The only mistake you are making in this situation is by not taking action.  It doesn’t matter how many times you hear “everyone makes mistakes”, being stuck in a job where you feel you keep making too many mistakes is a very anxious corner to be in. It takes a lot of work to fight your way out of that corner too but fight your way out of it, you can.

Firstly, we shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes.  That can be part of the problem.  Mistakes are the best way to learn.  That’s the cliché, but it’s true.  Mostly, the mistakes you make in your job are much smaller than you think they are too.  Despite this, when you are trying to do your job without mistake, and that isn’t working (which it won’t ever), it can feel disheartening, anxiety provoking and affect your happiness at work.

What’s the starting point? This is the first question to ask: Do you actually know how to do your job from your training or are you caught in a web of frequent mistakes and you don’t know why you are making them?

These are 2 very different situations.  Obviously you will make mistakes in a job you don’t know how to do but you can find yourself in a situation where you know your job, but you just keep making mistakes and it is affecting your job satisfaction.  I have been in both situations and they are not nice places to be in.

You don’t know how to do your job: this is more common than you think.  You are at the mercy of your colleague/manager/trainer to teach you how to do the job you have been employed to do.  Stroke of luck if they are good.  But often, they are not good enough and this can be for many reasons.  Quite often you can be stuck with someone who is under pressure to train you whilst doing their own job.  You can spot the signs – they seem rushed when they are showing you how to do something, less available for questions and you get the vibe they just want to get on with their work.  When this happens, you naturally want to stop bothering them with questions.

But that won’t help you and you have been employed to do a job.  If you don’t learn it from them, you will struggle and make mistakes because you don’t know otherwise.  If you keep making mistakes, you will fall into the anxiety trap.

What can you do? You need to be honest with your co-worker: It is absolutely reasonable to say, “Look I am trying my best to learn this job as quickly as I can.  I can see how busy you are and appreciate training me is adding to your list of tasks.  I know that’s hard.  I am worried I am bothering you and I know that’s not what you want.  Am I wrong here or is there a better way to manage this?”  You might have 3 options to suggest:

  1. Shall we keep going like this and I will ask you when I am unsure?
  2. Maybe I could get on with the tasks I know and we could set more dedicated time hour at the end of each day/week for the tasks I need your advice on?
  3. Maybe I could get help from other people you think better on specific tasks?”

Either of these 3 options will give you the solution.  If it’s option 1, at least they are aware you feel like you are bothering them and hopefully they will act more approachable. It was their responsibility after all.  Even if they don’t seem like they are happy to help, persevere as this is your job and your career.  This situation won’t last forever anyway.

You know how to do your job but can’t stop making mistakes: this happened to me in my first job.  In fact it’s happened in all my jobs – I have, and of course, continue to make mistakes but what I am referring to here is that horrible situation when no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get through the day without making a mistake, sometimes the same ones.

What I can say for certain is, I have never met anyone who was able to shrug this off and continue happily in their job without a second thought.  The more mistakes you make, the worse you feel and the bigger the problem becomes in your mind.

What can you do? You have to take action – doing nothing is a mistake to avoid!  What’s the starting point? Are you intimidated by the people you work with? Are you scared to ask for help? Have you just forgotten how to do the tasks you did once very easily? Is there too much going on outside of work that you can’t concentrate? Are you too tired? Are you too anxious?

As you can see, there are lots of reasons this occurs but knowing why is where you must start.  If you take the time to ask yourself similar questions to the ones above, you will more than likely realise what it is.

There are lots of things that have faded from my memory in different jobs, but my first job remains very clear in my mind.  It was the people who put me off and caused me to make too many mistakes.  I just couldn’t get anything right it felt.  I worked in a small office which was worse as then I didn’t have the opportunity to find allies elsewhere who could help me.  I was in an office of 3 people – I was the office junior (administrative job), there was a secretary and an accounts person.  The secretary was my first issue: it just got to the point quite quickly where I felt she didn’t like me, she seemed to get annoyed with me and she treated me like a child.  What’s worse, I knew she was moaning to my boss about me and he then made me feel the same way.  Looking back, I should have spoken up.  Told her how I felt – what could I have lost? She would either have woken up and helped me better or at least I would know where I stood.  The accounts person Ann, was such a lovely lady and she was very patient and that made all the difference but unfortunately at 18, I was too inexperienced in the workplace to recover and eventually after being bizarrely accused of scratching a table (probably a ruse to try to get me to leave), I left. You see, job interviews don’t often test moral character, so like me, there will be some point in your career, you will have to work for or with, someone less morally sound.

The best thing about this experience though is the learning. I have never treated anyone the same way.  I have tried throughout my career to be patient, treat people with respect and never been ageist and treated someone young like they didn’t contribute the same as me.   They usually contribute more.  It’s very easy to think you are the problem – I wasn’t.  They were the problem: they didn’t train me, they made me feel stupid and they didn’t help me grow.  Except looking back I can see they did in fact help me grow as learning what you don’t like is just as important as learning what you do like.

If this is you, find your allies, tell the difficult ones how you feel, be honest and open and try your best to improve the situation.  If you can’t, start looking elsewhere and fast.

The same rule applies for whatever the reason you are making frequent mistakes – once you realise why you are doing it, you will be able to take action.  Speak to the right people, take more time to think things through, write processes down, take regular breaks or time off if you have good holiday commitment, ask to do more training, find the right mentor.  Whatever you can do to help your situation, do it today.  Ignoring it is the one mistake you want to avoid.

REMEMBER, you got the job because you can do it. THAT HASN’T CHANGED.

Look out for similar articles about this in the future.


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