Author Topic: How to move forward from a mistake at work  (Read 1820 times)

dragonwalker

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How to move forward from a mistake at work
« on: January 07, 2020, 08:38:30 PM »
I work at a regional credit union in the back office. I've been there for about a year with about 10 years of total banking experience. I'm trying to do my best and work my way up.

I found out today that I made a mistake that  will cost the CU about $2,000. There were essentially no mitigating circumstances and I am basically fully responsible. A colleague uncovered the mistake and as soon as I confirmed the error I escalated it to my supervisor and then to the manager.

I feel terrible and when I brought it up to my manager she remained calm and said she would get back to me on what next steps to take. She even said she was surprised it doesn't happen more often. It was a simple mistake that I overlooked. The loss is almost certainly unrecoverable however we may get some of it back. I even offered to pay for it myself (which she ofcourse declined). This was a stupid mistake that I've never made before but it seems no one has made quite the mistake I have. In terms of the amounts of money we deal with on a daily basis it's not a lot of money if I'm trying to be as objective as I can.

My main concern is the damage I've done to myself for near term promotion and longer term career wise. I am been fortunate and careful enough to have avoided any formal documentation of mistakes I've made but I think my number has come up and I'm not getting out of this one unscathed.

My estimation is that I do have a good reputation in the department and I was rated very well in my past year job review but mentally I feel so ridiculous. My plan is ofcourse to continue to do my job, learn from this mistake and don't ever repeat it. What else if anything can I do here to make this situation better?   

mspym

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2020, 08:48:54 PM »
So far you are doing everything right - immediately owning the mistake and escalating appropriately. Next step would be identifying how this error, and others of this type, could be prevented in future, along with any pros/cons of any options solutions.

No one escapes a working career with no mistakes, it's how you behave afterwards that forms people's judgement. This includes not excessively apologising and/or thinking you have ruined your career, but taking the appropriate responsibility and preventing recurrence of the mistake.

Magnolia

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2020, 09:01:27 PM »
You have immediately owed your mistake and escalated to your manager. It sounds like a systems error that more senior people in the bank need to discuss and put new processes in place to prevent it happening again. Your supervisor has acknowledged that their is an issue with the process and by refusing to let you pay for this error is acknowledging this. My advice would be stop talking about it to people at work especially to the judgemental types. Everyone make mistakes. You need to go a little easier on yourself. If you are a hardworking respected member of the team then this should not seriously impact your career.

Frankies Girl

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2020, 09:33:32 PM »
You are a human being that is going to make mistakes. No one - LITERALLY NO ONE EVER - has gotten through life without making uncountable errors.

The way you handle yourself when you make mistakes is the thing that is most important.

You immediately reported the error to your manager, taking full responsibility when it was brought to your attention. You didn't ignore it, lie about it, blame others/circumstances/the moon's phases for the reasons the error was made. You even offered to pay for it (which rightly was turned down by your supervisor).

You feel bad about making it, and likely also learned something about avoiding making that type of error again.

So what exactly else are you supposed to do? Never make mistakes? Because that is absolutely impossible and no one expects them to never happen.

You did good. You did exactly the right thing, and you showed your supervisor you can you be trusted to do the right thing in the event something does go wrong.

iluvzbeach

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2020, 09:46:10 PM »
I have spent my entire career (nearly 30 years) in the financial services space. This stuff happens, it just does. You may go on a PIP or receive a one-time warning, but it is likely not the end of your career at this CU (provided your performance is otherwise strong.) It sounds like you’re handling it the correct way with management. Keep doing so and I’m sure it will all work out in the end and you’ll even learn from the experience.

Try not to beat yourself up over it or lose too much sleep (I know, easier said than done.)

You sound like a considerate, conscientious employee. Best wishes.

Little Aussie Battler

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2020, 12:12:57 AM »
What kind of mistake are we talking about?  Being a back-office role, I'm assuming some kind of fat-finger or processing error?

Were there any downstream controls in place that should have picked this up but failed?  If not, should there be additional controls implemented (standard cost/benefit analysis)?

Why is the money unrecoverable?

reeshau

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2020, 02:22:49 AM »
I agree with everyone else that your follow-up, as you describe it, is a great start at recovery.  As others have also said, you are human, and will make mistakes.  Also, keep in mind that you are performing your job within the systems your managers and their predecessors put in place:  if it was critical, they would have automated it, had a peer review of some kind, or put other steps in place to ensure the outcome--it would literally have been worth the expense of doing it.

To that point, a career-building way of further recovering would be:  find and implement a way that it won't ever happen again--not just for you, but for the whole organization.  That kind of learning from mistakes, applying systemic thinking, gets noticed.

Maenad

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2020, 05:21:56 AM »
As a caveat for finding a preventive action - how often does this error happen, or how often could it happen? How much time and effort would it take to fix it? If it's more than maybe 3 years of loss (or less!), your management probably won't want to bother. A fix has to cost less than the error itself. And everyone else is right, a certain amount of human error is inescapable. We always try to mistake-proof as much as possible (poka yoke!), but perfection isn't realistic.

On a personal level, do you know any of the circumstances around your error? I once fell for a phishing test by our IT department because I was sick and wasn't thinking all that well. It taught me that when my brain is not up to par I shouldn't try to figure out what that weird thing is, I should leave it for later or ask someone else for help. Similarly, were you rushed, tired, doing something unfamiliar, etc.? It could be a small lesson for yourself on putting in some safeguards for those kinds of situations.

Malcat

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2020, 05:45:30 AM »
Mistakes shouldn't affect your career, how you handle them should.

Mistakes happen, literally everyone makes mistakes, any competent management knows this. It sounds like you've handled it exactly right in terms of taking responsibility, but mother part of handling mistakes is also demonstrating that you can handle the pressure of having made one.

Look at it from your employer's perspective, they know mistakes happen, they now know they can trust you to take full responsibility, but they do not want to have to deal with you over reacting or being panicked about a mistake that they've already accepted and even reassured you about.

Basically, don't impose your emotional response onto the situation.

From here on out, make absolutely certain that you never make that mistake again, make sure anyone you train doesn't make that mistake, and if it's appropriate for your role, suggest simple solutions to prevent anyone being able to make such a mistake, if such a mistake is in fact easily prevented.

Be humble, don't be panicked, and objectively observe how the situation might or might not be improved.

dragonwalker

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2020, 06:08:39 AM »
Thank you all for the advice and information. I am trying to not let this bother me to much but I think it ‘s weighing heavily on my mind. I just woke up hours early and my thoughts jumped immediately to this.

To people’s question about the details. So essentially one of my roles is to handle our deceased account s which often includes paying money to beneficiaries. Apparently in this situation there were multiple beneficiaries and at different points another colleague handled the payoff to other beneficiaries. I happened to have received paperwork indicating a request for payoff from one beneficiary. It seems that one of the indicators that should have been marked by the previous person to indicate payoff was not marked so I was operating under the impression it wasn’t done. So basically I proceeded to issue a check to one of the beneficiaries that was already paid. What I should have done was more carefully checked the notes and account which would have indicated this particular person was paid. My fault.interestingly this error was only caught because another colleague who received more paperwork to payoff another person double checked and noticed one person was paid incorrectly.

This wouldn’t have been a loss except for just my luck this person was not a CU member, out of state, and sadly I know this sounds bad but they were young. My heart sank when I realized this because my experience with young people has not been good when it comes to something like this. Worse of all I determined that this person probably knew of the error waiting over a month to deposit/ cash the check when previously it took days to deposit the legitimate check. Especially since The person was notified they were already given all the money they were due. When I called and spoke to the person, I sensed this and the person indicated the money had been all spent on bills and “debt.” Some part of me was hoping this money would have gone to a responsible person.

There is no process to double check for this kind of error and it could easily have been for a much larger amount. In the past just from the few people I briefly spoke to something similar had happened but the money was recoverable. It’s just this combination of who received it was to my great misfortune. Ofcourse I have offered and will mention again my desire to try to collect on these funds if possible but I fear that it will be written off as a loss. Disappointing even more as I had been working on an upcoming promotion. 

« Last Edit: January 08, 2020, 06:14:24 AM by dragonwalker »

Omy

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2020, 06:42:40 AM »
If I'm remembering correctly, there was a recent case where a bank accidentally deposited $120,000 into the wrong account. The recipient spent it quickly and is now being sued by the bank. Your mistake is pennies not a big deal in comparison.

RWD

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2020, 07:00:32 AM »
Only $2k? That's nothing to a bank/credit union. That's probably a rounding error as far as the financials go. They expect mistakes of that level to happen all the time and probably even budget for it. I've watched people fry $50k+ electronics at my work and no one bats an eye. Now if you keep making the same mistake then they'll be concerned, not over the amount but your ability to learn.

Here4theGB

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2020, 07:06:43 AM »
My boss would be elated if my mistakes only cost the company 2k. 

researcher1

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2020, 07:17:05 AM »
I am been fortunate and careful enough to have avoided any formal documentation of mistakes I've made but I think my number has come up and I'm not getting out of this one unscathed.

Everyone has overlooked this important comment from the OP.

It appears they have made multiple other mistakes that "avoided any formal documentation", but that they will not get out of this latest mistake "unscathed."

This one $2K mistake is likely not a deal-breaker when viewed in isolation, but it could be a big problem for the OP if it has been preceded by several other mistakes.

Dogastrophe

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2020, 07:18:05 AM »
OP,

Your co-worker found the error, you verified the error, then advised your supervisor and manager - at this point there is nothing more you can do.  That you are bothered by the mistake tells me that you are one of the good ones - I've worked with many people in the past who wouldn't give a shit.

I have made several errors during my career - you learn from each one and as result become a better person (and employee).  What I haven't done is repeated the mistake ... I always strive to make new ones.  ;)

dragonwalker

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2020, 07:20:32 AM »
What I mean to say is that small “mistakes” are made everyday but are easily correctable and adjustable. This is the first what appears to be non correctable error.

Laura33

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2020, 08:17:41 AM »
Wait -- so another coworker received a request to pay a beneficiary, issued the check, and then didn't mark the place on the form that said the beneficiary had been paid?  And so when you received a second request from someone else, you pulled up the paperwork, and the paperwork didn't show that the first beneficiary had made a request and been paid? 

Dude, that's on the first guy.  Sure, maybe you should have double-checked in the records -- that seems like reasonable checks-and-balances.  But the mistake originated with the guy who didn't record that he'd already paid the money to someone else.

Not that you should go running to your manager and say not my fault, he did it, etc. -- that's childish.  But you need to keep that in mind as context here -- you did not make this mistake in a vacuum, it's not all on you, in fact it originated with someone else' failure to do something much more basic.

Beyond that, I second what everyone else has said:  this is not a career-limiting mistake (and if it is, you're working for the wrong company).  Any company worth its salt expects employees to make mistakes.  What they really want to know is who they can trust to own up to the mistake and fix it and move on, and who is going to try to hide it or deny responsibility or blow everything up into a giant Thing.  You have already demonstrated to them that you are trustworthy, and that is exactly what any good management should want to know.  So don't undercut yourself now by dwelling on this and making it into a huge, ongoing deal. 

iluvzbeach

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2020, 08:26:16 AM »
OP, I’m very familiar with the scenario you describe which caused this error. Although you made a mistake there should absolutely have been controls in place to prevent it from happening. In my experience, we would have never cut checks to the beneficiaries separately. We would have required each person to sign for their portion and not disbursed the funds until everyone had signed, so equal checks could be issued at one time. I’m not suggesting this is the best or only way to handle the situation, but it is a possible suggestion for procedural improvement to the current process that’s in place.

Again, you’re doing a great job in taking accountability for the error, don’t forget to cut yourself some slack.

Malcat

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2020, 08:34:09 AM »
Thank you all for the advice and information. I am trying to not let this bother me to much but I think it ‘s weighing heavily on my mind. I just woke up hours early and my thoughts jumped immediately to this.

To people’s question about the details. So essentially one of my roles is to handle our deceased account s which often includes paying money to beneficiaries. Apparently in this situation there were multiple beneficiaries and at different points another colleague handled the payoff to other beneficiaries. I happened to have received paperwork indicating a request for payoff from one beneficiary. It seems that one of the indicators that should have been marked by the previous person to indicate payoff was not marked so I was operating under the impression it wasn’t done. So basically I proceeded to issue a check to one of the beneficiaries that was already paid. What I should have done was more carefully checked the notes and account which would have indicated this particular person was paid. My fault.interestingly this error was only caught because another colleague who received more paperwork to payoff another person double checked and noticed one person was paid incorrectly.

This wouldn’t have been a loss except for just my luck this person was not a CU member, out of state, and sadly I know this sounds bad but they were young. My heart sank when I realized this because my experience with young people has not been good when it comes to something like this. Worse of all I determined that this person probably knew of the error waiting over a month to deposit/ cash the check when previously it took days to deposit the legitimate check. Especially since The person was notified they were already given all the money they were due. When I called and spoke to the person, I sensed this and the person indicated the money had been all spent on bills and “debt.” Some part of me was hoping this money would have gone to a responsible person.

There is no process to double check for this kind of error and it could easily have been for a much larger amount. In the past just from the few people I briefly spoke to something similar had happened but the money was recoverable. It’s just this combination of who received it was to my great misfortune. Ofcourse I have offered and will mention again my desire to try to collect on these funds if possible but I fear that it will be written off as a loss. Disappointing even more as I had been working on an upcoming promotion.

So, it's not even exclusively your error? The person before you failed to follow standard protocol and your error was in trusting that they had completed their job properly?

Is that what I'm understanding here?

K, well you have two issues here
1: how you should handle this with management
2: how you should handle your personal emotional reaction to making this error, having to admit it, and not being able to repair it

#1:
Let me share an anecdote

I recently had a senior staff member make an extremely inconvenient error that put me personally in a very uncomfortable position with another company with whom I do a lot of business.

This is a new staff member who has decades of management experience in busier and higher pressure offices. I had high expectations.

Well, they took making a mistake at their new job really personally, and that reeeeaaaaalllllly irritated me.

I expect more, I expect an experienced employee to be able to cope with significant mistakes as part of their basic professional skill set. I don't want them to dump their insecurities on me, I don't care and don't want to deal with it.

By the third day of this employee coming into my office and bringing up the mistake "I just don't understand how that happened! I NEVER miss things like that. Are you sure I shouldn't call them myself? I really don't want them to think poorly of me." Etc, I actually snapped, deepened my voice and kind of barked "LET IT GO".

The whole thing has made me question this person's management skills, experience, maturity, and suitability for the role *just* because they don't seem to be able to professionally handle a very embarrassing mistake.

Mistakes in my industry happen every.single.day, which is probably the same in every industry. So not knowing how to demonstrate the appropriate humble but not insecure response to making a mistake makes an employee seem like either immature or emotionally unstable.

So you may have a drive to really emphasize how sorry you are and how desperate you are to fix or mediate the situation somehow, but you should really take your cue from management as to what they want from you, and chances are, they want you to demonstrate that you can handle a mistake with calm competence.

#2:

If this is your first significant mistake that you've had to admit to, then I get why it's waking you up at night and freaking you out. That's a pretty normal response.

However, again, that's just a symptom of inexperience and professional immaturity.

That's not an insult, or a judgement. It just means you haven't experienced enough of the professional world or been given enough responsibility yet to have adapted to making significant and humiliating mistakes.

It's like the first time someone romantically rejects you, it feels fucking crushing. You can either let that set in as your version of reality, where making mistakes is the worst feeling in the world and worth being afraid of, or you can accept that the first experience is the worst, learn as much as possible from it about your own reactions and behaviours, and move forward wiser and better prepared for next time.
[ETA: there WILL be a next time.]

This is like falling off a horse, getting a nose full of water when learning to swim, or fucking up your verbs trying to learn a new language, it's all part of the normal process of having professional responsibility.

The more autonomous and more responsibility you have, the more frequent and the bigger your mistakes will be. So take this for what it is, initiation into the big kids' club where those of us live on a daily basis.

That's why your bosses don't want to see your agony and don't want to be burdened with it, they have to handle their own mistakes all the time, and they're so used to it, that the hyperventilations of a mistake-n00b wear thin pretty quickly.

In summary
-Everything that has happened is normal.
-Making a mistake is normal.
-The level of mistake you made is very very normal, if not INCREDIBLY common.
-Just because this is your first time doesn't mean this kind of thing is in any way exceptional or special. You are now just initiated into the enormous club of normal people who make normal mistakes at work. Welcome, we get it.
-Your reaction is normal.
-Your current feelings of shame and panic are not permanent.
-Your current feelings of shame and panic do not require anything more than some personal reflection, they're not a big deal, this is just a normal reaction to a normal life event.
-Don't make this more than it is, you've done nothing any more interesting than accidentally saying something offensive at a dinner party, it's extremely embarrassing, but it's kind of self absorbed to think it's a big deal.
-This too shall pass.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2020, 08:37:17 AM by Malkynn »

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2020, 08:37:56 AM »
When I used to work for a law firm, I completely missed a hearing once.  It was on my calendar exactly one week after the real hearing date, and the partner got a phone call from the court asking where the hell he was at.  I hustled over there and covered, and nothing bad happened to the client.  But I lost sleep over this for days.  I know what you're feeling.

I did a couple things that helped me move on.  First, I completely owned the mistake in person.  I remember squarely looking the partner in the eye and telling him, "I wish I had a good excuse, but I fucked up, I'm sorry."  I actually said "fucked up," which was unusual in that professional environment, but it was well received because he knew I was taking my mistake and my responsibility seriously. I know he appreciated this because I think most associates would blame this on the secretary; I did not do that at all.

Second, I let the partner know of two things I did to make sure it never happened again: (1) I created a system where my secretary would get hearing notices first, she would put them on my schedule, then initial next to the date/time, and then give it to me (this allowed for a two-step verification); (2) I made all court appearances on my calendar red, so I could not miss them.

I never missed a hearing again.  While other issues did come up at the firm, they appreciated me owning my mistake.

So, my anecdotal advice is to own your mistake, put things in place for yourself to make sure it does not happen again, and coordinate with whomever was also responsible for the error and make sure it does not happen again.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2020, 08:39:27 AM by ReadySetMillionaire »

socaso

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2020, 10:14:13 AM »
I've made expensive mistakes at work! I ordered the wrong thing for a client and it was unreturnable so the company had to eat the cost. The client and my manager were very nice about it but I felt absolutely awful. We eventually moved the erroneous product at a huge discount to someone else and I got over my embarrassment. I learned a huge lesson about documentation in all my paperwork to the clients and covering my butt in all my communications with the clients and the vendors. I've never done anything like that since. Sometimes the best way to learn is to make a big embarrassing mistake. You did everything right in reporting your error. I'm sure your manager appreciates that.

SunnyDays

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2020, 11:02:00 AM »
This was not YOUR mistake!  You assumed that the person before you gave you correct information and acted based on that.  Are you now supposed to re-do the other person's job too, to make sure it doesn't impact your own?  Of course not.  Like they say, "to err is human," so don't stress over it.  It's only money, not a life.

partdopy

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2020, 12:38:14 PM »
Mistakes are good if you use them as a learning experience.  If you make this same mistake again I'd expect consequences.

obstinate

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2020, 01:32:46 PM »
$2k is honestly not something that should bother even a really small credit union. Acknowledge the mistake, make efforts to shore up protections against that mistake in the future, and move on. The company doesn't (shouldn't) care about a mistake that small, unless it's part a of pattern.

norajean

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2020, 01:54:37 PM »
Can you implement an error-check that will prevent it from recurring?  That would my main concern as a bank manager.

dragonwalker

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #25 on: January 09, 2020, 01:15:07 AM »
Thanks a lot everyone for the information, insight and personal anecdotes. There were definitely some very good suggestions. Especially regarding paying out funds to all of the beneficiaries at once. I could potentially see this being implemented but as I understand we do it per beneficiary as a matter of customer service because those portion of funds belong to the beneficiary the moment the principal passes.

As far as people thinking that this is not my fault, I can definitely say that is wrong. It is my fault. The way it works is that anyone in the department can get a call or a request from the branch to settle a file, although I manage certain files they are not exclusively mine. Other people taking part of the reconciliation and notation is perfectly normal. Yes, the previous person should have done a very simple thing and deleted the beneficiary that was paid. However them not doing so does not at all make it their fault because as the person dispersing funds it is my responsibility to ensure that it is dispersed properly. This person did put notes on the account which I failed to read and yes if I looked more closely at the transaction I would have not made this mistake. I made some assumptions and missed some clues when I received original paperwork and my mind must have thought the payout was not yet done. 

Correct there are no controls at the moment I issue these checks except if the dollar amount is exceptionally large and even then management practice has typical not been to review the individual details of the transactions so I fear that up until now this could have been for a much larger amount with more serious ramifications. I am relieved it is as much as it is because it could have been many times greater. 

I feel I kept my involvement in this situation professional, escalating when I found out, apologizing sincerely for the error, offering a suggestion to help and offering anything I can do in any other course of action. I brought it up once more the day after to determine how we will actually settle this file. It was a brief several minute conversation. I am happy to say management reacted calmly and honestly I am grateful that the response has been measured and logical.

Yes there was some initial shock and surprise when I first was made aware of the error but I continued my other duties and kept knowledge of the situation to involved employees. I fully expect there will be a note of this mistake somewhere in my review. To me it's just one of those things especially when it occurs early in the year, with a new manager, fairly new to the company that I just wanted to avoid. I have learned my lesson and this error won't happen. I think this is one of those kind of mistakes you hear about that are "good" to make because it teaches a lesson and perhaps demonstrates to others how I handle such a setback but technically no one wants to have made this error to learn those lessons. I recognize that I will probably make other errors which I will learn from to.     
« Last Edit: January 09, 2020, 01:22:42 AM by dragonwalker »

Malcat

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Re: How to move forward from a mistake at work
« Reply #26 on: January 09, 2020, 04:35:56 AM »
Excellent!

Sounds like you're past the psychologically crushing phase, which is great.

Mistakes do completely suck. I just got called out for one on Tuesday that was discovered directly by my employer. Ugh.
It's a process and it always sucks, but it does get easier.