Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even the most experienced employees. But when you’re starting a new job, it’s almost a given that you’ll make errors. Not only can it take time to settle into a new role and fully understand your responsibilities, mistakes are part of the learning process.
However, with most new workers on probation for the first few months, blunders can be stressful to navigate. It can be tempting to blame others or cover up your mistakes to avoid being penalised, but this can cause more problems.
“There are all sorts of reasons that new starters might make mistakes,” says career coach Fay Wallis at Bright Sky Career Coaching. “If they’re very keen to prove themselves, they may come across as overbearing, or insensitive to their colleagues by suggesting that the way things are currently being done are ‘wrong’ or not good enough.
“If they don’t take the time to get to know the team and the business they have joined, they may make suggestions for improvements that are misguided or risk alienating themselves by appearing overly-critical,” Wallis adds.
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From a more practical point of view, new hires may make mistakes when using a system they aren’t used to. The fear of making errors - particularly for perfectionists - can also cloud our ability to think clearly, making us more likely to mess up. So how should you navigate mistakes if you’ve just started at a new job?
“If you find yourself making mistakes in a new job, the first question to ask yourself is why,” says Wallis. “Is it because you haven’t had enough training, or have you not kept records of the things you have been trained on?
“It’s tempting to think you’ll remember something after being shown it once but when starting a new role, there’s so much to take in, it’s a risky strategy to rely on your memory. Are you trying so hard to impress by pressing your ideas for improvement on the team, that you have upset your colleagues?”
Once you’ve figured out what the problem is, Wallis advises either owning up, asking for help or letting your boss know how you will improve.
“If you haven’t had enough training, explain this and ask if more training can be arranged,” she says. “If you haven’t retained what you’ve been taught, put a better system in place for capturing and remembering information and let your team know that you have done this.”
If you’ve rubbed your colleagues up the wrong way, apologise and come clean. If you explain that you were trying to make a good impression and that it backfired, it’s likely they will understand. After all, everyone has been a new starter at some point. “If you’ve upset your colleagues, apologise, explain you were a little over-enthusiastic and you’ll approach things more sensitively going forward,” says Wallis.
It’s also important for employers to support new hires to prevent mistakes and make sure people learn from them. Not only is it normal to make errors, they can help us build on our skills, knowledge and experience and make us better at our jobs.
“The first thing I would say is that often it is actually ok to make mistakes. We often learn our biggest lessons, or make our biggest breakthroughs through trial and error,” says Wallis. “However, there are certain things that will be business-critical, where there is no room for error. In these instances, a thorough induction and onboarding process is essential.
“Make sure your new employee has plenty of training and support and that they know where to turn to for help if they’re stuck or struggling. Don’t just let them loose and expect them to pick everything up as they go – that is a recipe for disaster.”
Letting new employees know that mistakes happen is essential. Being open and honest about the inevitable will create a culture of trust, meaning the employee will be more likely to come clean if they mess up.
“The worst situation to be faced with is for mistakes to be happening and you have no idea about it until you’re faced with a disaster or an extremely disgruntled customer,” says Wallis.
“Having regular check-ins with your team individually and as a group has been proven to boost morale, engagement, trust and performance in teams. Make sure you schedule a weekly check in with new members and give them the time and space to confide in you if there are things they are struggling with or unsure of.”
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