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Readers Respond: Tell Us About Mistakes You Made at Work

Responses: 40


From the article: Mistakes at Work
Everyone makes mistakes. Haven't you heard that a million times? Generally, making a mistake isn't as big a deal as what you do afterward. Do you tell your boss or do you try to hide your error? We all learn from our errors, hopefully, and sharing them here can help others learn as well. Tell us about mistakes you've made at work and, most importantly, what happened next. What did you do? What did your boss do? Did you keep it a secret? Did your boss find out anyway?

Major cash register errors

Our cash register had been programmed and I noticed an error when it calculated the tax. So I tried to program it. Had to turn key to program and instead of fixing anything I totally lost all info because I started the cash register as an initial setting. This all 1 hour before the opening day. Nothing would work. Then to avoid the entire blame said that I was trying to take the register off of training mode and something must have gotten screwed up. So spend the better part of the day re-programing the thing - which I did eventually do. This morning the keys for the cash registers are gone. Can't even turn them on myself. Sure she knows that I did something but haven't totally fessed up to exactly what. Unsure what to do - get over it or fess up?

I made 3 mistakes in one shift!

So I work at a successful store as a checkout guy. Anyway we are very strict on having cell phones while working but this one time I ever got my phone out while texting I got caught by my supervisor! To be fair there was no customers to be seen and my supervisor didn't actually see me text she just saw me put my phone away. She told my manager, but before my manager even knowing she also caught me riding the trolleys at the car park which apparently is a seriously offensive! What are the chances of me being caught at night when no one's around. AND it gets better. My father came in and I'm actually not allowed to serve family members but I did anyway because I was the only one on checkout at the time and my supervisor heard my dad call me son so it was obvious I was related! And then I gave him a free 10 cent plastic bag! Not only did I break the rules of texting, and causing hazzards by ''riding the trolleys'', i also gave away a free item and bankrupted the company by 10 cents.
—Guest Ben

Mistakes Happen Suddenly/Without Warning

My company developed a very flexible work schedule: Arrive between 8:00AM- 10:00AM; one hour unpaid lunch and two fifteen minute breaks (paid), must be "clocked in" for at least 8 hours per day. The stipulation to this policy is tardiness is super-frowned upon - DO NOT BE LATE, period! Well, it happened to me the other morning. I nearly always arrive to work between 8:00AM - 9:00AM each day. Yesterday, a Monday, I woke up at my usual time, 6:00AM, with such a sore back, I needed relief and the only pain killer I had was a Tylenol PM. Instead of taking two, I took one. Well, that knocked me out for 3 hours and 57 minutes: I woke up, thankfully, at 9:57AM. I live only 0.5 miles from work but it was impossible for me to be at my desk in 3 minutes! I was late! (no shower, brushed teeth). My supervisor was out of the office that day, so, I sent her an email acknowledging the mistake, apologized for making it and apologized to my peers. I'll let you know what happens later today......

Food prep

I made the mistake of not asking for help when prepping the food and instead of asking for help- I did it myself and messed up big time and got fired. Now, there is a different position available but idk if my old boss would recommend me for the job or say something bad. Can anyone please help ?
—Guest Luciano


I'm a cashier at our local store. A costumer came in one day and asked to get $800 cash back ( just before that my boss had told me 1800 don't u forget ) so when I went to give the guy his money I accidentally gave him 1800 :O only because I was thinking 1800 when I really was supposed to give him 800 ... my boss said I have to pay that $1000 back..legally I don't have to right? I mean from what I make it"ll take me 2 months to pay that off :/
—Guest Happy girl

Costly mistake

One of my juniors made a costly mistake in preparation of a document. I didn't pick it up on review - it was easy and obvious to pick up, but I failed to see it. This could mean major loss and trouble for our customer. The customer is already an aggressive and difficult person to deal with - very difficult to have a conversation with without feeling intimidated and fumbling and sounding incompetent. My own boss is away so the buck stops with me. I delivered half of the bad news to the customer today but have more bad news to deliver to them tomorrow. I feel sick, can't eat, can't sleep.
—Guest Guest Sleepless

Took money

I have a great boss and love my job but times got hard and I took money from the company bank account and put it in my own and paid bills on company account. I confronted my boss and told him. He's trying to work with me on it. I took a pay cut to pay him back. Everyday is hard...He blames the money I took could cause the company to go bankrupt. I don't want that to happen. He worked so hard to make this company. I'm so shameful. He is being so kind to as not to put me in jail cause I have 2 kids. But this mistake is a life changing one and I will never live it down.
—Guest living in shame

Made a huge mistake and I could be fired

I am working in a tax preparation company. My boss told me to look for organizations and tell them about a promotion we were having, but today, my boss told me to do something really different that I did not understand how to do. A workmate explained what my boss wanted me to do, but I accidentally did something else that I was forbidden to do, but in my view, I thought it was what my boss had wanted me to do. Well, my boss found out what I did today, and well, he didn't yell at me, but he did tell me that because of my mistake, I may have cost him a lot of clients, and that he will need to fix what I have done. I felt miserable afterword. When I got home, I cried and asked God for forgiveness of my mistake. I then emailed my boss and apologized to him, but he has not answered me back. I feel nervous about going back to work tomorrow. I may be fired for this and there is no one to blame but me, I should have taken notes of what he was telling me to do, I feel awful.
—Guest Mr Joey1

Made Several Mistakes This Week

Today I discovered that I made a mistake that made a payoff go out incorrectly. I don't think its too late to cancel the payoff and reissue, but it may be. This is a several thousand $ mistake. I feel stupid and afraid of the repercussions. I feel like I have too much on my plate right now and it is causing me to make errors. Should I talk to my boss?
—Guest Guest

Trusted the "Open Door Policy"

I was a lead project engineer and also a project manager. To cut costs we were down to a skeleton staff. I had two projects that were falling behind because they were understaffed. I discussed it with my boss, but he informed me that he wouldn't assign staff to my projects because that would impact his own projects. Our company president said he had an "open door policy" where we could discuss work problems with him with impunity. So I raised my concern about my boss allowing my projects to fail. I should have known that the buddy system would trump professionalism. I was fired after they suddenly decided to review my projects (and of course found them behind schedule) and also after they created false accusations about things I had nothing to do with. Don’t fall for the “open door policy”. The only “open door” about it is the front door as they kick you out.
—Guest rooked

No No No!

Although admitting mistakes is the feel-good thing to do, it does you no good and it can cost you your job. These stories are examples. Did your bosses obtain their status by admitting mistakes? No! They covered it up or blamed somebody else. Follow their example. It's great to feel that you've done the right thing - until you can't pay your bills anymore.
—Guest Fern

I made a huge mistake

I made a huge mistake today. I got two patients confused and gave the doctor the wrong file for the wrong patient. i could be fired over this.. no one is talking to me at work and the whole office knows what I have done.
—Guest Mem

Almost killed a patient!

I'm a veterinary nursing student and have a Masters degree from previous study so you'd think I was smart! I get so nervous at my work experience at a veterinary clinic that I am constantly second guessing amount for pre-medication for anesthesia and will ask her about three times what she said. My boss is getting pissed off at me at this stage as I seem slow and dull at figuring amounts out. However, today I was so nervous and didn't want to have to double check what she said that I drew up about 10 times the amount which would have killed the dog. Right before I injected, I had to ask her if this was right so I still had time to re-draw up the syringe! Although I feel like a right plonker and complete slow moron, I have to focus on the fact that in the end, I put the dog first and that's what's important. I just can't seem to think clearly about numbers when I'm stressed. I'm actually getting counseling for it and it is costing me a job.
—Guest Beibhin

Mistake that cost company money

Nine months ago, when I had been at my job about a year, I made a formula error in a spreadsheet which just came to light two weeks ago. This will cost my company about $5,000 to make right. One of the owners discovered the error, and he has been pretty understanding, but I've been crying myself to sleep at night and I question everything I do at work now. I live in dread of my co-workers finding out, especially my immediate supervisor, who scares the crap out of me on the best of days. It was my fault, but she passed the docs onto the next stage without catching the error, either, and she is going to go ballistic when she finds out because I will have made her look bad, too. I also dread another error like this surfacing somewhere along the way. I wish I could reimburse the lost money and resign, but I don't make that much as it is. With the economy the way it is, I'll have to suffer through the humiliation of being fired, if that's the way it goes down.
—Guest Lori

Rushed and got flushed!

Worked for President of company with very high profile contacts (millionaires, billionaires, media execs and celebrities). Rushed to send out a one-line email to obtain mailing addresses and pressed Send without masking the email addresses. (No retraction option available on a Mac.) The boss said he could never trust me again and told me to pack up my desk. (I had just received a glowing review and raise two days ago!) EVERYone should choose the option to hide addressee information in their emails. (Note: As I was leaving, a co-worker told me if you have over 50 recipients, even if your system is selected to mask the addresses, it won't do it!) Play it safe and send group emails using an email program.
—Guest I let em ALL down

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