of OCD” to me. Sorry to reverse-armchair-diagnose, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when people casually refer to OCD when they don’t really have it.
    That said, I agree with Alison that seeing a therapist could be very helpful for you.

    Reply
    1. Annabelle

      I came here to say the same thing. My wife has OCD and I cringe a little when people essentially use it as an adjective. But yeah, a therapist could be very helpful, particularly in helping OP regulate their emotions/expectations.

      Reply
    2. Natalie

      Nor does it especially matter. The OP’s behavior is likely having negative affects on their team, and that would be true regardless of whether or not the root cause is a specific disorder. A specific diagnosis might help inform the OP’s treatment approach with their therapist, but it’s not a blank check to just keep on keeping on.

      Reply
    3. I'd rather be blue

      Yes, thank you for addressing this. It bothered me as well.

      Honestly, this sounds like an overdeveloped case of “perfectionist-itis” and a lack of empathy.

      Reply
  14. INTP

    I agree with what Alison said, but also keep in mind that if you react so harshly to mistakes, you’re going to create an atmosphere where people lie and throw each other under the bus to conceal mistakes. If someone is good at covering their mistakes, you could end up with a much, much bigger problem down the line when it’s discovered than you’d have if someone made a mistake and owned up to it. This isn’t just a matter of hurting coworkers’ feelings, this is a management style that is very dangerous for your projects. (And could destroy your career eventually – your manager may tolerate this, but another manager probably wouldn’t, and your own manager may stop if a project blows up and makes her look bad.)

    Before you have any kind of interaction or make any decisions based on a mistake, stop to think “Is this really going to improve the project?” Chances are, it is not. Your personal anger and personal concepts of forgiveness just aren’t relevant in the workplace, take a walk to clear your head if you need to but don’t let them impact work decisions.

    Reply
      1. LtBroccoli

        That was my thought – I have a coworker much like this (though without the insight to know it’s an issue and look for help like OP did) and we don’t tell her about her mistakes. We try not to interact with her at all. We just try to fix the mistakes ourselves.

        Reply
      2. Decima Dewey

        The thing with mistakes is that they happen, and there are ways to prevent them. And to prevent them, you have to find out why they happen.

        What do OP’s team members learn when they make a mistake? That they’ll get yelled at and removed from the team? But that doesn’t teach them why the mistake happened and give them tools to prevent a similar mistake in the future. So OP is likely to see the same mistakes repeated on different projects.

        Reply
  15. Voice from the wilderness

    As a team leader, your job is to get the team to produce quality work.

    This can mean excellent work, at times. But it can also mean just good enough work at other times.

    If you would use these mistakes as an opportunity to teach your people, you would improve their skills, motivate them, reduce the number of mistakes and build a kick ass team, along the way.

    It sounds like you are making the biggest mistake out of all involved, by reacting overemotionally, instead of as a professional leader who values his team.

    I hope you can switch gears. That way everyone will be happier, including you.

    If you don’t cool it, you’ll probably be fired.

    Good luck.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      “teach your people, you would improve their skills, motivate them,”

      Or maybe it’s not about the people at all.

      Maybe your checklist is shitty.
      Maybe your checklist has fonts too small, or is in the wrong order.
      Maybe your information is coming in a crappy format from the other teams.
      Maybe the documentation is out of date.

      But you’re so busy being pissed off and punitive, you’d never know.

      Reply
  16. Putting Out Fires, Esq

    I also want to say that it can be really tough to be responsible but powerless. Since you can’t fire or control compensation, are you feeling like your own reputation is on the line with other people’s work but you have no good way to ensure that the work gets done? Frustration and helplessness leads to bad habits, I’ve found. Maybe it’s worth working out explicit “here’s what happens when I have problems with team members” with the bosses, so you know there’s a way to address work-quality concerns without looking like you’re the slacker/ mistake-maker.

    Reply
    1. AnonEMoose

      I think this is a really good point. I’ve been in the position of having tons of responsibility – but no authority, and it’s horrible. It’s incredibly frustrating to essentially be yelled at from all sides due to stuff you can’t control, and there’s a pretty understandable urge to lash out.

      That said, OP, I think you know what you’re doing isn’t ok, and is probably driving talented people away. I’ve done a fair amount of one-on-one training over the course of my career to date. And yes, it’s frustrating when people make the same mistake or don’t remember something, no matter how many times you’ve told them. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people just have a mental block on some issues, and if I’m training them, I need to help them figure out how to work around/through it. Sometimes that’s not easy, and it takes a lot of time and error. I really try hard not to let the frustration show, or at least let them know I’m frustrated with the situation, not with them – but that we WILL find a way to make it work.

      So what I do when someone I work with, especially someone I’m training, makes a mistake is as follows. First I double check to make sure it’s actually an error, and that I haven’t misunderstood something. Doing that not only helps me figure out where they probably went wrong, it gives me time to get past the frustrated reaction. Once I’ve done that, I go talk to them (calmly) – or if it’s really just a quick fix, I might send them an email “Hey, I noticed this is X, and it should be Y, for Z reasons. Could you fix it? Let me know if you need help – thanks!”.

      Anyway, if I talk to them, I try to approach it in much the same way: I noticed X, it looks like it should really be Y, is there something I’m missing? That last question is CRITICAL. It takes the other person off the defensive – because I’m both noting that I could be mistaken, AND letting them know that we’re going to figure it out together. So we look at whatever it is together and figure out both the issue and a solution. That approach seems to really help people remember where things got messed up and helps keep them from doing it again. And here’s the other benefit – if they screw up and realize it, or think they might be about to – they will come to me and ask. And we’ll either fix it, or talk about how whatever it is needs to be done. And if they notice something I messed up – again, they’ll let me know and ask me about it. It seems to work pretty well.

      I do get frustrated and feel angry when it seems like people are making the same mistakes over and over again. But I don’t approach others until that reaction has passed or is at least under control. And if it’s a pattern, then the conversation does need to be different. More like “Hey, you seem to be struggling with this. How can we make this work better/help you understand it better?” It’s not about accusing or punishing them. It’s about making the workday easier and better for all of us.

      Reply
      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

        Yes. When you’re in the position of all responsibility and no authority, soft skills become your friend. You have to nudge people to cooperate with you and make it clear that this is collaborative, because you have no other recourse! It requires more people skills, not less, to get people to do what you want voluntarily.

        Reply
      2. nonymous

        what really stinks is when the response to “Hey, I noticed this is X, and it should be Y, for Z reasons. Could you fix it? Let me know if you need help – thanks!” is “Good idea. Can you change it to Y and send it to Fergus? Thanks!”

        Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      responsibility without authority is particularly difficult.

      But I’ve found that the way to get what I need is to be even MORE collaborative.
      So this punitive approach is really not the one that works here.

      Reply
  17. Risha

    I’ve been a tech team lead and a tech project manager, and what you describe sounds not only like a complete nightmare for your team members, but completely unworkable for your career. (I’m not one anymore, because I decided I was happier being a techy person than managing, but I was a very, very good tech lead, so I know what I’m talking about.)

    Issues happen, because people are human. In technology, issues happen EVERY DAY. No one, not even you, writes perfect code every time, and especially not code that accounts for every edge case, undocumented system quirk, software bug, or integration issue. Keeping a cool head and fixing the problem (or more properly, directing the team member on how to fix the problem) is part of your job. Berating your people is not only earning you a reputation as that lead your never want to end up on a project with, it’s just delaying the work you’re actually supposed to be doing!

    Frankly, if I was your manager, I’d be giving you negative feedback and you’d possibly be looking at a work improvement plan.

    Reply
    1. RVA Cat

      I’m seconding Allison’s advice for the OP to see a therapist, because it sounds like some free-floating anger/anxiety/control issues driving this. This is YOUR problem, not your team’s.

      Also, it might be worthwhile to seriously consider moving on to a new company and position where you are NOT a team lead. It’s tough to take a step back, but it sounds like a supervisory role — especially with no real power — is a bad match with skill set at this time.

      Reply
  18. ZSD

    OP, another thing I notice is that it sounds like you might not be differentiating between levels of mistakes. Are you having the same gasket-blowing reaction when someone has a typo in their spreadsheet as you do when they accidentally CC the entire company on a private piece of information?
    Note that even in the latter case, you shouldn’t have the heated reaction you’re describing. As Alison said, there’s a professional way to address these problems. But another thing you might work on is distinguishing between mild and serious errors.

    Reply
      1. Lance

        The mentality, I assume, is that they’re so trivial that they shouldn’t ever be happening. The problem, of course, is that people’s brains often focus on the less trivial things, so some other things occasionally slip through the cracks.

        Reply
        1. MK

          Very true. I write complicated legal documents every day and you know what is my most common mistake? The date! I type it quickly and I often don’t pay attention when I revise, so a mistake can happen easily. Once I dated a report January 16th 1008.

          Reply
          1. Natalie

            At my first professional job, my boss used to have me proof lease drafts our outside counsel had generated. She didn’t expect me to look at the legalese or even the rental terms – she specifically wanted me to check dates, cities, addresses, etc because the lawyers rarely caught those errors.

            Reply
          2. Typhon Worker Bee

            My maths teacher in high school would get super frustrated with me because I’d often solve a very difficult equation perfectly until the last line, when I’d write something like “2y x 3 = 5y”. Luckily we’d get partial credit for every correct step, and she trained me out of it in time for the final exams!

            Reply
            1. LBK

              Ha – that was the bane of my existence in high school math. I have a weird kind of mild dyslexia that’s exclusive to certain numbers (4 and 7 are the worst culprits but it happens with 5 and 2 sometimes as well) so I’d do all the steps correctly except at one point I’d misread one of the numbers when copying it down to the next step…and then proceed to still do the rest of the steps correctly, just with my incorrectly transcribed numbers.

              Reply
          3. Emily, admin extraordinaire

            There’s a reason even those of us who edit for a living need an editor for our own writing! The brain sometimes sees what it expects to see, not what is actually there. Mistakes are inevitable. Having a process to correct them is the key.

            Reply
            1. Anion

              Yes! I write for a living, and my drafts are generally pretty error-free….but even after reading over the entire mss a dozen times and going through a round or two of edits with my agent and then my editor, when my copyedits come back there’s always at least one typo or word error.

              Reply
  19. Quirk

    I used to work at a company where the manager in the adjacent team was pretty much zero-tolerance when it came to mistakes. He was very competent himself, and he expected perfection and let people know when they fell short, often very bitingly.

    For a while this worked, but the people who were under him – who had skills difficult to replace – suffered a slow drain in morale. Then, one by one, they left.

    Your behaviour has room to have real negative repercussions on the effectiveness of your team, and possibly, depending on the company and your team’s importance to the company, the entire business. You need to fix this.

    That doesn’t mean sloppiness should get a pass, but you need to be gentle about correcting it. You don’t just have one job. You have two jobs: deliver the project, and maintain and improve an effective team. As a technical lead, if your team is not producing the quality you want, your first stop is to ask how you can make it easier for them to do so. Often that involves revisiting the process, but I’d also urge you to consider your team’s morale, to try and build them up, so they’re producing their best work.

    Reply
    1. Dust Bunny

      “You don’t just have one job. You have two jobs: deliver the project, and maintain and improve an effective team. ”

      Yeah, this. I’m not a manager but I’m pretty sure that nobody in management has just one job. My manager definitely doesn’t. We get a lot of stuff done with very little budget (I work for a nonprofit) and a tiny department. Do we screw up? Yes, sometimes. But not a lot, and not catastrophically, and because we’re not afraid of each other, things that could snowball never do.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      I would say that’s almost in the wrong order.

      Your most important job is to maintain and improve an effective team.

      Because THEY are going to deliver the project.

      Reply
  20. LBK

    Yeah, I think the OP needs to recalibrate her expectations here and maybe be a little more honest about her own flawlessness, because I find it almost impossible to believe she never makes mistakes herself. This almost sounds to me like someone who’s a perfectionist that treats herself very harshly when she makes a mistake and therefore projects the same expectation and treatment onto others when they make mistakes.

    FWIW, blowing up and getting emotional like this is what I would consider a “professionalism mistake” – it comes off to me as though you feel this is something out of your control, but understand that for most people, making technical mistakes is out of their control to an extent as well, or at least is just human. If you’re going to hold your coworkers to such a high standard on technical work, hold yourself to that same standard for emotional work, which is just as important even in a highly technical field. No one wants to work with a brilliant jerk.

    Reply
    1. Sloane Kittering

      True I would guess that OP does in fact make small mistakes all the time, but a) doesn’t notice them, which is how mistakes happen in the first place, or b) excuses themselves through some kind of fundamental attribution error [there’s a *reason* that I make mistakes, while other people’s mistakes are just stupid!]

      Reply
      1. Librarianne

        I once had a boss who was a perfectionist to a completely obsessive, unworkable level. One day I came in and found her crying at her desk, muttering to herself, “I made a mistake. AND I NEVER MAKE MISTAKES.”

        I had to go to therapy after working with her for five years. Eventually I transferred to get away from her. The next three people to work under her quit within months.

        Reply
  21. Sloane Kittering

    It’s interesting to me that OP sounds like they’re saying small mistakes make them the MOST annoyed (presumably because OP thinks they should be easily avoided? I’d like more info on this). That’s odd because in general it’s the small mistakes that are the easiest for me to understand / overlook – “Oh, there was a typo in this. That’s unfortunate / makes us look bad, but it happens all the time, and I’ve made that mistake too.” Or something like a link that’s broken in a public document – annoying and bad, but easy to do and quite easily fixed. The mistake occurs with a single point of failure and best practices can easily miss it. I have a much harder time not getting annoyed with mistakes that are large / costly, or should have been caught in one of multiple check points – something that was predictable based on past experience. OP might want to look into this pattern and see if that does point to a personal issue.

    Reply
    1. CM

      I can understand this because trivial errors should be easy to catch, and seem like carelessness that can be easily avoided with some effort.

      OP, as the team lead, you’re not just making technical decisions about the project. You should also be building up your team’s skills so that they can complete the project effectively. I think you should start thinking about teaching as part of your job. When somebody makes a mistake, take that as an opportunity to teach them the correct way to handle it. That way they’ll come back to you next time and hopefully have a better work product. If they keep making the same mistakes, think about it as your problem instead of theirs; you need to teach them better next time.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        When somebody makes a mistake, take that as an opportunity to teach them the correct way to handle it.

        And keep in mind–it may not be them! Or, it may be 20% them, and 80% something else.

        Reply
  22. CC

    I think adjusting the framing of your thinking can be helpful here – you want you projects to be completed successfully and effectively, not necessarily flawlessly. Having some tolerance for mistakes (especially in technical projects) can let stuff get finished significantly faster with more creative options. It’s usually easier to fix mistakes than to avoid all mistakes.

    Obviously this depends on the project – I’ve told some of my team that the only mistakes that we can’t tolerate are safety related ones, and if you’re working in a field with catastrophic outcomes on mistakes, yeah, you can’t tolerate them. That said, if this is the case, you have an obligation to build a checklist or other framework that prevents this.

    Reply
    1. Sloane Kittering

      Yes! This is what I thought. OP, try to rewrite that script that you’re reading in your head when you find a mistake. This is something you can consciously work on – I do it all the time for my own internal dialogue when it’s unproductive (I think this may even be a part of cognitive behavioral therapy although I’m not in the mental health field so maybe not). You sound very self aware when you say “The rationale in my head is always “We have ONE job and one job only, and that’s to get this done! No excuses.” But this phrasing is hurting you, making you more angry, making it worse. Try an internal script like Alison suggests: “humans aren’t perfect, but I know we’re all doing our best. Is there anything we can do to prevent this mistake from happening next time?”

      Reply
    2. Government Worker

      Yes, this. For many (most?) projects there’s a spectrum from slapdash to totally perfect, where the trade-off for a better project is more time and effort (and money, usually). It’s an important management skill to be able to identify and communicate where on that spectrum a given project falls.

      Software handling the launch sequence on a fighter jet? Take a long time and do a lot of testing. Writing an internal strategy memo about next season’s glaze colors for the teapot line? Six rounds of QA might be a waste of time and energy, even if a couple of typos or even larger mistakes may slip through.

      Reply
  23. Emmie

    When you’re in a role like this, it’s easy to take mistakes personally or to get frustrated because it slows down your process. But, your reaction is way out of line with professional norms. It makes you hard to work with, and discourages people from self-reporting / self-identifying mistakes – a really important piece in getting good quality work. It seems like you are starting to recognize this, and I hope you make improvements to your reaction.

    Reply
    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      This point exactly, taking it personally. The team members are not making simple mistakes because they don’t respect you. It’s not because “your” projects are less important. They make mistakes because they make mistakes. Don’t tie it into your self-worth.

      Reply
    2. Lison

      I work in QA and it is really important for people not to be berated for something they do wrong. A few years ago the habit was when things went wrong to say “human error” and retrain/punish the person who made the mistake. This is not now acceptable to the authorities. They want you to look into why the human made the error. Or why the automated process made the error, to find the root cause. And if people are afraid to report the problem you’re never going to find out why it happened. So OP might benefit from looking at the errors that incensed them and if any are repeats consider that they might have been avoided had they tried to fix the problem rather than just boot someone off the team.

      Reply
  24. AndersonDarling

    I’ve seen this kind of behavior with new Team Leads. Not to make a blanket statement, but new Leads sometimes overstep their authority to show off their “manager skills.” It’s a power grab situation where the Lead lords over the team. I would fire any Team Lead that was yelling at staff. It shows that the individual isn’t capable of handling any responsibility and I don’t think they could be put back in their staff role after breaking trust with their co-workers.
    I’d suggest stepping back and reviewing what the role specifically entails. At least in my organization, Lead roles are there to support their team, be a single source of communication between the team and the manager, and they may have some small decision making authority. A Team Lead is expected to check for errors and have them corrected, but disciplining is way beyond the scope of the role.

    Reply
    1. Sloane Kittering

      There’s definitely a learning curve for new management. It’s really scary to be ultimately responsible for the final product, in a buck-stops-here kind of way, but forced to depend on the work of others. You can’t double-check every single thing that goes out, at a certain level. But it’s still on you if your company releases something wrong. This is just a fundamental tension of management – all you can do is try to set up good systems and have the right people with the right authorities in place. I wonder if that’s part of what’s making OP overreact to these errors that perhaps they wouldn’t have made.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        True. Leads will think they are responsible for the final product, but that is still the responsibility of the Manager. If the OP is feeling the pressure of delivering a flawless product, they may want to talk to their manager to understand what is really expected of them.

        Reply
      2. Lindsay J

        Definitely true.

        I had this problem when I was new to supervising. However, instead of yelling at people I just avoided delegating anything I thought was remotely important or difficult because I believed “if you want the job done right you have to do it yourself.”

        I’m pretty sure it was this site that got me to realize that that was bad management, too. I finally came to understand that my job wasn’t only to have the team churn out work of acceptable quality – that’s an individual contributor’s job – but to build up my team members’ skills and the processes/systems we used so that everyone was able to turn out high quality work. I also realized that if I wanted to advance higher in management I would have to learn to delegate things to competent people – the district manager of McDonald’s might not know exactly how long the fries get dropped for and he can’t count the tools and do the cash drops for all the stores he is responsible for every night. His job is to hire and train the right people in the right positions so he can be confident those things are being done while he works on budgeting, building relationships with vendors, and other things people below him can’t.

        Reply
  25. 10 Points to Hufflepuff

    OP, if you are concerned with the number and types of mistakes that are regularly being made by your stuff, consider what kind of QA/QC protocols you have in place. If you expect people to make mistakes, implement a way for somebody to check this work as a regular approach. Maybe you can create a list of the most common mistakes you encounter and have the QA/QC person specifically check for these. Your stuff can take turns checking each other’s work. By the time an assignment makes its way to you for final approval, it would have lower chances of having errors and you would be more comfortable with the quality of the work.

    Reply
    1. sb

      Yeah, I was wondering where QA factored in here… unless the people making mistakes (or not catching them) are QA people, which is bad, but it sounds like this tech lead might be reviewing unchecked work or something.

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        I worked at a place once with upper management that expected everything to always sail straight through QA testing. Errors were supposed to be caught *before* QA. They’d been slotted in on top of us after a merger and didn’t understand what we did, not that it would’ve been reasonable for even trivial products. But this was a product so complex that the only way to really test it was to throw real data at it – files that could be up to a terabyte in size and take 12 hours to run on the fast test servers. There were at least a dozen of them, running on multiple machines so they could all get done overnight. There was no way an individual engineer, on a single computer, could absolutely guarantee that even the most trivial of changes would not cause a failure in the test suite – that was why we had developed the test suite! But the nature of the code was such that, given a failure, it was usually pretty obvious what equally trivial change would be needed to cover that case too.

        Given a choice between a cycle of almost-perfect fix today, break, perfect fix tomorrow, or sitting around for a week running the whole test suite, we went for the first option and ignored the occasional upper-management rant.

        Reply
  26. Shadow

    i cannot tolerate others making any mistakes but I make them every time I yell at someone and yank them off a project. Think about that the next time you see a mistake

    Reply
  27. Jen

    Oh. This. I manage an employee with this issue right now. I’ve spoken directly to them about it. I put a ton of effort into modeling calm behavior, and I try to resolve any issues they bring up. What’s crazy is that they are a talented teapot maker – extremely valuable in that regard – but I’m at the point where losing their skillset is worth losing that toxic energy on my team and within my company. If there is any more display of temper, my next conversation will be – “are you sure you still want to work here?” What complicates the matter is that certain managers also model this behavior which makes it difficult for me to enforce. The things that enrage this employee upset me too, but reacting emotionally doesn’t help anything.

    It’s a shame – it makes me wonder how I can improve as a manager to spot this trait when I hire.

    Reply
    1. CMDRBNA

      Yup. Even the most singular, brilliant, talented, no-mistakes-making ever person ultimately becomes kind of useless if no one can work with them, unless they are literally working in the vacuum of space.

      Reply
    2. Ange

      I don’t know if it is necessarily possible to spot. We had a new employee start about a month ago and last week he had a massive screaming fit at a couple of our colleagues over something extremely trivial (complete with “I know the chief exec” style ranting) and now nobody wants to work with him.
      But he clearly didn’t show signs of that in the interview or they wouldn’t have hired him.

      Reply
        1. Natalie

          I think it would be helpful to ask how a person handles frustration, disagreement, etc. I probably wouldn’t be so specific as to ask “do they completely lose their mind and have screaming fits?” just because that’s too specific to be useful.

          Reply
          1. Ramona Flowers

            I would ask how they handle it when others make mistakes and see if they seem steamed up.

            I had witnessed my grandboss being kind, calm and diplomatic to – and about – others. So when I woke up in the middle of the night and sat bolt upright realising I might have made a horrible mistake in something I worked on for him, my reaction was to go talk to him and check. (It wasn’t a mistake as it turned out. But if it was it would have got fixed and not swept under the rug.)

            Reply
        2. Ange

          Thing is, it’s possible that this is the only time he’s ever done this and that it will never happen again. But none of us are really willing to risk it.

          Reply
      1. CMDRBNA

        Yikes! I guess it’s like the first date rule. Some people are just really good at hiding who they are in interviews. I think the important thing is how that’s handled going forward. Having worked with several bullies, honestly, most people will shape up if they’re shown in unequivocal terms that there are consequences to that behavior. All of the workplace bullies I knew were people who’d gotten away with it. I worked with one guy who became worse and worse in the first year he was hired because he started out pushing boundaries and wasn’t disciplined, and it escalated. I firmly believe if our director had nipped it in the bud, it never would have gotten as bad as it did (resulted in the entire support staff quitting over this one guy…who then quit!).

        It continually amazes me how managers can be so afraid of confrontation that they let problems like this fester. It sends a pretty clear message to the bully that it’s tolerated and to the rest of the staff that they can’t expect to be treated professionally.

        Reply
  28. nonymous

    I would add in addition to Alison’s excellent script, OP may find benefit in collating the list of issues and performing a meta analysis of root cause issues. At some point a pattern will emerge, whether it be tied to an individual performer or across the team.

    As OP points out, they are not the manager so they are not responsible for monitoring staff behavior. However, they can address with their *own* boss if a lot of issues OP is fixing is disproportionately trivial (e.g. “10% of my tickets last month was fixing spelling errors. Is this how I should be spending my time?”). If OP can identify common challenges across multiple coworkers, it’s an opportunity to present process improvement.

    OP may take consolation that if the data shows that Fergus is in fact a clueless idiot, it will be documented clearly. But OP should do some soul-searching to figure out what the anger is accomplishing in the moment (glee? stress relief valve? power tripping? anxiety driven?). If the root cause is that OP’s job is to deal with all problems regardless of cause (or volume) without any feedback to source, they need to politely push back on the stupid stuff. I find making the transgressor resolve (don’t yell, just route back to origin either by email or side-by-side work) it is the most rewarding approach, because it leaves the door open for learning and oops!sorry! while extinguishing the “meh, OP will fix it” mentality.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Well, there is a good chance that the OP will NOT be able to spot a problem. They aren’t talking to their team members about the causes, but rather haranguing them (“detailed conversations” about how trivial mistakes are not allowed) sometimes even yelling at them. And there are almost certainly mistakes that the OP is NOT catching, never mind the root cause, because who in their right mind is going report anything to this guy?

      Reply
      1. nonymous

        > Well, there is a good chance that the OP will NOT be able to spot a problem.

        That’s kind of the whole point. OP will go into their manager with the list of “OMG! 1000 instances of spelling errors. 95% of my day is resolving these tickets to fix spelling errors!”.

        OP could really be wasting her day. Her coworkers could be expecting her to do the last 20% of their tasks because they’re overworked or the last lead let them get away with it. Her company may have lower standards than she’s trying to implement. But until she has a conversation with her manager regarding specific tasks, it’s hard to tell. The tracking will let OP approach this conversation equipped with hard facts instead of just an emotional response.

        I want to point out that if OP is expected to lead the team to this perfection standard without management having to hold junior staff or themselves accountable, that might be root cause of the anger she is feeling. But maybe OP’s job is really repeating “Did you remember XYZ?” 20bazillion times a day to the same 5 people. If so she should figure out a way to automate that.

        Reply
    1. Lefty

      Thank you for this article- I’ll be sharing this with some staff and my husband (in tech). Our group often finds itself doing so called “hotwash” meetings which feel like no more than formalized blame fests. The thoughts behind this approach are what I have been trying to express, but failing to make clear. Maybe the words of someone else will give a new, clearer perspective.

      Reply
    2. Chinook

      I like the idea but I don’t like the fact that they only happen around failures or near misses. I wish more groups would do a “lessons learned” even on successful projects because sometimes they are successful out of sheer luck (“nobody opened the door where we stacked all the old desks but I wouldn’t plan on doing that again” type of luck.)

      I started doing this with my volunteer group and it was great because it became part of the process without making anyone feel like what they did is a failure. Plus, if we did everything right, it became a short meeting that was summed up by saying “follow the noted from this year because we seemed to have covered everything.” Or, it became a time to discuss what could be improved to make it even better.

      Reply
  29. tyger tyger

    At my workplace, team leads are responsible for doing the last stage of review before work is sent out to our clients. Both team leads and their team members produce the same kind of work. One thing we’re responsible for is producing very long and detailed reports with very quick turnarounds, so mistakes usually happen in the form of minor typos or formatting issues.

    One thing I frequently have to remind new team leads is that their work includes mistakes too, but because they are the last stage of review, they don’t have someone above them catch the mistakes in their own work. So sometimes the mistakes they get very upset about their team making are also mistakes they’ve made themselves, but their errors just happened to not get caught. On occasion, if a team lead seems to be developing unrealistic expectations about work quality, I’ll do a re-review of a team lead’s own work and point out any errors that are in it — not with the intention of shaming them, but to remind them that everyone is human and that when detailed work is being produced quickly, mistakes are going to happen and there is a normal baseline amount of errors that you should actually expect to see.

    It’s easy to start believing your own work is perfect if your the last stage of review, and I wonder if something similar is going on here.

    Reply
      1. Steve

        This reminds me of what I consider the biggest plot hole in Gattaca: that anyone, genetically engineered or not, could type for years without making a single typo. I found that harder to believe than the part where the person didn’t leave a single stray hair or skin cell.

        Reply
  30. Granny K

    If a person is making the same mistakes repeatedly and refuses to correct them, I can see why you’d get mad, but sometimes people just make unintentional errors and it’s your job to point them out and get them fixed. The End.

    Believe me, I understand your frustration. I used to work with a gal who was supposed to do layout of email content for the team and then we’d review it and she’d send it out. I’d find mistakes, point them out in a subsequent email and then we’d have a call to review the email/document. She’d tell me the reasons why she made the mistake, without trying to correct them. It got to the point where I didn’t have 30 minutes to listen to her excuses, wait for her to correct them, which she stopped doing (because her reasons were valid) (yes really) so I just started doing them myself. When asked by her manager why I wasn’t using this resource and following process, I told her in no uncertain terms that I literally didn’t have time to work with a person like her. She was later let go, and I don’t think she ever understood that despite being a nice person, how frustrating it was to work with her.

    Reply
  31. AdAgencyChick

    Remember that part of the reason you have a job is that people make mistakes, and there need to be quality-control processes in place to keep those mistakes from making it to the wider world.

    Perhaps reframing mistakes from “people suck!” to “job security for me!” might help you address people with more kindness.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      I had a copyeditor who worked for me who was complaining bitterly that the editors wouldn’t put in the second comma after the state name (when you write “I’m going to Memphis, Tennessee, to see Graceland,” you need a paid of commas). He wanted me to have a big lesson about it so they’d stop (time suck, there).

      I kept pointing out: “This is why we have a job!”

      Reply
  32. MuseumChick

    OP, I have so many questions about your situation is why your company isn’t pulling you aside and telling you this is unacceptable? What is the turn over rate for your team? Have you had more than one person quit without notice? How do you get anything done when you remove people from projects for minor mistakes?

    Alison’s advice is spot on so I have nothing to add there. However, I worry that you are working in a toxic workplace where you are being allowed to develop some really bad habits and are not getting the feedback you need from management. If you ever move on to another company I don’t think they would be as forgiving of the behavior you describe.

    Reply
  33. Lisa

    Honestly the OP may not have the temperament to be lead. May be time to request to be an individual contributor. There is nothing wrong with not having the mind set to lead others. I have a friend in tech who was not cut out to manage/lead and rose to the highest pinnacles of the company just coding. Both he and his management realized this and it worked out great.

    Reply
  34. CMDRBNA

    I feel really sorry for OP’s coworkers. No one deserved having a “heated” discussion (I’m assuming this is OP yelling at them, yes? Yes.) and getting pulled from a project for making a single mistake. OP must be a pretty singular person to never, ever make a mistake him/herself!

    I’m glad the OP is writing in because it at least means they’re recognizing it’s a problem. I have a feeling that this is being tolerated because OP probably IS very good at their job, but this is unfair to their coworkers. And even ‘brilliant’ people can only be tolerated for so long when they behave like this.

    Reply
    1. pope suburban

      Yeah, I worry that this is the kind of thing that is causing these employees delays in their careers. Like, if they keep getting yanked off projects or banished to some kind of shame dimension, then they’re probably not getting much if any chance to work on progressively more difficult tasks. This could well hold someone back who is actually a competent employee, perfectly capable of advancing in their career and doing well.

      Reply
      1. CMDRBNA

        This is a very real concern – I left a job with a micromanaging boss because I realized that as long as I worked under her, I would never have the opportunity to take on progressively more challenging projects because she was so controlling and change-averse. All of the ideas we had had for future projects stalled when she was promoted. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP’s coworkers start bailing because if they’re being yanked off of projects at the first minor mistake, they have no chance to improve. That’s worth quitting over, IMHO.

        Reply
        1. pope suburban

          I quit my last job for basically that reason. My boss was a deeply critical person, and had decided, through a combination of his personal prejudices and his idea of what constitutes “valuable work,” that I was an idiot who should not be allowed to do anything. Literally no one else thought anything like that, and my track record there was good; the one project I managed to ram through was successful and drastically reduced our liabilities. But I knew that as long as I was there, even if we got a few million dollars from a benevolent venture capitalist and grew the company drastically, I would always be where I was, wasting my time. So I left. I didn’t feel like sacrificing my career on the altar of my boss’s control-freak jerkishness, and indeed I don’t think anyone ever should do that.

          Reply
    2. Snark

      “(I’m assuming this is OP yelling at them, yes? Yes.)”

      When someone says they had a “heated discussion” with a coworker, I generally take that to mean “I did my best impression of a hard-boiled cinematic drill sergeant until I could see their chin quiver.”

      Reply
  35. Loopy

    I worked under someone who had a similar zero tolerance for mistakes. While they didn’t get angry, they had the same viewpoint. It really messed me up very badly emotionally/ psychologically.

    I hope OP takes Alison’s advice seriously. It’s an awful thing to be expected to be 100% perfect all the time. It took me a very long time to convince myself it’s not possible when a supervisor was expecting it. You can do some very real damage with that approach.

    Reply
  36. K.

    Honestly, if you respond to people making mistakes in this way, I don’t think you should be a lead at all. Being a lead means more than just being the best at the tech stuff or being at the company the longest. It means fostering an environment where it’s safe to make a mistake, because that’s going to happen. It means fostering an environment where people are given the chance to grow and improve.

    What you’re doing is going to cause people to hide mistakes from you, and/or to throw each other under the bus when mistakes happen. And it’s going to mean that people make the same mistakes because you pull them off projects without giving them the chance to learn from them, stunting their growth. This is the kind of environment people quit over.

    Reply
  37. Observer

    know my intolerance could probably be attributed to some sort of OCD, and sort of know it is not good. But I just cannot forgive mistakes easily.

    This jumped out at me. You know that you have a problem. But your question is not how to resolve your problem. You don’t show any indication that you have any interest in changing how you react to this stuff.

    So, that has to be step number one – you need to take responsibility for your over-reaction.

    The fact that you get the most angry about trivial mistakes tells me that, whether you realize it or not, it’s not about getting the job done, and done right. If it were you’d be a lot more angry about big mistakes that could derail a project.

    I’ll point out something else that Alison didn’t focus on. When you over-react to mistakes, especially small ones, you are costing your employer – time, ability to execute, resources. There is a reason the manager doesn’t always agree with you – moving people in and out of projects over inconsequential mistakes disrupts the project YOU are working on but ALSO other projects, because you wind up pulling people off other projects or the people left on your project now have less availability for projects that they would otherwise be involved in. That means that even if your boss doesn’t care about your personality flaws per se, they ARE going to care about the cost and disruption you cause by messing with project assignments.

    And you sure as anything aren’t going to more forward into management. You’re showing that you can’t manage people and prioritize appropriately. Why would they promote you?

    Reply
    1. CMDRBNA

      Yeah, this is pretty classic distancing behavior. It also doesn’t matter if it’s attributable to some form of OCD. I have a lot of issues that are because of a chronic mental illness. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior on my part (it might help EXPLAIN it, but it doesn’t EXCUSE it). Also, you “sort of know” it’s not good? And by saying that you just “cannot forgive” mistakes, you’ve neatly excised any requirement to change your behavior.

      Reply
      1. Annabelle

        Yeah, this. I was diagnosed with a pretty severe mental illness years ago, but it’s my job to manage my symptoms so that they don’t interfere with my daily tasks.

        Reply
  38. PizzaDog

    In my experience, the way I’m told about my mistakes either helps or hinders me in the future – if a job gets taken away from me because of a mistake, I’ll never learn and never improve – and I’ll make the same mistake, or worse, in the future, because I’m so stressed about how I was told about it in the first place.

    Think about how you would feel if you were put in this position of receiving the type of critiques you’re doling out.

    Reply
  39. Junior Dev

    I think OP is going to get a lot of comments about how and why what they’re doing is wrong. What can they do to fix it?

    I think until you get a handle on this, OP, you should review all work in private initially. Even if you plan to deliver feedback in person, read the work submission in your own office (or camp out in the break room with your laptop if you have an open office plan).

    Write up a first draft that contains your unvarnished thoughts on the work.

    Then go over the draft and review each piece of feedback you have given. Ask yourself the following questions:

    * what motive does this feedback assume? Does it imply the person is lazy, stupid, ignorant?

    * What can be done to improve the work product itself, independently of why the mistake was made?

    Then go write a second draft of the feedback that does the following things:

    * Assumes the best possible motive in each mistake. They didn’t know about the method you want them to use. They used to do it differently in their last job. They were tired from working so hard and made a typo.

    * Gives specific, nonjudgmental instructions on how to improve the problem. “Please write teapot names according to the specifications given on page 253 of our teapot format manual.”

    Do this even if you plan to give the feedback verbally–you can use the second draft as a script you read over a couple times before talking to the person.

    Then once a month or so you can go through the feedback documents and look for common mistakes, and write documentation on avoiding them. Again, keep it specific, actionable, and value-neutral.

    OP, I work in tech and my very least favorite pattern of engineering thought is assuming the worst motives of people. User doesn’t interact with the software how I want them to? They must be stupid or lazy (as opposed to, I need to improve user interface). Co-worker doesn’t understand my code? They must be stupid and I should make fun of them (as opposed to, the idea that made sense in my head needs to be better explained to other people). This sort of behavior will make people *more* likely to make mistakes because they’ll be afraid to ask for help, and it’ll eventually mean no one wants to work with you.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      This is really useful, Junior Dev. I also think it might be good to get in touch with field norms for what a usual amount of mistakes might be so that you can calibrate the difference between “some mistakes” and “a problematic number of mistakes.”

      Reply
      1. Junior Dev

        Thanks. I think maybe they should look into “normal number of mistakes” after they’ve gotten used to giving nonjudgmental feedback, because ultimately the same skills are needed to correct a higher-than-average number of mistakes, and addressing patterns is like, intermediate level feedback giving (where what I wrote is more beginner).

        Reply
    2. JAM

      This is beyond helpful. I think looking at motivation is an important thing and I know when I was reading this I was thinking of OP’s motivation versus what the OP assumes of others. You did a great job framing it how you did and I think your answer is right on.

      Reply
    3. J.B.

      Great response. It can also help to recognize that things that seem intuitive to you might not be intuitive to other people. And if they are not intuitive, what is the difference? Are there particular mistake recognizing tricks that can be taught? Do you need a different review process? Etc.

      Reply
    4. TootsNYC

      another possible tactic, to add to Junior Dev’s list:
      -ask the mistake-maker: “do you have any ideas about what caused this mistake?”
      and: “Is there anything someone–you, me, the other stakeholders–could do that would make this mistake less likely?”

      People dont’ want to make mistakes. They like to problem solve. Let them. Hell, don’t just -let- them: ENLIST them.

      Reply
  40. Matilda Jefferies

    Can I also suggest a framework for evaluating and fixing mistakes? This is from my line of work, so it may not be exactly analogous for you, but hopefully you can modify it for your own work.

    1. Identify the error. (As I noted above, everything else hangs on this part – you don’t want people hiding their mistakes from you!)
    2. Fix the error (remove it from the code?)
    3. Figure out what went wrong, and how to prevent it from happening again. (Better procedures ahead of time? More QA afterwards?)

    It may seem overly simplified, but I find it’s helpful to make lists like this ahead if time, in order to take the emotion out of my response in the moment. A mistake was made. What needs to be done to fix it?

    Reply
  41. A Canadian

    My boss at my last job was like you – zero tolerance for mistakes. He didn’t yell (usually), but he would berate, threaten, and micromanage me. Whenever he made mistakes, they were no big deal, of course – only my mistakes were my fault, and all my fault. It was extremely demoralizing.

    Last month, I started a job where, when I make mistakes, my team points it out and says, “don’t worry, we can fix it together, you’re still learning.” I’m so much happier there. And I’m sure that, with time, the number of mistakes I make will go down.

    Please try to be like the people in job #2. It makes a world of difference.

    Reply
  42. Maria

    OP I think this reflects more on you than on the colleagues you criticize. I work with someone like this and because she’s so consistently hostile about minuscule mistakes she’s caused holdups on projects getting done and has received a lot of criticism from managers. Your method of talking to colleagues sounds like it could drive way talent in the long-term and contribute to a toxic work culture. For your sake and your team’s sake, correct errors in a thoughtful and constructive non-threatening way.

    Reply
  43. Been there

    First off OP, good for you recognizing something is wrong here. There are a few methods that you can employ to help you gauge what your reaction ‘should’ be. I understand that these may not be your natural reaction, but you need to retrain yourself.

    1. Ask yourself if this is a repeat mistake by the individual or is it something that different members of the team have/are making. If either of these then your process, training, or the individual/team’s understanding has a problem. First thing to do is to talk to the person or the team and find out what’s going on. Did they understand the assignment, is there something wrong with the system, is there something wrong with how they’re using it.

    2. Ask yourself if this is the kind of mistake that the person usually makes. If Fergus is always great about commenting their code, but forgets to comment one section. Chances are if you tell Fergus that there was an omission Fergus will beat themselves up harder than you ever could. If Fergus is notorious for not documenting their work appropriately and there is a pattern, then you probably want to talk to their manager- don’t do this until you’ve answered numbers 3 and 4 below.

    3. Ask yourself if your reaction is reasonable compared to the mistake. Is Fergus’ lack of commenting really going to be the end of the world? No.. then you need level set your reaction accordingly. Was this Jane’s third time this month’s failure to debug her code going to crash the system? Ok, maybe this one justifies a stronger reaction. In other words, in your personal life would you react the same if you found a penny on the ground or if you won $1m in the lottery. I doubt you’d be jumping up and down whooping and fist-pumping over a penny. The same principal applies to these mistakes.

    4. Ask yourself what reaction means. Yes it’s ok to get mad, it’s ok to be irritated, it’s ok to say in your head “UGGGHHH FERGUS YOU HAD ONE JOB!!!!!” It’s not ok to verbalize that. If you find yourself reacting and ready to drag Fergus and Jane into a come to jesus meeting with their boss, you need to stop and walk away until you can get control over those reactions and answer questions 1,2, and 3 from above.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I also think it’s worth cultivating a habit of either replacing the “You had one job” or following it up with a counternarrative–the mistaken character was not Fergus’s only job, and he did the rest of it capably, after all. Reframing the thought pattern can be really helpful.

      Reply
      1. Been there

        That’s very true. I was coming at this from my frame of reference and I am your typical ‘flash anger’ sort of person that has an initial gut reaction, but then gets over it just as quick. So for me it’s more effective to just let myself have it in private and move on then to try and squash it to begin with. (I generally focus on the situation more than the person that caused the situation if that makes any sense)

        Ironically it’s been my current team that has probably done the most to retrain me in dealing with others mistakes. Their previous manager was a micromanaging over reactor. When I first started with them they were like scared little bunnies who were afraid of what I would do or say if there was a problem. I knew I had to get them out of that mindset pretty quickly to be effective so I really really had to concentrate on not reacting in any way when a problem or mistake was made. It turns out they are more likely to berate themselves way more than I ever would so it generally turns into a session where I’m trying to make them feel better and redirecting them to figuring out how not to have the mistake repeat itself.

        Reply
      2. Sloane Kittering

        Yes!! I noted it above, but OP I think this phrase is just making you angrier. As someone noted below, it’s probably not even true. Try to come up with a new mental script when these mistakes happen and practice defaulting to that.

        Reply
  44. Akcipitrokulo

    QA here.

    Mistakes happen. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job. If it wasn’t EXPECTED that mistakes happen, my company wouldn’t feel the need to pay my salary.

    If the same mistake happens again and again, then it’s probably something to raise in a “hey, is there a way we can avoid this?” type of thing.

    Making a big deal out of mistakes also encourages them to happen, and to be costlier. People on edge about making mistakes make more. People who are worried about the reaction to a mistake may not bring it to people’s attention immediately, and that makes it more costly to fix.

    It’s not making a mistake that’s a problem in most cases. It’s how you RESPOND to it.

    I make mistakes. Not that often :) but I’m human and it happens.

    When I realise I have (and it’s usually me who notices), my first reaction is to tell the affected people and my manager (and include anyone I need to fix it). Immediately.

    Which means a) it gets fixed, b) everyone knows what happened so it’s in the open, c) further issues are avoided and d) my manager trusts me.

    The important part is fix the issue, minimise effect on customer(s) and do it quickly. Then take remedial steps. (In one case, arranged for a huge red warning to be put on one system when a test account was logged in. I suggested that after apologising and fixing issue.)

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      It’s not making a mistake that’s a problem in most cases. It’s how you RESPOND to it.

      In his incredible book “Setting the Table,” the restaurateur Danny Meyer tells of meeting Mr. Marcus of Neiman&Marcus. Danny is preoccupied, so Mr. Marcus asks why. Danny confides that he’s currently opening two restaurants at once in the same building, and he’s terrified that he has made a mistake.

      Mr. Marcus’ words of wisdom, which have followed me for more than a decade:
      “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”

      The mistake is FAR less important than the way you handle it.

      Reply
      1. Akcipitrokulo

        Very much so. Once you accept mistakes WILL happen – because it’s not possible they won’t – you put in place appropriate dealing strategies. Like hiring me ;-) and also no-blame investigations.

        Reply
  45. MindoverMoneyChick

    Actually I somewhat get the emotional reaction, and I’m the person who sometimes makes a lot of mistakes. Here’s why. I’m moderately ADD. Details do not come easily to me. But once I was diagnosed and treated effectively, I realized much easier – how VERY much easier – it is for others to not make the kinds of errors I routinely made. Because it was now so much easier for me to avoid/fix them myself before it became a problem. It was like working with a whole different brain.

    And I lightbulb moment about how impossible it must be was for some others who never experienced my brain glitches to get that. I was thinking of one past teacher in particular who was driven crazy by me. It looked to her like I just didn’t care about my work. I DID care about doing a good job for her. I just literally couldn’t meet her standards. But there was no way for her to know that. So to her it seemed like difference in our values or personally directed insubordination. People do react really emotionally to people who don’t share their values.

    But really I just didn’t have the same mental toolkit others did. It’s like they were chopping down a tree with a chainsaw and I only had an ax. And they couldn’t figure out what was taking me so long.

    So if you are extraordinary at this (some people are), remember you have been gifted with a powerful chainsaw and others are doing the best they can with their ax. It’s not necessarily that they don’t care, which is probably the assumption that sets you off.

    Reply
  46. Shadow

    I use these criteria to decide how big of a deal mistakes are:

    1.was there a bad outcome as a result of the mistake? If so, how bad and how hard is it to fix it?
    2.are there mechanisms in place to prevent mistakes? Were they used?
    3. is it worth it to implement a mechanism to prevent the mistake?
    4. Is this person making more mistakes than everyone else?
    5. How easy is it to make an occasional mistake?

    Reply
    1. State govt employee

      Re: #5

      I urge people I supervise to devise “mistake-proof” systems. The first time I heard of the concept, it was “idiot-proofing.” I have to pause before saying “mistake proof!”

      Reply
  47. MindoverMoneyChick

    Ugh…I screwed up the nesting. That wasn’t meant to be a reply to Matilda. Irony in there somewhere :)

    Reply
  48. The Other Dawn

    I like to think of mistakes in terms of whether it cost the company money, caused us to miss a regulatory deadline, or damaged our reputation. If the mistake caused any of those things to happen, then, yes, I might get upset about it. It wouldn’t cause me to explode or kick someone off a team, but I will treat it more seriously and would handle it accordingly. If none of those things happened, then I just let the person know the mistake, what needs to be done to correct, and how it can be prevented in the future. Mistakes are learning opportunities.

    Reply
  49. Kalamet

    Hey OP! It sounds like you have a very similar job to me! I am the lead on several projects for my team. This turned into a bit of a novel, but I hope it provides some insight. I’m going to be a bit to the point, but please take it in the spirit of helpfulness. :)

    One of my responsibilities involves making sure that our code meets certain quality guidelines (in terms of style and functionality), which means that I have to be the “code police” at times. I won’t lie, I love this. :3 I completely understand your emotional response to mistakes, because I’ve felt that myself, but you simply cannot give into it like you are. You are doing yourself and your team a disservice, and you are limiting your productivity.

    You are catching mistakes, which is good, but you are *pulling people off the team* for making them, which is bad. Then you are yelling at them in front of your boss, which is even worse. To be completely honest, you aren’t doing your job well. The average developer is not perfect – they will have formatting issues, they will check in code that doesn’t work correctly, and they will not always be aware of industry best practices. Your job is not to point out their mistakes and get angry, it is to *minimize the odds of those mistakes happening in the first place*.

    Are you analyzing where your teams’ mistakes are coming from, and taking steps to address the weak points? Are you establishing learning session and documents that outline the best practices they should be following? Are you sitting down and discussing process with them? Are you encouraging linting, testing, and code reviews – and providing tools that make those things easier? Your job is to do those things, so if you aren’t doing them, you have a problem.

    You won’t magically be able to turn your developers into rockstar unicorns over night, though, even if you do these things. I’m pretty great at my job, and I’ve checked in some baaaad code in my time. It happens to every single person. Your job as a technical lead is to make it as easy as possible for your team to submit good code.

    I hope you take the time to read all the comments here, and I wish you the best.

    Reply
  50. Althea

    Something that may help the OP: I suggest asking your manager if you can start a project to track mistakes made by the team. You can track type of mistake, person who made it, and calculate the frequency. With this information, you can start to identify patterns and address them systematically. You’ll understand better if the whole team needs better training, or if someone is making more mistakes and needs more coaching and review.

    This COULD help with the emotional issues, by helping you feel more in control of what is happening given that you will have a better understanding of it. I still advise therapy and working out your anger issues as Alison suggested, though. You shouldn’t, for example, take out anger on someone who makes more mistakes. Instead the information is a tool to figure out how to improve things, not lay blame. It’s a delicate thing to undertake, though, so I’d hope your manager is good and thoughtful about implementing it.

    Reply
    1. Doug Judy

      I don’t think this is all that helpful. I had a coworker like the OP and she did track all errors. I’d say 90% were just typos. Typos will always happen. All it did was make me feel like crap every time I transposed a number, and was always under pressure to be perfect.

      Maybe tracking errors other than minor things like typos, as in actual procedure errors, that you can train on would help but really need to be careful that it’s doesn’t make OP even more upset. As I how many errors a month would be accepted

      Reply
      1. State govt employee

        You would hate my boss. If you have a list of 20 things with a period at the end of 19 of them, you are a moral scourge and deserve a poor performance evaluation. The content of the 20 items in the list means nothing to her.

        (Yes, I’m looking for another job)

        Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      nice!

      I especially like the point that the spreadsheet/tracking effort might give you place to direct that energy. And you could make yourself put the error on the spreadsheet BEFORE you ever talk to anyone about it.
      A version of “count to ten before you speak.”

      You could even build in one of those “how important is this really?” checks–
      maybe a line on the spreadsheet that captures “what is the time cost” / “what is the monetary cost” / “how many people had to get involved in the fix?”

      That might help you get perspective.

      I get the points from other people about the way this could make your team members feel–maybe this is only ever shared with the upper boss.

      Reply
  51. kiwidg1

    OP is a perfect position to act as a peer mentor. Instead he/she acts like an entitled jerk.

    Just because you are a tech lead and not a direct report manager doesn’t mean you don’t practice leadership. (Oh, wait! Lookie there – tech lead/leadership. What’s common in both words?) Get some training and learn how to be a leader that people will want to work with and for!

    Reply
    1. State govt employee

      Too many people get promoted on the basis of their technical expertise and then are not adequately trained for management skills. If they were, management how-to books and blogs would be few and far-between!

      Reply
  52. Rockhopper

    OP, I find mistakes for a living (I’m an editor), so if my colleagues didn’t make mistakes, I’d be out of a job! No chance of that happening though. I was the first editor this department ever had and I’m working with subject matter experts who are not 100% comfortable with writing, so I had to use a lot of tact to win them over but I did it. Mostly, I frame it to myself as the writer is the expert at A and B, I am the expert at C, and as a team we are going to make this product the best it can possibly be. But even then a mistake might slip in. And the world will not end.

    Reply
  53. BananaPants

    I’m a technical lead and have been doing this a while. OP, you’re destined to fail if you continue having this attitude toward your coworkers.

    Reply
  54. Database Administrator (DBA)

    I’ve worked for a lot of different styles of managers, but the ones that have really motivated me and have made a lasting impression are the ones whose philosophy was simple.

    Make any mistake you want–Once.

    People are human not robots, and if someone is afraid of you, which is what you are indicating by your attitude, you will never get an honest answer from people. The people who tend to manage this way are not wanting to look like a screwup because of the people on “their watch” screwing up.

    If someone makes a mistake and they say “boss, I screwed up and did X, and here’s how I will prevent this from happening again”, they tend not to make that mistake again. And if they are forthright about coming to you and giving you this information, when somebody asks you about it, you can say “Yes, it’s a problem and we are on top of it, and this is why it won’t happen again.”

    The last thing you want to happen is to have is to have people so scared of your reaction they keep you in the dark so when things go bad (which they will), you won’t have to say “No, I don’t know anything about this, let me check”. You go from being a manager who has no idea what your team is doing to being somebody who is totally on top of things and is managing effectively.

    Reply
    1. State govt employee

      Discipline for performance issues usually requires a pattern of events, not a one-off. It’s amazing that LW has gotten away with this behavior. Reassigning someone is a rather extreme remedy that needs solid documentation of an effort to address the situation first. Unless the mistake costs thousands of dollars or kills someone, a transfer is totally out of line.

      Reply
  55. Hiring Mgr

    Agree mainly with Alison’s last paragraph that the OP should be seeing a therapist. What’s described isn’t normal or acceptable behavior.

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Yes, agreed. I’d go one step further and recommend a psychiatrist; the out-of-proportion responses sound like there’s untreated anxiety/depression going on.

      Reply
  56. Mike C.

    OP, what is being done to mistake proof your processes?

    When you say something like, “no excuses”, it really feels like you aren’t willing to go the extra step to help prevent mistakes from happening in the first place because you expect your employees not to have to need them to begin with.

    An example – let’s say your business is furniture making. You have all sorts of things your shop makes, but there’s a good bit of repetition. You sound like you’re the type of boss that expects employees to cut/drill freehand and get upset when mistakes are made. An alternative would be to create jigs to ensure that repeated cuts and holes are made in the right place every time.

    So think about where these mistakes are being made, and treat those reasons seriously. It will be better for you and for your team.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      Sorry, for some reason I thought you were a lead or something when I was first typing this response. The rest of the advice still applies.

      Reply
  57. Leatherwings

    OP, I think you also need to reevaluate the whole “You had ONE job” mentality.

    Clearly, the people on your team have more than one job. If they make a mistake, it wasn’t actually their only job that day or week to make sure that one mistake didn’t happen. They had a lot of stuff to do, even if all of that stuff is performing one task.

    If someone isn’t doing their job, that’s one thing. But making A Single mistake throughout the course of their workday doesn’t mean they’re doing the whole of their one job badly and that mentality is really only going to make every mistake continue to get under your skin. Take a step back and work on recognizing all the stuff these folks have going on.

    Reply
  58. the_scientist

    If I’m reading this correctly, it sounds like the OP is pulling people off projects after single, trivial mistakes?! I have to wonder what the environment is like that OP has been allowed to continue to do this- that is *so* disruptive, costly, and annoying. Not to mention, like everyone else has said, OP- you are driving your top talent away from your team. Talented people will not tolerate repeated “heated discussions” about typos. They will quietly resent you, relish the mistakes you make (because guaranteed, you’re going to eventually make a mistake!) and leave at the first opportunity. And like others mentioned, people may start hiding their mistakes to avoid blame, which is exactly what you don’t want because it will impact project quality.

    I think that therapy is an excellent idea for you. I read a lot of perfectionism in this letter, and if you are serious about wanting to be a better leader, you need to unpack this perfectionism and why you get so upset about small, human errors. I get it, I’m definitely a perfectionist, and I’ve found myself annoyed by mistakes that seem completely avoidable, but I’ve also found that anger doesn’t reduce the frequency of errors like this, or increase the quality of the final product.

    In addition, I think it’s worthwhile to consider whether you’re a good fit for a people leadership role. Effective people leadership is built on a foundation of trust, and if you can’t build that foundation with your team, you are unlikely to be effective. It also sounds like you’re too emotionally invested in this work, so perhaps you’d be less stressed or unhappy as an individual contributor– that’s something that can also be talked through with a therapist.

    Reply
    1. Tuxedo Cat

      If the project is big enough and people keep getting pulled off them for mistakes, there’ll be no one left to do the project.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      “Talented people will not tolerate repeated “heated discussions” about typos.”

      Talented people will not tolerate ONE discussion like this.

      Reply
  59. beanie beans

    Our office lately has been looking a lot at process improvement and one step is to never assign blame to mistakes. That mistakes are usually a flaw in the process – either something in the process is not clear, or something that can catch or correct mistakes isn’t automated that could be. The bigger question that needs to be asked is why the mistakes are happening – and it’s not because your coworkers are morons or incompetent. What changes can you make to the process that will reduce mistakes? Or if you’re the QC person, then geez, catching mistakes is literally your job and the response should be “Yay, I caught this before it went out, I’m doing a great job” rather than all of your coworkers being terrible at theirs.

    Reply
  60. Nolan

    I sometimes get (privately) frustrated or angry when others make stupid mistakes on things, but what op describes is definitely taking it too far. Therapy seems like a good idea, but some short term solutions may help in the meantime.

    1. Stop reacting in the moment. When you find an error and it makes you angry, don’t do anything about it until the anger passes. Literally walk away if you need to, do something else for a few minutes. Then, after the initial rush of anger has passed, go back to it.

    2. Open Word and write out what the problem is. Take a few minutes, then edit so there’s no emotion or anger, just an explanation of the issue. Once it’s a calm collection of words, copy it into an email and send it to the person who made the mistake.

    3. Stop involving your manager in one-off mistakes. Your manager doesn’t need to know about every single misstep, bringing all of them to their desk is eating up their time, and probably wearing on their patience. It could also give you a chicken little reputation, and if a big issue does come along, they might not take you seriously after hearing all your smaller complaints.

    Good luck tackling this op, I think you’ll find that once you train yourself to let it go, it’ll get easier and your days will be more pleasant.

    Reply
  61. Hannah

    I’m wondering–why do you think you react this way? Do you think that the mistake-maker deserves to be shamed? Do you think that the more heated your reaction, the less likely the mistake will be repeated? Do you have a heated conversation in front of your boss so that you look like you are taking the job seriously and/or distance yourself from the mistake? Is it simply that you can’t control your anger?

    Obviously, I don’t know you and I don’t know what the answer is, but I would try to identify exactly why you are reacting this way and asking yourself if your reaction is accomplishing your goal. I mean, obviously it isn’t, or you wouldn’t be here asking for help, but there are different reasons you could be reacting this way and they have different solutions. If your goal is to reduce mistakes, maybe it would help to have a thought-out procedure in place to replace the HULK SMASH method of reducing mistakes. If you want to make sure your boss knows you take quality seriously, brainstorm ways that you could actually show that in a productive, professional, non-yelling kind of way.

    Reply
  62. TootsNYC

    “</Here’s the thing that you’re losing sight of: At work, you have the tools you need to solve problems calmly and rationally. Getting angry and emotional says to other people that you don’t know how to do that. It makes you look out of control, and it can make you look inept. You don’t want that”.

    I found this to be SO TRUE as a parent. When you have authority, and when you are capable of being effective with that authority, there’s absolutely no need to be angry.
    And when I got mad at my kids, it meant that I hadn’t come up with other ways to get through to them. Same thing with spanking. One thing I read about that was by a child development expert who said, Parents who rely on spanking have only one tool. And they both haven’t developed, and they won’t GO ON to develop, other ways of dealing with it.

    So when you rely on getting mad, you are not dedicating brain power to developing any other options.

    It’s no-growth.

    But I’d never really put it in Alison’s exact words, and they’re reall clear.

    Reply
    1. Candi

      One thing I’ve noticed in the “which method works best?” discipline debates, is that every parent who has success hits three main points, regardless of the method they use.

      1) Shut that behavior down. No waffling, coaxing, or excuses.

      2) Discipline is given immediately when possible, or as soon as possible if circumstances do not permit immediate action. It is also proportionate to the offense.

      3) After both parent and child have cooled down, the parent talks with the child and establishes what was wrong with the behaviorand how not to do it again.

      The last part is key to outcomes that lead to learning why, not just what.

      I’ve also seen situations where discipline could not be given soon enough, that when the parent got their chance, they just skipped straight to 3.

      Hopefully, by the time someone is adult, the second part of three is the first step to most mistakes -talking and trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again. (Egregious behavior excepted.)

      LW, just try talking first, without blowing up. You’ll get better outcomes.

      Reply
  63. Nervous Accountant

    I had a boss like that. Whenever he’d see a “mistake” he’d say what shitshow did I come from. One time he actually ran in to his office and dug through his papers and found my resume and berated my last company. God forbid I didn’t know how to do something bc my experience was very sporadic, he screamed that his 11 year old knows how to do bank reconciliations, what kind of idiot was I. He was constantly yelling at how the other accountant (who’d retired from Big 4) was an idiot. Getting paid was like pulling teeth and I cried a few times at that job.

    I did have another coworker who was nothing like this but her frustration and annoyance was very obvious in her tone and way of speaking whenever I made a mistake (again very early on). I was nervous so I made more mistakes, her annoyance grew, I got more nervous. It was a crap cycle..

    First one was also the owner of the company. I usually don’t wish bad on people but….* shrugs *

    I don’t know how people who act like this think they are doing something great or helping anyone else. This “brilliant jerK” stuff only works in TV shows, not real life.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      This “brilliant jerK” stuff only works in TV shows, not real life.

      I think this is a really good point – we have all these depictions of the genius who’s a total ass to everyone, but gets away with it because he’s so smart he’s indispensable (Dr. House is the best example of this trope I can think of). So people wind up thinking, if they’re brilliant enough, they can get away with whatever they want. Which is not true in the real world.

      Reply
  64. Tabby Baltimore

    *This* is the buried gem: “If you’re going to hold your coworkers to such a high standard on technical work, hold yourself to that same standard for emotional work, which is just as important …”

    Reply
  65. Jadelyn

    There’s an episode of Brooklyn 99 that keeps coming to mind as I go through the post and comments.

    In it, a patrol cop has filed a complaint against one of the detectives because she humiliated him in front of his peers. He had messed up some evidence-handling in one of her cases and nearly wasted months of work on the case, and she was pissed. So she went down to the patrol cops’ area and brought him a “present” – a child’s “My First Police Kit” – and tells him if he’s going to handle evidence like a 5-year-old, he should at least have the proper tools.

    After several disastrous attempts at almost-apologizing (she is…not the most tactful person), the captain takes her aside and explains that when a subordinate makes a mistake, a real leader is focused not on punishing, but teaching the person so that they can do it better next time. So she goes back to the guy, apologizes for real, and offers to show him what he did wrong and how it should’ve been done so he can make sure it’s done right next time.

    OP, what you’re doing is not leadership. What you’re doing is going to result in people who are more stressed than they should be, which actually may make them make more mistakes in the long run, and people who hide their errors from you so you don’t yell at them. If you want to be a good team lead, you need to treat mistakes as teachable moments. Maybe the lesson is just “pay extra attention at this stage of the process”, or maybe it’s “in this situation you’d want to use process x, not process y”, or something else entirely – but the point is, rather than throwing a fit, why don’t you step up and offer guidance and support to your team? It’s a win-win-win – your staff will actually be getting better at their jobs, there will be fewer mistakes in the long run, and you’ll avoid becoming That One Lead Nobody Wants To Work With and damaging your own career.

    Reply
    1. seejay

      The coworker that berated and yelled at me for not matching their quality of work (at least how they expected it to be met)? I stopped going to them for help and guidance. I refused to share work with them or spread the workload around. Whenever I had asked them to help out on projects, instead of a helpful “yes!” or an apologetic “no” (because they were too busy), I’d get frustrated 20 questions about “WHY DO YOU NEED HELP!?” It made me scared, angry, frustrated and too skittish to even approach them for *anything*. So I’d rather take on extra work and work overtime rather than approach them for anything given the humiliation and attacks that I might face instead.

      I’d rather work with someone that’s encouraging and helpful and less perfect than a brilliant perfect jerk that belittles me and makes me want to do double the amount of work rather than approach them.

      Reply
  66. Observer

    Another comment, about another issue that some people have mentioned. Have ever heard of schadenfreude? That’s the pleasure that people get when someone else gets into trouble. Most people consider that rather ugly and won’t admit to it. The ONE exception is when someone who is really big on getting others into trouble or holding others to a standard of perfection gets into trouble.

    Look at Elliot Spitzer vs his successor Patterson (google the names). Both of them did much the same thing (cheated on their wives and frequented prostitutes.) It forced Spitzer out of office and killed his career. Patterson gut much more tolerance. The difference? Spitzer was roundly disliked and had made his reputation as a prosecutor on destroying people for similar “moral failings”. When his garbage hit the fan NO ONE was willing to cut him the least bit of slack.

    Don’t think it can’t happen to you.

    Reply
  67. Annie Moose

    As a programmer, can I just say what an insane idea it is to expect ZERO MISTAKES? There’s a famous programming axiom that there’s no such thing as bug-free code. I’d even be skeptical of a two-line program. (even if your code is perfect, which it almost certainly isn’t, there always could be operating system bugs you’re not aware of) The whole point is to get your job done with as few defects as possible, and with proper methods in place to handle defects you haven’t identified yet–not to guarantee zero defects, which is impossible.

    I recognize that every field isn’t like coding, but I think the same principles apply in other fields too. It’s not about guaranteeing perfection. It’s about getting something as good as possible, with a way to handle mistakes that do slip through. Yeah, if there’s a LOT of defects, that’s a problem–but there’s always gonna be some defects. You will never achieve true perfection.

    Reply
    1. ArtK

      I’m in software and you’re absolutely right. Research has shown an average of 1 bug per 1000 lines of code, despite all of the efforts to improve that.

      Anecdote: When IBM developed the System/360 they needed a program that essentially did nothing (the reasons are complex.) They wrote IEFBR14 which had one instruction, a “BR R14” (branch on register 14) which was nothing but a “return.” Except that there was a bug. The contents of R15 was, at the start of the program, the address of the program. At the end of the program, it’s supposed to have the return code value — zero meaning “ok.” They had to add another instruction to clear R15 before returning because the random value was messing things up. So there’s a 1-line assembly language program that had a bug. The fix doubled the size of the program!

      Reply
    2. SusanIvanova

      I realized a team was not for me when, while they were asking me about debugging, I mentioned that “And then sometimes it’s not even your bug, it’s in the OS-provided framework”. “Oh, no,” they replied, “that framework is very robust.”

      What I really wanted to say: Oh, you sweet summer child. Go look at the bugs I’ve submitted – you can do this, you’re part of the same company that provides that framework – and you’ll see I’ve found plenty of them over the years of pushing it to its limits.

      Reply
  68. I'd rather be blue

    OP, this is a serious problem. You’re behaving like a bully and alienating your team. No one is going to want to work with you if you continue to do this.

    What is the desired outcome here? Is it to produce perfect, error-free work? Stressed out people who are afraid that they’re going to be yelled at and yanked off of a project for a typo are never going to be able to produce their best work. Instead, they’re going to hide all mistakes and be distracted by the toxic atmosphere that you’re creating. You’re not even giving your team an opportunity to succeed. I want you to realize that, really, you’re failing at your job right now.

    Also, the second you catch yourself yelling at someone in a work context, you’ve lost. You’ve lost all credibility and respect. That behaviour is inexcusable and unwarranted.

    Do you actually want to change? If so, sincerely apologize to your team. Own your crappy behaviour and don’t make excuses. Let them know that from now on you want to foster an environment where people can feel safe and free to do their best work. Then, stay solutions focussed. Are errors happening because of a lack of process or because things are unclear? Make processes, test them out with your team, and then stick to the ones that work. Are you feeling enraged at a typo? Step away from your desk, count to ten, and then just fix the problem. Is someone making several minor errors? Have a short, calm conversation with them saying that you would like it if they worked on fixing x and y, or to be more careful about z when submitting their work. Has someone made a major error? Calmly address it and loop in management if need be.

    At the end of the day, most people want to do well at work. Most people care and are trying their best. Try to remember that.

    Reply
    1. MCMonkeyBean

      Your point about hiding mistakes is an important one!

      I have found my own mistakes at work a bunch of times. A lot of them are things no one else would notice and if I wanted to just let it slide I could, which is really not what you want people to do! But I always take them to my boss and say “this is what was done wrong, this is what I can do to fix it” and we work together to solve any issues. I feel comfortable doing this because I know she won’t hold it against me.

      Reply
    2. State govt employee

      I have reduced my output due to my manager’s super pickiness. I used to produce more than my colleagues, but then I found out that they were getting better evaluation scores and bigger raises even though they produced less. If you want timid subordinates who will keep their heads down and under-perform in order not to attract attention, bullying them for small infractions is just the way to do it!

      Reply
  69. JulieBulie

    I was also somewhat intolerant of the mistakes of others. I was vaguely aware that I wasn’t perfect either, so I knew my reactions weren’t appropriate.

    I encouraged others to point out my mistakes, and they complied. Gleefully.

    It was rough at first, but eventually I was able to reframe my perceptions so that I could look at all of our errors more objectively. It also made it easier for me to see where we were all making the most mistakes, so that we could brainstorm ways to mitigate the margin for error.

    Reply
  70. Elena

    I had a manager like the LW and he eventually got fired. For him it was a whole thing that he only saw himself as right and if you did not do a thing *exactly* like him, he would flip out. He was also my manager and I was happy to see him go. I believe it is never OK to have heated reactions at the work place.

    That being said, I can totally relate to the frustration of not knowing how to react when someone makes mistakes. I have a very specific problem in relation to that – I always expect people to acknowledge that making the mistake was *wrong*, to even show regret and thus take a mental note not to repeat it. I have reports who make mistakes that cannot be corrected and just shrug them off. You never know if they really learned from them or if they will make the same one and sometimes, especially when the mistakes go to higher management or customers, I am not willing to wait it out and see if it will become a pattern or not. This can be indeed frustrating and I admit that managing the emotions related to that is not easy.

    Reply
  71. Amy

    OP, you need to take several steps back here.

    Mistakes happen. Everyone makes them sometimes. When they happen, they need to be caught and fixed. When they’re significant (either in impact or in number), it’s worth doing a root cause analysis to figure out why they happened, so you can address that root cause and reduce future mistakes.

    None of that involves nearly this much emotion. None of it involves chastising your coworkers, none of it involves yelling, and none of it involves heated conversations. The only part that would involve removing someone from a project would be if the root cause analysis identified that this person is for some reason unable to perform well on this specific project (maybe they’ve got too much on their plate, for example, and the overload is leading to extra mistakes being made), and even that wouldn’t mean they were a bad worker in general, just that they’re not a good fit for this specific project at this specific time.

    Reply
  72. Elizabeth West

    This is an outstanding answer, Alison.

    OP, I haven’t read all the comments yet and don’t know if you replied, but please take her advice to heart. I know if I had a team lead who regularly blew up at me and my colleagues, I’d do my level best to get assigned to another project. Or even another job. People quit to get away from bad managers, and they also quit to escape coworkers who are hell to work with. Plus, when you constantly rail at people, it makes them nervous and they’re likely to make even more mistakes.

    I understand your desire to avoid mistakes on the project; you might feel that it reflects on you, as the lead (and it might not, depending on how your company views the contributions of the team in general). That’s a lot of pressure, but this isn’t a good way to handle it. I doubt your company would be very happy with you if people started bailing to avoid you. That is, if your managers aren’t spineless jerks.

    Reply
  73. Vicky

    Please don’t do that OP, it makes employees miserable and resentful. The senior clerk at old toxic job used to do this to us to the extreme. Every single report or document that was submitted for her approval would come back to the writer with the most minor and inconsequential corrections – like crossing an ampersand. sometimes she wouldn’t even bother saying what the mistake was and just send the report back over and over and over until the writer found the comma out of place on page 6 or whatever.

    We had a student once who was sent to “the bank” to deposit cheques. he’d never done our banking and wasn’t told what branch to go to or any instruction (I wasn’t in that day). so he went to a nearby bank that wasn’t ours. when he came back that clerk lit into him like her committed a capital crime.

    Mistakes are ok, everyone makes them sometimes and smashing your employees over the head about it will just make them leave.

    Reply
    1. nnn

      How do you even send someone to deposit cheques without telling them which bank and which account?? What did they expect to happen when the student arrived at the bank without a bank card or an account number or anything?

      Reply
      1. Vicky

        It was a law firm so it was direct deposit and cheque certification. but yeah – she just assumed that the student would know what to do. I don’t think she’d ever even spoken to him before that day

        Reply
    2. Lindsay J

      I mean I feel like that’s partially on the student, too. If you don’t know what bank or branch, you ask for clarification at the time you’re getting the instructions. You don’t just go to a random one and hope that it’s correct.

      (And I can’t see not having banked before being an excuse here unless it was a national origin difference or something. Because even if you haven’t used a bank before, if you’re in the US you’ve surely driven past multiple banks and branches, seen or heard advertisements for different ones, etc.)

      Reply
      1. Observer

        That’s really unfair. Sure, the student should have asked. But even if the supervisor was clearly amenable to being asked (which is unlikely given her reaction), it’s still HER responsibility to give reasonably complete instructions. And to rake someone over the coals for not reading her mind is just over the top.

        Reply
  74. Not really a waitress

    In my review one year, my then boss wrote I had a low tolerance for incompetence. Thats not the same as losing my cool over a mistake… We had someone in a crucial role who did not do their job, so a heck of a lot more fell on me… my boss wasn’t doing his job either by not addressing the situation.

    I always laugh about it because my boss viewed it as a negative but I view it as a positive.

    My point is if its a mistake… view it as a learning opportunity. But if its incompetence… its a coaching/ performance issue

    Reply
  75. Gloucesterina

    I’m curious about the scope of your role OP–if it’s your job to make sure the work product is acceptable, isn’t locating mistakes part of the job? The way you describes yourself reacting make it sound like finding mistakes diverts you from your true responsibilities. This type of diversion (not mistakes per se, but just anything that takes you away from what your boss assigns you to do) is a source of frustration in so many jobs. But unless I’m missing something big, it sounds like your actual assigned job is causing you to suffer, as well as causing suffering for your team members.

    Reply
  76. Anlyn

    OP, you’re getting lots of good advice about what to do and what not to do. I just want to say, good on you for asking if what you’re doing is wrong. So many don’t ever even get to this point. For YEARS I would double down on my righteousness and it took me a long time to admit that, hey, maybe the problem is actually me.

    You’ve taken the first and most important step to fixing this. I don’t have anything more practical to add; just wanted to say good luck.

    Reply
  77. OldJules

    You know… I made a lot of mistakes as a junior person but having a leader who regularly remind me to correct my mistakes and remind me the impression I give when I make careless mistakes, worked much better in changing my mistake prone habits. I typically make careless mistakes because I am eager to finish quickly and do more. If he would scream to me to death about my one only job, I wouldn’t be able to 6 months later, be completely trained on the job and a year later, me taking up a team lead position to make sure we catch mistakes before it goes out and creating processes to QA all our data. Based on my continuous improvement project we went to 80% data accuracy to 100%.

    Being smarter than average or a perfectionist doesn’t give anyone the right to abuse others when they aren’t. On the long run, you would realize that when you help people achieve their goals in a positive way, they too in turn will pave the way to achieving what you need. Life already punishes us who are not perfect (speaking of me personally who don’t have every facet of my life perfect), you don’t need to add your attitude on top of that. I am not perfect for the lack of trying, I am imperfect because that is a human condition, and I am ok with that. I don’t think your anger speaks to what others lack, I think it speaks to your internal conflict.

    Signed by,
    The person grew up thinking I had to be perfect, finally realizing that imperfection is a human condition

    Reply
  78. Chriama

    You sound like an unpleasant person to be around. Getting angry and having heated conversations with people and their managers and threatening their jobs by having them reassigned for small mistakes? I’m glad you wrote in because it sounds like you’re self-aware that there’s a problem here. I strongly encourage you to seek out therapy because extreme emotional reactions to common situations are not normal. It could be anything from a lousy childhood to a brain tumour but you should check it out.

    Reply
  79. MCMonkeyBean

    I have made a couple pretty big mistakes at work. I work in financial reporting and one time I made a mistake that was in theory actually kind of small but ended up making us have to file an amended document with the SEC, which meant people had to track down our CEO and CAO and get them to sign new documents and it was a whole big ordeal.

    No one yelled at me at all. No one even seemed angry in front of me (although they may have been in private).

    They asked me what happened to lead to that mistake and I certainly learned not to make it again. No yelling necessary.

    Reply
  80. Ramona Flowers

    This is one of the best answers I’ve ever read on AAM. All I want to add is that unless you’re dealing with life or death (which it doesn’t sound like you are) then it’s important to remember that nobody has died; that people aren’t making mistakes AT you; and that you presumably have controls in place to catch them.

    Reply
  81. DB Queen

    Ohhhh this hits home for me for sure. I struggled and was disciplined at previous job for this very thing. I’m a mean perfectionist that holds everyone to the same expectations as I do myself: perfect is the only answer. I made mistakes extremely rarely, but when I did, it was hard not to think it’s the actual end of the world. Oh the meltdowns.

    A lot of this is how I was raised: any mistake got a several minute yelling session directed at how useless I was.

    I have improved greatly since then, but it has taken loads of therapy and a lot of that was learning to be ok with my *own* mistakes first.

    Don’t know that I have any concrete advice to add, but I would definitely suggest (to anyone and everyone) that seeing a therapist helps. I made good progress and switched jobs (timing coincidental but helpful) and the clean start at current job has been extremely beneficial.

    Reply
  82. MCMonkeyBean

    I would also like to add that there is a reason most things go through multiple levels of review. Most of the things I work on get reviewed by at least three other people. Everybody makes mistakes and it’s usually easier to catch someone else’s mistake than your own.

    I actually also serve as a final set of eyes on a big document prepared by people superior to me. Every year I catch a few transposition errors and a case of something pulling in the wrong number from support. Normal mistakes that are always going to happen when you are working with this much data.

    Reply
    1. nnn

      This comment makes me wonder if OP might be very young or very new to the work world. (Although they are a team lead, which suggests they have risen through the ranks a bit)

      When I was in school, the expectation was that we’d make everything perfect all by ourselves, and “mistakes” were treated far more equally than they are IRL. You write a brilliantly argued essay but there’s a typo and it’s two words below word count? You lose a point for the typo and two points for being below word count.

      But in any well-run workplace, there are multiple levels of review, there’s a mechanism for proofreading by someone other than the author, and there’s at least one more level of quality control than necessary for high-profile publication.

      I wonder if either OP’s thinking or the organization’s structure might be in more of a school mindset here, not being aware that multiple levels of review are a best practice.

      Reply
  83. anycat

    i thought that mistakes were a tool to learn? i mean… if you make a mistake once, ok. learn from it and grow. but where i am it’s only a problem if you’ve made the same mistake 5 times in a row and don’t understand what is occurring to have it be repeated.

    i had a boss in my prior life who would shame you for making a mistake. i’d have panic attacks when i’d have to go talk to her about something – regardless if it was something i did or that i caught someone else had done. but i think taking the approach of using it as a teachable, learn-able moment (what can we do in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again? can we audit more? document things further? cross train?) is where the value comes in.

    Reply
  84. State govt employee

    I report to someone who gets bent out of shape over typos, and it influenced her performance evaluation of me. Even if I turn in something that is truly absolutely perfect, she will find something to complain about and then she tells me at evaluation time that “There’s always something…” I am a professional, with a bachelor’s & master’s in my field, which is *NOT* secretarial work or copy-editing. My boss’s lack of perspective drives me nuts.

    So… are the mistakes actually impacting work? If so, address whatever made it possible for the mistake to get to your desk. Perhaps there needs to be a second pair of eyes (like a copy-editor) before it gets to you. Perhaps there needs to be more rigorous beta-testing. Whatever… assume it’s not the person’s fault, but something missing in the process.

    If the work is not impacted then get over it. You are being petty and mean-spirited, and probably holding others to a standard that you yourself can’t attain (my boss, for example, makes at least one error in each of my performance evaluations). I hate my boss and I’m looking for other work. I bet the people being subjected to your tantrums are also looking for other work. After you chase away your best people you will be stuck with people who are indeed sub-par performers, and you will deserve them.

    Reply
    1. Lily in NYC

      I don’t know any managers who wouldn’t complain about typos, regardless of whether the role is secretarial. If accuracy is important to your boss, it should be important to you. My boss is anal about margins and bullet points and we all know it and do it her way even though it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        My bosses don’t complain about typos.

        If they’re important they might ask for them to be corrected. They don’t complain, though.

        Reply
        1. Argh!

          I can see asking to correct them, but making them the basis of judgment on a performance evaluation for someone whose job duties are 99% other things is just ridiculous. I want to work where you work!

          Reply
    2. Anonymous 40

      I am a professional, with a bachelor’s & master’s in my field, which is *NOT* secretarial work or copy-editing.

      Proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation are not “secretarial work.” In many fields, particularly those requiring two degrees, they’re a basic qualification. That’s particularly true if producing written material is an essential function of the job. Occasional typos are one thing but if you’re openly contemptuous of linguistic accuracy as beneath you, it probably is affecting your work.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous 40

        An unlike anonymous internet commenting, you do have the option of correcting your own mistakes in things like formatting… *sigh*

        Reply
      2. State govt employee

        My typos are indeed occasional typos. There might be one typo in 10 pages of documents (vs. 2 in my supervisor’s performance evaluation of me).

        And yes, typing skill is secretarial. That’s why there are still secretaries. And yes, copy-editing is still a specialty. And even then, the New York Times and almost every book have typos and errors.

        Reply
        1. Lily in NYC

          The days of secretarial jobs that consist of mainly typing are long gone. The NY Times does it better than anyone when you consider it’s a daily newspaper and the number of words in it. Books with real publishers rarely have typos. And you better believe that copy editors at the NYTimes get in trouble when they don’t catch typos.

          Reply
      3. State govt employee

        Also, writing is a small part of my job. It just happens to be the only part that my finicky boss pays any attention to.

        Reply
  85. Ramona Flowers

    Also, I don’t just have one job because I am a human and I do more things than going to work and doing work.

    I am really good at my job and known for being thorough and meticulous but I make mistakes like all humans. Here are some things that have caused me to make mistakes.

    – My eyesight had suddenly worsened and I needed an eye test after having the same prescription for years.
    – I slept badly and was tired.
    – A colleague made a joking comment that reminded me of something really upsetting in my life history which threw me for a loop.
    – Someone interrupted me at my desk and screwed up my process.
    Etc.

    Reply
    1. State govt employee

      I make mistakes because I use an ergonomic keyboard at my desk but sometimes use a different computer with a standard keyboard. Going back and forth changes the locations of 6, 7, and y.

      Reply
  86. only acting normal

    Oh dear. Reading the anecdotes on this thread (luckily more than the OP) I kept thinking – yup that’s like my tech lead*, and that, and that, and I avoid him like that, and I hide work until it’s “ready”, and… damn, I’m going to have to raise it with our manager aren’t I.

    * The one who gave me a review filled with all caps and exclamation marks.

    Reply
      1. only acting normal

        Back to him, or ever? ;-)
        Neither. Somehow I can’t see him accepting that from a mere minion like me.
        (And I’d never treat my project team like that – even though I’ve had people who drove me up the wall with sloppy work sometimes – it would be neither productive nor professional.)

        Reply
  87. Garland Not Andrews

    Hi OP, kudos to you for seeing that it is a problem and taking steps to improve! You can improve and become a good team lead.

    Reply
  88. Kheldara

    OP, I have been there. no armchair diagnosis here, but in my case, what was making me have immediate rage reactions to mistakes was definitely related to my mental health – partly to do with the way my Asperger’s presents itself, and partly to do with surviving an incredibly perfectionist upbringing in which all mistakes were met with humiliation, rage and incomprehension. because I was taught from a very early age that mistakes were a thing to be punished, and avoided at all costs, I internalised that and for a long time when I saw people make mistakes I had a very loud response of ‘how can you even stand yourself it’s SO SIMPLE YOU JUST HAVE TO BE PERFECT’.

    and a much quieter, barely audible internal response of ‘those people…are acting like…you’re just…allowed to make mistakes. …like maybe you can make mistakes and NOT be punished.’ which my brain would yell louder over because it was so foreign and uncomfortable to me, and threatened the safety of my status quo.

    I don’t know if any of this is anything like how things are for you, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to really sympathise, and maybe to give you something to think about if you do end up taking this to a therapist at some stage. in my case I had to get to the bottom of everything that was going on underneath the response before I could alter the response; can recommend.

    Reply
    1. State govt employee

      I have read that people with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder can have moralistic outrage over small issues, too. Good for you for taking time for self-reflection on this issue.

      Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      This is really reflective and insightful – thank you for sharing. (Not the OP. Just wanted to say that.)

      Reply
  89. J.B.

    OP – I commend you for writing about this. I think you recognized that something is wrong and that you need to fix it. I have been the target of the type of behavior you describe and it is demotivating. So please take the advice here about establishing process. I think it can be done, but it will probably be hard mental work for a while.

    Reply
  90. Jaie

    Ahh I know your type. The kind who either has employees disillusioned (and sometimes in tears) or has a high turnover rate. You’re a bully, and you need to fix your behavior before HR decides to get involved.

    Reply
  91. Sounds exactly like my boss

    OP, you sound like my boss and as an employee of someone who behaves similarly to you I can say that it’s not an easy place to be.
    My co-worker and I have learned to not let our boss know of some errors when we find them if they are minor. We just fix them. Sometimes we accidentally throw someone under the bus with an innocuous comment.
    A big issue with my boss is that his brain is wired completely different than that of his team and things that seem to make sense and are very clear to him he expects normal and less experienced folks to innately know and understand without being taught. He gets instantly visually annoyed or frustrated when questions are asked that he feels are “common sense”, but they are actually aren’t, and makes us not inclined to ask for his help or input on projects. He insists we figure out technical things on our own, and then gets mad we spent X amount of time on it.
    I’m not sure how to offer help that hasn’t already been suggested, but I’m glad to see that you are becoming aware of this really bad attitude you have towards mistakes. self-awareness is the first step. But really cut your team some slack especially on on minor errors. They are working in fear. Trust me.

    Reply
  92. MsNelsonisMissing

    Long time reader, emerging from deep lurkdom for my first-ever comment:

    I had a boss like this once. Worst experience ever. Please don’t be that person. People were so terrified of making mistakes that they…made a lot of mistakes. And covered them up.

    I went on maternity leave and came back to be blindsided with a meeting with boss and grand boss. Boss compiled a list of all of my mistakes and my team’s mistakes for the last 18 months or so. Some of them happened while I was on leave! Example: a subordinate of mine signed off a document with the wrong date. I still feel terrible when I think about this meeting, and it’s been years. I ultimately left and have been much happier.

    Reply
  93. Dysana

    There’s another important part of your job that you need to work on here – your team. You can’t lead if people are too scared to make a mistake. There was a study done at Google to try and figure out how to make the best teams. They found that the most important factor wasn’t how skilled everyone was or specific personality traits – it was psychological safety, which boils down to the knowledge that you can make a mistake or take a risk and you won’t be punished for it (and that you, as a team, will work to make things right).

    It’s worth looking into this so that you can understand how to build the best possible team and to provide good support and leadership.

    Reply
    1. Akcipitrokulo

      This.

      I’m currently working in best department I’ve had with best bosses and big boss ever. We’ve just been through an acquisition, had to deal with a data centre migration, combining new company IT with ours, merging into team with overseas team and at the same time create replacement website for parent company from scratch… which involved a massive upgrade of underlying third party framework…. and had to keep on top of BAU…

      We delivered. Ahead of schedule in a coupke of places.

      Mistakes happened. We fixed them. No blame, just fixed. A lot of the time the person who made it fixed it themselves (and usually shared) but if it got to me as QA, then it was never “someone got it wrong!!!” but “code is doing this”.

      All if which was really needed when a release that should have finished by 9pm actually went on til after midnight because in a very complex process, something was missed. We pulled together and fixed it, and the aftermath was big boss first thanking everyone and then wanting to look at PROCESSES to make better next time. No blame. So the process review is easier.

      We do good work. Really good work. Whole business appreciates us… and it is exactly because we have a healthy psychologically safew environment.

      And the devs rock. Seriously!

      Reply
  94. Charlene

    Also, this is especially important in tech. Why do you think code reviews exist? Because it is really easy to make a mistake!

    Reply
    1. Charlene

      In fact, my team lead is fantastic specifically because he will point out mistakes and explain a better way to do things but will not seem at all upset. It is incredibly motivating to have someone kindly point out things you can improve, because it makes you actually want to improve them, partly to be a better engineer and partly because you want to make your team lead’s job easier because they are treating you well!

      Reply
  95. char

    I’m a team lead myself, and let me tell you, if I booted off everyone who ever made a single mistake, I’d have to boot my entire team, including myself!

    On a more serious note, I often find that when my team makes mistakes, I’m partially to blame, especially if multiple people are making the same mistake. To me that indicates that there’s probably something I didn’t explain well enough. Sure, when this happens it usually seems to me that it should have been obvious, but plainly it wasn’t, so that’s something I need to take into account. I’m the lead BECAUSE I have a better understanding of what needs to be done than the rest of my team, so if I’m not adequately communicating that knowledge to my team, that means I’m not doing my job. So if you notice a pattern of mistakes, that might be something to consider.

    Reply
  96. Student

    There’s a philosophy in many businesses that you need the absolute best team to get something done. An elite strike team. Such a path can lead to great things.

    That’s not the only way to be successful, though. It isn’t even historically the best or most common way to create a successful business (or empire, for that matter). Elite teams are rare, and hard to keep together, and expensive, and can quickly lead to butting heads. Teams of normal people, or even below-average people, with a couple elite leaders do much better as a strategy overall, is a more stable strategy, and is often more economical.

    The key to doing this, though, is that the elite leaders have to anticipate the most common problems and try to head them off. Sometimes that’s with rules and processes that can seem arbitrary to the people on the ground floor. Sometimes that’s from simplification, from breaking down a complicated task into simpler components. Sometimes that’s with rigorous QA. Sometimes, automation.

    No matter which way you handle it, the key is to expect that something is going to go wrong, plan for it to go wrong, and plan how to steer it back on course. If you aren’t planning for contingencies, emergencies, and giving yourself enough time to correct inevitable mistakes, then you aren’t managing well. Give yourself and your team more room to breath on expectations. Having fires to put out isn’t nearly so alarming and upsetting if you keep a fire extinguisher near to hand.

    Reply
  97. MadGrad

    Lw, on top of what everyone else has said, do everything you can to stay FAR, FAR AWAY from people who are even kind of new to the working world. Anyone with even an ounce of imposter syndrome is going to be crushed under your kind of management, and you could do serious lasting harm to their emotional health. I had to spend weeks building up someone very close to me who is GOOD at his job, but was stressing himself out due to a lack of confidence. I can’t imagine what you would do to him, and frankly the idea upsets me more than it should. No one should get this treatment, but please at least keep it away from people who don’t know that they deserve better.

    Reply
  98. DanaScully

    My idea of a good manager is someone I can approach and say, “Hey, I did this wrong. Can you help me/how should I fix this?”. If I’m scared to approach them, then they’re probably not a very good manager. As for mistakes, I have multiple chronic conditions that have a huge impact on my cognitive abilities and my concentration levels. I sometimes make small mistakes on things that I’m so unbelievably au fait with that it’s upsetting for me to realise afterwards. Please change your approach, OP.

    Reply
  99. MeowFace

    Very VERY few people actually have “one job”. I think you’re wrong about that, OP. Stop and think about how many different things your employees are doing in a day. If it was someone whose sole job was to open the front door for the CEO every morning and they got distracted looking at their phone and the CEO had to open it himself, you could be justified in the “you have one job!” rant (although, still crappy and not professional). In tech especially it’s quite rare that someone is really doing one thing and one thing only all day. So yeah their “job” might be to get a thing done, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing dozens of different things in a day in order to achieve that.

    Also, you need to tone it down ASAP. I’m surprised we don’t have a letter in here already saying something like “my boss gets angry and emotional any time anyone makes a mistake on the team” because you’re overreacting and being quite irrational.

    Reply
  100. Smart Ticketing Tech Lead

    As a Tech Lead your role is not just about making decisions its about leading. Leadership is about enabling your team to deliver, and thats both about unblocking issues (using your knowledge and experience) and mentoring/improving your team (using your knowledge and experience).
    At the moment you are not leading but being bossy because you can make decisions. Lead your team to deliver and you will elevate yourself and become a manger.

    Reply
  101. Michelle

    If you were my team leader, I’d report you up to the CEO. I bet the company have lost many competent people because of your behavior. You are not a leader.

    Reply
  102. NoNoNoNoNo

    Oh OP you make me feel very emotional and want to react irrationally towards you and your expectations of perfection. Zero tolerance? Who the fk do you think you are anyway?

    Reply
  103. Amazed

    I am horribly late to the party, but I wanted to add this observation.

    Doing my best here to avoid naming names, I’ve had one coworker who asked me to investigate some matter. I didn’t come to the conclusion she was looking for, and let her know what I found. She came to my office, accused me of not taking her, her request, or her presence seriously enough, and reacted to “I’m sorry, but–” with “I don’t want your apology, I want you to do your job!!”

    I should not have been as scared for my job as I was then. Or maybe I should have. I just know that my brain went straight to ‘she takes this to management, she has their ear, I’ll never hear the end of it.’

    She then walked me through, step by step, all the steps I’d taken and places I’d looked, basically rechecking all my work. I was still in too much shock to do much of obey. Still not what she suspected. She left without a word.

    Next day, management writes me up, quoting how said coworker had to walk me through basic steps of a job I’ve been in for years.

    OP, this is you. This is how you look to your team. You are not a leader, you are a landmine.

    Reply

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