Last week we discussed the need for employees to feel safe to fail in the workplace, and how management can create a positive environment in light of an employee making a mistake. This week, we will further discuss the types of errors that occur in the workplace, and how management can navigate through them for the overall success of the organization.

To break it down, there are mainly two types of failure on the job: Simple Failures and Complex Failures.

Simple Failures are often “common sense” errors or mistakes made due to lack of knowledge or clear communication. For Simple Failures, such as an employee not being proficient with a new software program, it is understood that there will be plenty of trial-and-error before they will be a competent user. But until then, encourage the employee to work through the mistakes and to build upon their knowledge so that errors become few and far between. Communicate your expectations clearly, and ensure that the employee has access to any important resources that will help them become more efficient at their job. Respect their abilities as a capable adult, but don’t be afraid to offer some guidance to minimize future mistakes.

Complex Failures are major errors in judgment, such as poor spending of company money or resources. For Complex Failures, be firm in helping the employee understand the consequences for these larger-scale mistakes (e.g. the company has to “eat” the financial losses). In taking time to show them the “big picture” of how such errors effect the success of the organization, you exhibit your mutual respect for the employee and this, in turn, builds trust. Coach them; use examples from personal experience to help them envision their professional options in such a situation, and explain which option would be best. We truly do learn from our mistakes. Put forth the effort to use constructive criticism (rather than punishment), as it creates a learning and coaching opportunity for both employee and manager.

As stated in last week’s blog post, it is important to stress to your employees that all errors and failures in the workplace have consequences based on the gravity of the mistake made. However, while it is crucial to have disciplinary action in place, as necessary, consider every “failure” made as an opportunity to mold a more efficient and knowledgeable employee by coaching rather than punishing. Taking the time to work with rather than against your employees will prove productive for the business, creating stronger employer-employee relationships and boosting office morale as a whole. Another win-win for everyone.