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10 handy tips to help you avoid making repeated mistakes at work

There’s always a lot to get done. Here’s how to check things off your list without any slip-ups.

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Two concern office workers analyzing business documentsWant to avoid mistakes? Take the time to review your work and, if necessary, ask a colleague to do so as well. (Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem)

Owning up to a mistake is hard. However, preventing errors from happening is something that can be worked on, says Julie Blais Comeau, a business etiquette expert and author of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Here are a few things you can do to keep errors at work to a minimum:

  1. Avoid doing too many things at the same time; multitasking is a myth. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association productivity is decreased by up to 40 per cent when we switch between tasks.
  2. Eliminate constant distractions and make sure you take relaxing breaks.
  3. Keep track of deadlines. Approaches to managing deadlines have greatly evolved, says Blais Comeau. “People no longer take the time to carefully analyze project needs so as to get them off to a good start,” she says. “Instead of tracking deadlines to avoid delays, and advising the individuals concerned as required, they wait until the last minute to act.”
  4. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to confirm whether you’ve clearly understood the instructions (especially when it’s your first time).
  5. Take the time to review your work and, if necessary, ask a colleague to do so as well.
  6. Never underestimate the importance of codes—especially cultural ones. Punctuality, greetings, acknowledgments, and so on…know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
  7. When a colleague makes a mistake, tactfully step in, and don’t be critical or judgmental. Offer your help. Ask about the damage, who should be notified, what the next steps should be. Be proactive and suggest solutions. [See What to do when you make a mistake at work]
  8. If the same problem recurs, identify the real source. “It’s like a classroom,” explains Blais Comeau. “When most students don’t understand something, it might be because the teacher hasn’t explained it well.” According to a recent survey by West Monroe Partners, 59 per cent of managers with one or more direct reports have never received personnel training (forty-one per cent for managers with three to five reports).
  9. Acknowledge that mistakes are part of work and don’t be hard on yourself or other people if you caused it. In fact, Blais Comeau calls for greater compassion in professional settings as a way to mitigate the lack of training, skills and directives.
  10. Keep in mind that if good employees make mistakes, great leaders are those who accept them. It is important to clearly define expectations, provide feedback and, if necessary, correct errors quickly.