Little Things are Big Things at Work

I made a mistake at work last week.

I did not miscalculate my numbers.  I did not break procedure. I was simply going way too fast.

We've all been there before: it's a super busy afternoon, and all of a sudden a bunch of requests come in at once.  This happens minutes before the system is about to close which is also about the same time your afternoon reports are due.  On top of it, you've covering some accounts you are unfamiliar with for one of your co-workers who is out.

I've written before about making mistakes at work.  In fact, that post brought some of you to this very site after you messed up at work and immediately Googled how to handle it (thanks for sticking around Aimee!).

But my previous mistakes seem minor in retrospect,  because I don't think I really understood the magnitude that a little mistake can have on you, your department, your clients, etc.

Mistakes are meant to be reality checks.  They are also meant so that you never make them again.  Lastly, they are meant to teach you something about yourself.

This may sound obvious, but the older I get the more I realize that little things are big things at work.  When I first graduated college, I felt that details were not that important.  It was more about the "big picture" (whatever that meant!).

But now I know that missing a little detail can ruin the big picture.  Immediately.

Consistency is Key

One of the best things an entry-level employee (or really any employee) can do is be consistent.  It is in part consistency in your attitude, but also your reliablility.  You want people to know where they stand with you and that they can expect you to do things correctly and in a timely way.

Think about the little things we do every day: we buy a latte, we go to the grocery store, we  go to the gym.  What happens if your barista makes you the wrong drink on occasion, the grocery store forgets to put a few of your grocery bags in your cart or your gym is out of clean towels?  Small details?  Not to the customer.  My guess is that you probably won't be a patron of these establishments for long.

If you're missing the small details, should your employer keep patronizing you? Today there's an educated and capable person on every corner to waiting take your job.  If there is ever a time to slow down, stay consistent and pay attention to the details it's right now.

I know for a fact that this little mistake reinforced the importance of the little things at work.  It showed me that focus is really important so much that us ADHD multi-tasker types need to change our ways.  Lastly, I've shifted gears from placing value on the quantity of work I can get done and instead focus on the quality.

What are your Work Mistake Confessions?

Have you ever made a mistake at work that made you re-think your daily routine?

  • What did you learn from your mistake?
  • How did making a mistake change your perspective on your job?
  • Was your first thought ever to blame someone else?
  • Did you identify a bad habit after making mistake such as, trying to do too much, answering every client call in the middle of important transactions, trying to get your work done as fast as possible, saying yes to others before you finish your own work?

Preferred Partner Tip: Was your biggest mistake at work suffering an injury or accident after unnecessarily being exposed to hazards or not being made aware of health and safety regulations at your workplace?

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women find and thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media practice at a digital agency in Chicago. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helps develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.