mistakes at work: a round-up

Here’s a round-up of posts about mistakes at work.

what to do when you make a mistake at work

you made a mistake at work — now what?

how do I recover from a huge, fireable mistake at work?

how do I handle a serious mistake on my self-evaluation?

how big of a deal are mistakes when you’re new to a job?

how to rebuild your credibility after messing up at work

when you didn’t make a mistake, but someone thinks you did

my boss thinks I made a mistake — but I didn’t

how can I explain a mistake wasn’t mine without looking like a tattletale?

my manager doesn’t defend me from mistaken complaints

mistakes and how you feel about them

I messed up at work and I’m so ashamed

I’m so nervous at work that it’s holding me back

I’m terrified of making mistakes at my first job (and the update)

when your coworkers make mistakes

I get angry when my coworkers make mistakes

how can I tactfully point out to coworkers that a miscommunication error is theirs?

my coworker keeps missing deadlines and it impacts my work

when you keep uncovering errors made by your well-loved predecessor

how do I reply to my coworker’s apology without saying her constant mistakes are OK?

mistakes and your manager

my manager wants me to take more responsibility for my mistakes

our boss cross-examines us over minor mistakes

should I take the blame for my manager’s mistake?

what should I say to my boss when coworkers tattle on me?

can boss deduct the cost of a mistake from my paycheck?

when you’re the boss

what to do when an employee makes a serious mistake

what to do when an employee keeps making mistakes

my employee never apologizes when his mistakes cause extra work for other people

my employee blames others for her mistakes

junior employee is flippant when I correct mistakes in her work

my employees are making mistakes, but I don’t want to micromanage

a very big mistake

I accidentally sent my boss to Italy instead of Florida

{ 102 comments… read them below }

  1. A. Nonymous*

    I made the mistake of relying on CIBT Visas for a Canadian eTA. My boss waited in Newark airport all day, and I almost lost my job. I’ve *always* felt embarrassed about that one. What a dumb mistake on my part.

  2. HailRobonia*

    In my old job one recurring mistake I would make was to send out an email to enrollees of a program and forget to include the attachment. My boss was understanding, and it was an easy mistake to correct, but to ensure that I wouldn’t forget going forward I announced to my team that if I forget to attach the document, as “punishment” I would bake the team cookies.

    Alas, poor colleagues, I never made that mistake again, so no cookies.

    1. Professor S*

      This sort of self-imposed external accountability works great. One semester I was really busy, teaching a new class, and making a lot of typos in small errors in homework problems, solutions, notes, etc. that I typed for the class. So halfway through, I started a policy where I’d award a bonus point to anyone who caught one of my mistakes. (Excluding mistakes made on the whiteboard, since those are inevitable.) I only had to award two bonus points.

    2. Caroline*

      When the pandemic first started, I was part of a small core group that was coming in to the office and coordinating our company response to COVID. We had a huge conference room and were on Teams calls all day with people working remotely in different parts of the country. We had a running joke that anyone in the room who had a muting fail had to buy treats for the room (everyone involved could well afford it, and it was mostly people forgetting to mute their laptop speakers, resulting in awful screeching sounds.) We got pizza out of it once, when a SVP forgot multiple times in a week.

  3. mopsy*

    I remember reading one of your posts early in my career about how it’s not a big deal to make mistakes, and how managers care more about how you fix them and keep yourself from making the same ones over and over. It really helped with my anxiety!

  4. Goldenrod*

    This makes me think that a great “Ask the Reader” topic could be: What was the biggest mistake you ever made at work? (and how did you handle it?)

    1. Administrative Vagabond*

      I used to run a window and door company. I should not have been allowed to do this, but everyone above me either left or went on medical leave or went on a bender at the same time, and then it was me running the company. (Fortunately the installation team stayed on, and liked me, and let me know that if I ran the company they’d install the windows and doors.)

      So I found the most recent sales call documentation, got a quote sent out, the client agreed, and I ordered their door. Only took a huge number of calls to our door vendor to learn the quoting software.

      Tiny problem, it turns out that doors need stuff to go around them in the door opening, like a frame and such. And because I didn’t understand how that worked, I ordered a door in a size that [b]could never exist[/b]. Cost the company about 12k, plus we (I) had to order a new door in the correct size (even more phone calls to the vendor and a few hours with a VERY patient installer), and I got to talk down a very angry customer after the install team showed up to his house with a door that would not fit on any houses on earth.

      But I did not make that mistake twice!

    2. Vio*

      Biggest mistake I ever made at work would have to be when I part timed at a hotel. At the end of the week they gave me half my wages and said I’d get the rest with the next weeks since the manager wasn’t around and only she had the keys to the safe. They insisted I sign for having received the full amount however and, despite being sceptical, I was too anxious to argue.
      Next week same again and so I’m missing a full weeks wages and with crippling social anxiety (at the time, as with my other mental health issues, undiagnosed) I again couldn’t argue. After a couple of months of half wages I was told it was a temporary job and that my employment was now ended. And that they didn’t owe me any wages.
      Looking back there were no shortage of red flags. No contract (practically unheard of in UK), wages in cash and all of the non-management/admin staff seemed low confidence and people pleasers, all under 21 (lower minimum wage). My ‘temporary’ employment ended a month before my 21st birthday.

  5. Addison DeWitt*

    Jeez, reading the story about the guy who booked Naples Italy instead of Naples, Florida is hair-raising and reminds me of a time a client asked me to go to a meeting in Springfield (insert Simpsons joke here). I’m in Illinois, and it never occurred to me that they meant Missouri and never specified it (the client, I guess, is associated with Springfield MO, at least in their minds). Happily they booked the flight, so I didn’t screw it up, but there is something uniquely disorienting about landing in a different city than the one you expected to fly to. I’m WHERE? On purpose?

      1. Addison DeWitt*

        Admittedly, the scenery on the way would be pretty much the same, unlike crossing the ocean to Italy.

    1. Ama*

      I work with academic medical programs and the particular disease my employer focuses on has experts located at both Mayo Clinic (in Rochester, MN) and the University of Rochester (in Rochester, NY). I have encountered more than one person who have mixed the two up (including, once, a new Mayo Clinic employee from Europe who didn’t realize there were two Rochesters in the US). Thankfully most of the time it was caught before they actually got on the flight.

      1. EssentiallyEssential*

        Received a call from a fairly new vendor that they hadn’t received payment. Looking up their address, they were located in Rochester, IL. We had them in the system in Rochester, MN. Looking at the worksheet we use to enter new vendors, it was typed in as Rochester, IL. The person entering just assumed Minnesota.

        1. Addison DeWitt*

          Funny, I just read about a suburban “castle” in Rochester, MI. I assumed it was really Minnesota, but nope, there’s a Rochester, Michigan too.

      2. Cranky-saurus Rex*

        I read a book a while back where part of the plot involves a man who’s still hurting because his ex-fiancee left town unexpectedly and didn’t return. A big deal is made of the fact that she went to upstate NY… later clarified as Rochester, NY. A few chapters it’s treated as obvious that she was sick and went to Mayo Clinic for treatment because “Mayo Clinic is in Rochester, NY” – exact quote. When I read this book, I was working as a consultant for Mayo Clinic IT. I definitely lost a lot of respect for the book’s author and editors, though at least the book didn’t have real-world travel implications!

        1. Industry Behemoth*

          The novel While Justice Sleeps, by Stacey Abrams, is set in Washington DC.

          I’ve lived there, so it threw me momentarily when the story referred to “Tacoma Park, Maryland.” The correct spelling is Takoma Park.

      3. Elitist Semicolon*

        “most of the time” :D

        (A travel agent nearly did this to me – and, since I’m from one Rochester and not the other, it would have been especially difficult to see family when I got off the plane.)

    2. Adds*

      Once upon a time, I was supposed to book a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Columbus, GA for my then-mother-in-law. And I, being a worrier, and *knowing* that Columbus, GA was NOT a major airport city and Columbus, OH was, made sure to double-check the info that I was going to get this woman to the correct Columbus.

      Friends, I managed to book a flight to the wrong Columbus anyway. She caught it when she called the airline to completely rebook because she didn’t like *anything* about the flight I booked for her (departure time and date, departure airport, etc., despite those being the only ones available in the budget she gave me).

      Of course, I *just now* realized, 20 years and a divorce later, that it’s possible I did book the right one and she was just complaining about all of things because that’s what she did.

      1. higher ed teaching*

        I know that airport! Those of us that lived there didn’t even use it. It had 3 commuter lines at one point but I don’t know if they even have one now.

      2. Yeep*

        Did you know there were two because of the movie Tommy Boy? “You see these letters by the city? That’s called a state. Hey, Tommy, maybe you should go back to college for another seven years and study a globe.”

        I’m not being rude, that really is how I first learned there were two.

      1. Phoebe Two*

        The OP got some nasty comments and a few that inferred they were lying OT misrepresenting what happened, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t bother sending in any update.

    3. Bella Ridley*

      I don’t understand how it would be possible to book a flight to Naples, Florida, as their airport has no commercial flights.

      1. nnn*

        That makes it easier to see how they’d end up booking the flight to the other Naples, if only one was bookable.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          The other possibility I remember being suggested at the time was that it was a different city involved and OP just changed it to Naples to avoid being identifiable. OP didn’t confirm or deny.

    4. FlyingAce*

      Yeah, that was… oof. I used to work in the travel industry, so I’ve seen my fair share of booking mistakes – none of them were transcontinental, though! I hope OP is in a better place now.

      1. Clisby*

        I was once stuck overnight in 1989 in Atlanta with a ton of Christmas travelers (and their crying children) who had been blindsided by a freak snowstorm (I think it’s still the biggest southeast coast snowstorm ever). One of my fellow trapped travelers was a woman who lived in France and was coming to see her family for the first time in several years. She had relied on a travel agent to make her arrangements to get to Dayton, OH. Dayton, Daytona, what’s the difference? I have no idea if she made it to Dayton for Christmas – the only way I got home to SC was to rent a car and drive (veeerrryyy carefully). My hometown of Georgetown (about 60 miles north of Charleston) got more than 12 inches of snow.

    5. dear liza dear liza*

      I had a colleague that jumped on a great deal to St. Johns. Yep, only after buying the no-givebacks Expedia package that she realized she’d bought a trip to Newfoundland (St. John’s), not the US Virgin Islands (St. John).

      1. Seashell*

        I’d probably take the trip anyway, but I’m hoping she wouldn’t have to go in winter.

      2. Anonymoose*

        I was expecting that she ended up in New Brunswick (Saint John) instead of Newfoundland (St. John’s). The two are occasionally confused in Canada! A visit to Newfoundland would be great, whereas Saint John tourism includes the Fundy tides and…

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          I’m Canadian and we get them mixed up. We have a Hamilton, ON and when the play Hamilton was running and tickets were hard to get, the city got calls looking for them.

      3. Zombeyonce*

        We took a trip to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and it was lovely. I feel bad for your colleague if they went, though, because the fog there is notorious for getting flights cancelled. We had to stay an extra 2 days because our flight kept getting changed to the next day.

    6. Quoth the Raven*

      I just had to book tickets for two guests flying in from Portland, Maine, and I had to fight myself all the time because I kept thinking Portland, Oregon. I must have checked the information every step of the way a hundred times.

    7. TG*

      And I’d think also of Springfield MA as well! Yeah sending your boss to Italy is nuts BUT how could they not know it either before the plane left as the gate would have the destination and I’m sure people were talking about their trip in the gate area….

    8. BradC*

      I did the same thing: planned a 3-day driving vacation with my family and reserved a hotel online, then pulled up the directions to the hotel on on my phone, and was surprised to find it was over 300 miles away, in Springfield, MO.

      Reader, we we just outside Springfield, IL.

      Fortunately the website we used to book had a helpful phone support team.

    9. Madame Arcati*

      The thing that bakes my noodle about the Naples one is that they didn’t realise until they landed. Fine you get to the airport and only then realise, then op is in trouble as new flights must be obtained and money wasted…
      I mean it’s evidently possible because it happened but I also wonder if boss was extra-angry with OP to deflect the fact that they themselves felt like a complete div for flying halfway across the globe by mistake. If you did that in my office you’d never hear the end of it!

      1. GythaOgden*

        Once you’re on the wrong plane it’s difficult to get off it. It’s not like they’re going to touch down in the Azores or the Canaries so the traveller going the wrong way can catch the next flight back.

        Trying to blame the boss for the OP’s mistake was one thing from that thread that was a bit wild tbh, particularly since OP wasn’t there when they did realise they’d been booked on the wrong flight so whether it happened shortly after take-off or only when they got to their destination it was still OP’s mistake. Even if they’d only got as far as the take-off airport, getting last minute bookings for a trip might have been awkward, and then there’s the fact that the OP had booked hotels in Naples, Italy. They may well have got to the conference too late to make the presentation, given how tight turnarounds in business travel often are.

        So what exactly happened with the bosses doesn’t matter here. The buck stopped with OP, and OP caused a lot of damage to various parts of the business, especially if it was a smaller outlet.

        The lengths people go to here to make things the fault of someone other than an employee who messed up is wild.

        1. ErinW*

          No one’s saying the OP didn’t massively screw up, but I think Madame Arcati’s point is that an international flight is just so different from one in-country. Even if the departure board only said Naples, no state/country, the person would’ve had to show their passport (and you don’t need one to travel within the U.S.). Did the flight depart from an international terminal? Were people at the gate speaking Italian? There had to have been numerous clues.

    10. Alhe*

      I remember there was once a story on the news about a German guy who wanted to visit his girlfriend in the US but accidentally flew to a city with the same name in Australia (or the other way around, I don’t remember specifics).

    1. Annie*

      Yes, my grandparents lived there. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid it was the only Las Vegas I knew about!

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        While I was aware of Boston US, Boston UK was always the first one I would think of because I have relatives quite nearby, so when someone from Boston UK moved to my high school, I knew where she meant but was surprised how many people asked if she was from the US.

  6. ArtsNerd*

    One thing I keep doing in my current role is making “mistakes” that are just different norms/expectations in my office between someone in my management chain and my own team. Like some people can just pop into teams and say “hey, I’m not feeling 100% so I’ll be working from home” but I got in trouble for not following an official process I was not previously aware of. So some of it is on my employer, but I’m also bringing in norms from old jobs that are not appropriate for this workplace, e.g. informally solving problems on my own vs. requesting help/resources that are available. It’s tricky to navigate because I’m constantly surprised that I’m messing up.

    1. Elle*

      I do this in my new job all the time either because I’m not aware of a policy or a policy has changed and I didn’t know. Our company has monthly management trainings and one thing that’s come up a lot is not to reprimand staff when this happens.

    2. TechWorker*

      The working from home one… do note that this might not be a difference in expectation but that you are only seeing half the conversation! If someone is both ‘formally’ getting permission from their manager and dropping a message in a chatroom saying ‘hey everyone I’m wfh today’ you don’t see the first half. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening…

      I had an eye opening conversation with a report who made this exact mistake, he’d misused leave, as well as booked a load of leave back to back without getting it ok-ed. (There’s literally a message the pops up saying ‘have you checked this with your manager’). His excuse was ‘but I saw people all the time say they were going out on PTO with barely any notice’ – TOTALLY missing those people had had it booked in for weeks & he was just seeing the polite notification they’d sent for their teams convenience…

      1. ArtsNerd*

        That’s true of some people in my office but others on my team just ping the chat and that’s it! It depends on who your informal and formal supervisors are in this office.

        1. GythaOgden*

          It probably depends on role as well. It was really hard for me transitioning from reception where we had to coordinate leave with each other for fairly obvious reasons to admin where as long as I’m basically available during the working day I could be at the bottom of the ocean or the top of Everest so long as I was able to raise a purchase order. (It’s obviously not that flexible but you get what I mean.)

          I actually prefer some ground rules because it gives me more comfort to know where the limits are and, as I said, I’m used to making sure my leave doesn’t conflict with someone else’s needs, common sense in a lot of roles where someone needs to be behind reception to keep services running (and you’d be surprised at how hard it is to get a temp to be able to keep a building running smoothly; when I started in just such a manner back in 2014, it was a lot to take on at once and so parachuting someone in, even from elsewhere in the business, for a day or two would be a complete nightmare). I operate better when I know what I’m doing, what I can do without express permission and what limits there are, so to be frank it would be important to me to have that security.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        The variation of this I saw once was a coworker who’d had quite a lot of sick leave between March and September, which meant she also had a lot of annual leave left to take (this happened in the UK) – her initial return to work happened to coincide with her manager going on holiday for two weeks. I’m not sure what conversations they had about my coworker using up her annual leave, but my coworker was submitting lots of half days during that period without getting formal confirmation and taking them anyway, and these were days that might well not have been approved if they had had a proper conversation (someone else had already booked leave long since for that time period which meant short staffing). Manager only found out when she got back and found all these leave requests after the days had already happened.

    3. ferrina*

      I’ve been in this position. The onboarding was abysmal and my boss was unreachable. They assumed I just gained internal knowledge through osmosis, I guess? I would ask the process to X, be told that you just Y, do the Y and it seemed to work, then a couple weeks later realize that nothing had worked because J and M needed to be done along with Y (but nobody told me, even when I was asking). Every month there was a new month to clean up. I basically had to get someone to do the process with me in order to get the right information, but no one ever had the time. Several new hires (including me) got put on PIP because of this.

      Eventually admin wised up and completely redid the onboarding process. They also finally documented all the complicated tasks that had just been memorized by long-time staff (and weren’t communicated properly to new staff).

      1. Elle*

        At one point I was told they assumed I knew a PTO policy because it’s how every company does it. I was like, no and why would you assume I know?

        1. ferrina*

          Yes! Why on earth would you assume that every company has the same policy? And how would I magically know that it’s the policy here when there has been literally no evidence of the policy?

          The company I was at had a bunch of long-termers as the managers, and since they had spent almost their entire career at the company, they just assumed that everyone had the same experience and that every company was exactly like theirs. They only bothered on-boarding new grads, and assumed that everyone else already knew everything about Company’s policies (because I guess if you’ve worked at one company, you’ve worked at them all?)

    4. GythaOgden*

      Transferring between a hard coverage based role where I needed to coordinate leave with my colleagues to ensure coverage and one that’s a lot more flexible (and often involves overnight travel particularly because I’ve got an accommodation to do it even more than some of my colleagues) has been a bit awkward. I still ask my manager if I can have days off and obviously put it in my calendar, but the policy has gone from very strict to much more cavalier. ‘Why are you asking me? you’re in charge of your own diary’ is something I never expected to hear in my admin career.

      I’m actually someone who feels a lot more comfortable with rules so it’s been a difficult transition. I know I don’t have to ask to go out for some fresh air as long as I’m not flaking out completely, but it took me a while to stop asking. I know to ask before booking travel and accommodation through our system (which takes payment from a corporate account) but it was really awkward at first because I ended up choosing the absolute cheapest option (a place that is basically one step up from a capsule hotel) and my manager told me to cancel it and choose something a bit better.

      I would want certainty myself that I was doing the Right Thing and I try and play by the rules even if it’s to my cost at some points. It can be a bit awkward both ways round and having some firm underpinnings to a leave system can help things go a bit more smoothly, both for those who need the structure and for those who would let it all hang out if they could.

  7. Garblesnark*

    This stuff is really difficult.

    I grew up in an environment where mistakes were cataclysmic. A missed homework assignment or poor grade or dropped glass or burnt food item would consistently have devastating consequences, even when I was too young to be expected to be in charge of the things I had messed up. One time I overcooked oven bake french fries at an age when I wouldn’t let a child near an oven now, and I didn’t hear the end of it for weeks. However, the consequences of covering up a mistake weren’t much more than those of just making the mistake in the first place, so the obvious choice was to hide all my mistakes, lie about everything all the time, and spend all my time and energy simply guessing what the other person in every conversation wanted or expected me to say.

    And now it’s all the opposite, and hypothetically if I’m in a healthy work environment, nothing will go wrong as long as I fight back a few decades of carefully trained instincts and own up to every mistake I make immediately, complete with apologizing and detailing what went wrong. Every time it happens, I’d rather quit. And also flee the country and change my name.

    (If you suggest therapy or diagnose me with something, I’ll be very peeved. I am an adult who is obviously aware of the situation.)

    1. Funfetti*


      Took me a long time to figure this out about myself and my childhood – that basically I would always BE PERFECT so I wouldn’t get into trouble then that extrapolated into work.

      Though it was very freeing to come around to the “hey if you’re upfront about your mistakes at work and own it it goes better” way of being a functional person. That has really helped me undo these issues by then applying it to my homelife – def less freak outs over “mistakes”

    2. ferrina*

      Thanks for the parenthetical, because I was about to recommend stuff.

      But yeah, I relate to this so much. I also come from a…complicated family. You do what you have to to survive, and you don’t even realize how bad it is because it’s all you’ve ever known. I came out of my childhood with cPTSD, in a time before cPTSD was recognized or named. I just thought I was broken. I’ve worked hard to address a lot of the maladaptive strategies that helped me survive childhood, but I still find new ones from time to time.

      1. Garblesnark*

        I will say if you have a specific recommendation that’s more specific than “see a therapist, because I believe that this will magically and instantly resolve decades in a problematic environment,” I would be happy to consider it.

        1. Janne*

          Schema therapy helped me the most to train healthier patterns instead of the patterns that I had learned as a child. Even just reading the book “Breaking negative thinking patterns” gave me some new things to try.

    3. anon_sighing*

      Can’t write out anymore than this. It’s like you’re in my head.

      Dealing with kindness and gentleness after a mistake is also very difficult for me. What do you mean you aren’t going to punish me? What do you mean this isn’t the end of the world? Do you not see the horsemen on the horizon? Oh, ah ha, you want to hold this like an axe over my head, huh? No thanks! If you won’t punish me, I’ll do it myself — I quit! (Video game banner pop-up: “EVERYONE LOSES…”)

      Just a self-destructive and bizarrely self-centered mindset — people just want the mistake corrected and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again and that you understand it.

      1. Garblesnark*

        Everyone loses!

        It’s also very tricky when there is actual danger. I spend all this time practicing believing that the solution to my problems is simply clear and honest communication, but then sometimes one encounters terrible people in the wild and the prophecy is fulfilled. x_x

        1. Yeep*

          This happened to me three weeks ago (encounter with terrible people) and I still have to stuff down the urge to quit my wonderful, fulfilling, high paying job that I’m actually very good at. Even though my boss doesn’t care what the terrible people think. Brains, amirite?

    4. works with realtors*

      I could have written this comment, but it wouldn’t have been so eloquent. Thank you for writing my script for explaining my crushing anxiety and people pleasing to my family and friends.

    5. Sociology rocks!*

      It really does suck. It’s so hard to rewire your expectations, and even when you learn to in one context, you gotta do it again every time things change. I got really lucky that I found ask a manager before I left college and have got a very chill, supportive first real job. It’s done spades to help shift my expectations, but it’s slower going applying that to situations outside of work. Between the perfectionism/covering mistakes, guessing of what others want and the desire to solve other peoples problems, it’s hard to convince myself none of it is actually the right way to do things, even when logically I know it to be true and to produce less stressful outcomes. And the occasions I do actually believe it, I don’t know how to motivate myself to grind when needed, due to loss of fear as a motivator. It’s a better place but a terrible new bind to navigate.

      It’s amazing in a horrible way, the degree to which parents or other significant figures can shape us this strongly. It’s so slow to

  8. Monday*

    A couple months ago I sent seven figures to the wrong bank account (right recipient, wrong account, so not as bad as it could be but still bad).

    My boss made sure I knew she wasn’t mad, that mistakes happen (she had done a similar mistake years ago), and we worked on how to prevent it happening again (some of which we were already doing, the thing that led to the mistake was an artifact of the previous system). It was (and continues to be) a big mess, but at least not a stressful one!

  9. Fergus*

    I was a software engineer for years and if the projects were any good everything was tested by a QA department. I checked my work repeatedly so if there was a mistake it was small and an oversight. I had to turn down jobs because I saw the writing on the wall, because there wasn’t any type of plan unless if was on a napkin so requirements changed by the second so when things didn’t happen I knew who they were going to blame.

  10. Seashell*

    I had a caseload that included two people with very similar common names – let’s say Jose Rodriguez and Jose Rodrigues. I faxed some sensitive information to the wrong one, but it wound up getting resolved without any harm to anyone involved.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      When I first started in my current job, something along those lines happened – to use your example,let’s say the record for someone called Jose Rodrigues was wrongly linked to a family on the system instead of a Jose Rodriguez, and this meant that Jose Rodrigues got sent a social care assessment for someone he didn’t know. The social worker got angry at the admin who sent it, the admin argued back that they weren’t the one who linked the wrong man in the first place allowing that mistake to happen. I don’t know if anyone had any disciplinary action for that, but there was a communication telling people to be more careful linking records.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This isn’t my mistake, but I once spent three days painstakingly sorting out medical claims for twins Tisha Lenore Smith and Tasha Lenore Smith (names obviously made up, but the ENTIRE NAMES were identical except for one single letter) who, being born in our hospital obviously in rapid sequence, had medical record numbers that were sequential. One twin was in our ED and subsequently admitted to our trauma unit following a really bad car accident at the same time as the other one was inpatient for some sort of medical treatment for a chronic disease. NOBODY could get their accounts correct until four days into their overlapping stay, our registration department went in and changed one of them to have a drastically different record number as well as a pop-up on each record requiring staff to enter a certain passcode (I believe it was “trauma” vs “cancer” or similar – specifically, the passcode prompt was “is this patient in-house being treated for trauma or cancer” and they had to get the right one) before entering any documentation or charges. But I had to review everything for the first four days before that and get it all sorted out as to who’s charges were who’s.

      1. Sociology rocks!*

        Honestly that solution is brilliant though. I had a drs office billing department mess up and bill my appointments to my twin sister’s insurance account when we were both on our parents insurance, it went on for over a year. Our names aren’t even similar, just same last name and legal sex. She didn’t even go to that practice or healthcare system, just whatever insurance used to differentiate us was close enough that it was easy to select the wrong one. There really should be a rule or checkbox or extra step for noting if a patient is a twin in medical systems and insurance, and trigger extra/altered steps so that we don’t get mixed up

        1. linger*

          Much more likely to happen to twins, because the number used as the default means of disambiguating patient records is … date of birth.

  11. Phoebe Two*

    I still remember the wrong flight letter, and I’m always double checking if I have to book a flight.

    I still feel badly for the OP after all the flack they took in the comments. They were rightfully upset but I’m bummed it stopped them from coming back with an update.

  12. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I hope the person who made the very big mistake of sending the execs to the wrong country has gotten a job and is doing well. Really wish there was an update.

    1. Phoebe Two*

      The were given lots of flack in the comments and accused of misrepresenting or lying about the situation. They were understandably upset and it makes sense why they haven’t returned with an update.

      1. DorothyGale*

        Drat, I was hoping for an update. I could see it happening easily if you used a booking site that packages the flights and hotels together.

  13. anon_sighing*

    I feel bad for the Naples person. It’s a big mistake, admittedly, but come on, they didn’t check the ticket? The overheard announcement at the airport didn’t tip them off, the people around them buzzing with excitement to go to Naples (the one not in Florida)? Most people would laugh about this later.

    I once made a stupid mistake that wiped a fairly big deal database. I immediately told people, proposed a solution (rebuilding and repopulate it, by hand [it wasn’t fun] from a very basic input log [records anytime it’s updated and what was updated, including the fields and values]), and then wrote a plan to avoid is going forward. Everyone was incredibly relaxed about it except me.

      1. Phoebe Two*

        According to the OP the executives were flying out of Quebec, so it would have been an international flight to both Florida and Italy. English was also not their first or primary language. Additionally if they didn’t have much experience flying or navigating the airport they wouldn’t have known things were amiss.

        That’s not to say that I think OP is a horrible employee or deserved to be fired. But the OP provided that context for anyone who thought the executives were American and spoke English (ie how did they not notice the differences between a domestic and an international flight).

        The OP got called out pretty hard in the comments and some even accused them of lying. I would really like an update to that letter but I understand why the OP didn’t send one.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I feel sorry for the person who messed up about Naples, FL. Because I am always surprised at how many place names are the same. I googled Naples, and besides the two in question, there is also 1 in New York and 1 in Maine.

          1. anon_sighing*

            When I was going to NZ on vacation, I realized there was a Dunedin, Florida as well as a Dunedin, NZ.

            Come on, Florida! What’s going on?!

          2. Wendy Darling*

            My inlaws accidentally bought train tickets to Vancouver, WA when they were trying to get the train to Vancouver, Canada. Annoyingly, they’re both on the same Amtrak line, so it’s an easy mistake to make! Especially if, like my inlaws, you live on another continent and are not entirely clear on North American geography.

            1. ferrina*

              The Vancouvers are about 6 hours drive apart, almost equidistant from Seattle. Even when you are from the region, it can get confusing! Your poor inlaws!

            2. Alhe*

              I once accidentally booked a flight at 11 pm instead of 11 am because I am not used to the universal time nomenclature. It didn’t matter much for this particular trip, fortunately.

          3. EvilQueenRegina*

            There was a story on my side of the pond about someone who was on holiday on the Isle of Wight a couple of years ago, they’d booked a cottage for the first week, and a guest house in Newport for the second. Turned out there was some screwup on Booking.com, and the guest house shouldn’t have been listed under Isle of Wight – it was actually in Newport, south Wales. Even though Booking.com made the initial error there were the obligatory comments on the news stories at the time about why didn’t she check more closely and didn’t she realise the postcode was wrong – since I grew up close enough to the Newport south Wales postcode area, yes I might have picked it up from that, but I wouldn’t judge anyone not from the area for not twigging that way.

          4. WellRed*

            Fortunately Naples Maine is better known for its boat launch than an airport runway. (No airport!)

        2. anon_sighing*

          I feel even worse for them because what a perfect storm of circumstances. I assumed flights in Quebec would be announced in English and French, but this is belaboring the point because ultimately, if you think everything is booked as it should, you may not be paying attention – also LW had still made the mistake (I doubt many flights are going to Naples, Florida daily so they may have missed their meeting anyway even if they noticed and re-booked).

        3. Dek*

          It’s been a while since I’ve flown internationally, but wouldn’t they check passports against destination and ask about the purpose for your visit to ___?

    1. linger*

      What really sealed OP’s doom was a cascading chain of responsibility, and therefore blame.
      C-level manager passed the responsibility for the conference booking down to Boss, who passed it down to OP. Both depended on OP to get it right, and abdicated all personal responsibility for cross-checking against evidence to the contrary. Arguably this level of trust is what was expected of OP’s position, thus freeing the managers’ headspace to process Bigger Issues. But mistakes happen. And OP made a big one. Which made Boss look bad for depending on OP, and in turn made CLM look bad for missing meetings with clients and colleagues, and for depending on Boss (and OP if CLM was previously aware of that delegation).
      It’s easy for us as outsiders to say both managers also should have borne some personal responsibility for not noticing any discrepancies before departure. But CLM would simply have assumed Boss would correct anything, while Boss in turn had already checked out of that responsibility. So CLM ordered OP’s dismissal, possibly with an ultimatum that Boss fire OP or be fired (since it was Boss’s fault too).
      If the level of responsibility was not made crystal clear to OP in advance, Boss should owe OP a glowing reference. But OP was not ever going to get this job back.

  14. Decidedly Me*

    Minus all the fall out that happened, I would have much happier to land in Italy than Florida!

  15. I can't do math*

    I once told an employee to do something incorrectly which resulted in a 23 million dollar mistake. It was all as part of an auditing process that we had set up because it was way too easy to make those type of mistakes. I was the auditor. Fortunately there was another level of checking and it got caught before it went out the door. I took full responsibility and went immediately to my Manager to tell her. I kept hearing her bragging about how I can owned up to the mistake and took full responsibility and how that impressed her. I made sure that I followed it through until it was complete and correct. Believe me, it happened again by other people to the same situation. It was far too easy to mess up and too much manual touching. It took months to get it finally right. I think and hope it really does make a difference on how you own up to your mistakes. We all make them.

  16. EngGirl*

    I worked as an assistant in a tax office for one tax season after grad school. Basically about 10% of the clients would come in and sit down to do their taxes with an accountant and the other 90% would send in the material and have their taxes done by me using some software, and then those would be “approved” by an accountant. I was doing about 20 returns every day, about half of which required me to decipher some of the worst handwriting I’d ever seen. I was supervised by an admin who’d been there for years.

    One day the receptionist puts a call through to me because an elderly woman has been tracking her refund and it says it’s been distributed but she hasn’t received it yet. I pulled her file and checked in the system and sure enough it’s the wrong bank numbers. She was understandably very upset and the admin got very frustrated with me for the mistake and kind of gave me some line about how I wasn’t being careful and needed to be more focused. She started to check in on me and question everything I was doing constantly.

    I apologized profusely and for the next several weeks while we waited for the banks to sort things out I had to take the call from the woman whose funds were in the wrong account. She was pretty angry and occasionally abusive towards me, but I figured I deserved it since I’d royally screwed her. The thing was I couldn’t figure out how it had happened because I was always meticulous about the returns, especially the bank details. I made sure I never had more than one return on my desk so I wouldn’t confuse files, and I always triple checked account numbers.

    One day after a particularly nasty call, the admin said that she just felt so badly for the woman and that she wished we knew who the account the money got sent to actually belonged to, because that would make it easier to get the money back. I realized that if checked all of my files, but not the accountants records. I looked up the day her taxes were filed in the appointment books and lo and behold I hadn’t done any work on her taxes at all, the accountant had. And the money had been sent to the account of the woman he’d seen right after her.

    At the time I was just happy that I hadn’t actually been the one to make the mistake, but in retrospect I never really got an apology from my supervisor, and it’s highly likely that the accountant knew which people he saw in person since it was a limited number and should have spoken up way before I figured out what went wrong.

  17. Wendy Darling*

    Well, this is apt because I logged on this morning to a ton of messages because I made a mistake yesterday.

    Luckily the damage was minimal but it looked bad and was inconvenient.

  18. We’re all wandering*

    I once worked for a private company that was going public. Our attorney faxed the IPO documents to a fax machine right by my desk. Which was problematic because 1) I was a scientist and not associated with legal or anything remotely related and 2) IT WAS FOR THE WRONG COMPANY. That’s right, some other company was also using this law firm for their IPO (huge secret). I called the law firm and told them they were so lucky this came to me because I wasn’t going to disclose any details to my company and I would shred the documents immediately. I did tell them I’d have to tell my bosses about the mistake bc that’s pretty big. People at my company were pretty disappointed that I wouldn’t share details. But that could have been a catastrophic blunder.

  19. ChiliHeeler*

    allegedly, the Vienna airport has a standard help desk for people who meant to go to Australia.

  20. LilPinkSock*

    In my industry, we have an entire process for managing errors and mistakes, called a Corrective Action Program. It’s mandated by US federal law, it’s not disciplinary, and it’s really useful for process improvement! Basically a small group of people work as a team to identify the root cause of the issue, plan corrective actions (to fix the problem), and develop preventive actions (so the problem doesn’t happen again).

    It’s formal in my industry because it has to be, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea for other organizations or even individuals to adapt the process for their needs. Mistakes will happen, it’s all in how they’re managed.

  21. Office space 4567*

    For “accidentally sent my boss to Italy instead of Florida” I did something similar as a part time assistant during grad school. I’m located in the US and two of the company’s partners were flying to a full day of meetings in Geneva. I was asked to book the cheapest hotel possible and our Amex travel agent suggested “outside the city center” in Lausanne. Little did I know that it was 60 km away! The partners had already landed very very late and gotten a taxi before realizing the mistake. They ended up booking some last minute teeny one bed hotel room in Geneva that they never let me live down. This was 2006 before you could easily find and book hotels on your phone. Thank goodness my team was so kind about the mistake and mostly blamed the travel agent for steering us wrong!

  22. Mim*

    Recently, someone I was communicating with at a different organization confessed and apologized to me when the realized that something we thought was our (my org’s/my) fault was actually their fault. In the end, it didn’t matter, because everything that needed to be done was done, and there were no negative consequences for it not happening properly in the first place. I probably never would have figured out that it was an error on their end that precipitated the issue we had just resolved. The fact that there had been a problem looked a little bad for me, but wasn’t a huge deal — mostly it made me a little anxious because it felt like the kind of thing I should have caught and prevented, and had me self doubting my own workflow that had allowed me to miss that. (Like, I didn’t want to make a similar mistake in a scenario where the consequences would be bigger/worse.)

    That is all to say, I was (and still am) so incredibly grateful to the person who told me they figured out it was actually their fault. They didn’t need to say that, but it helped me feel better and stop doubting that I had a hole I needed to find in the way I do things. But mostly, I feel like I trust that other person a ton now, and that it probably improved our working relationship. I will have to work with that person/organization again, and look forward to it. Communication and trust are so important, and I know I can trust them with both.

  23. Kay*

    I work in biotech. My first job out of school, I had terrible lab notebook skills and management, which is a big red flag in cGMP labs. I also made many small mistakes on other stuff. It ended up getting me fired, and to this day I remember the line in my termination letter stating I was either “unable or unwilling” to do my job.

    Flashforward to my new job, and I would freak every single time I made a mistake, no matter how big or small, because I was afraid I was “unable or unwilling” to do the job. I remember calling my supervisor crying (this was during the pandemic so he wasn’t always in the office) because I had messed up on an experiment, and it took him several minutes to calm me down and tell me we could just redo the experiment tomorrow. For the first year I was terrified that I was one or two mistakes away from being let go.

    Every once in a while that fear comes back, but I know I’m neither unable or unwilling to do my job. And if I make a mistake, I freak out for a few minutes and then fix it. Also, my notebook skills are light-years better.

  24. brownie therapy*

    I made a BIG mistake at work this week (highly regulated industry, auditors asking after a responsibility of mine that hadn’t gotten done) and it was thinking of this column that really helped me take a deep breath, fess up, and try and work with my boss to fix it. I don’t know yet how serious it all is because naturally she left for a conference today and we hadn’t gotten a chance to regroup yet, but my urge for years has been to hide and minimize my mistakes and I don’t want to do that anymore.

  25. i like hound dogs*

    One time I was supposed to be responding to customer emails that filtered into a certain inbox. The CEO had wanted it to look like HE was responding to them, so it was close to his real email address but different. I hated doing it because customer service wasn’t part of my job. That entire job was awful.

    Anyway, one day the emails just stopped coming in. I was way overworked with other stuff and didn’t notice or think much about it. Turns out there had been some IT problem and the emails were still coming in, I just wasn’t getting them — something I definitely should have followed up on but didn’t.

    There were MONTHS of unanswered customer emails somewhere. Luckily (in retrospect, ha) I got laid off before the CEO/my boss found out. I imagine he must have blown a gasket when he found out that I hadn’t been dealing with all those emails. Sorry, BYE!

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