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How to deal with assistant's mistake, but partly caused by me

(29 Posts)
Jodi1974 Mon 26-May-14 11:23:36

I'm trying to work out how to deal with a member of staff that has made a big mistake at work, the problem is that it was partly caused by a smaller mistake that I made earlier on.

Part of her job is to look after the office diary, which we jointly have access to and both add to. A while ago I was trying to arrange a meeting with someone and sent them a long list of dates I could do at the time, mistakenly including the bank holiday (when we're closed). I didn't hear back I didn't think anything of it - the meeting was more for their benefit than mine.

Unbeknown to me, my assisant responded to his email selecting today as the date, obviously also failing to realise the bh. However, she didn't put it in the diary so I didn't know about it until today when I got a call from work - unfortunately too late for me to go in.

I'm pretty annoyed as this makes me look really bad, but feel it is my fault for suggesting the date to begin with. On the other hand, if it had been in the diary, as it should have been, I'd have spotted it last week and either cancelled or gone in.

I feel bad enough anyway for wasting this person's time, but unsure of how to deal with my assistant. It was sloppy of both of us to not realise about the bank holiday, but if I'd known the arranged date then at least I could have prevented it from happening. We are under a lot of pressure at the moment and I generally feel that she works hard, most of the time, but there are times when things like this happen and I'd like a bit more attention to the finer details. I'm just not sure if it is fair to use this as an example when I contributed to the mistake myself.


BrianTheMole Mon 26-May-14 11:26:44

Well the assistant should have put it in the diary anyway.

sooperdooper Mon 26-May-14 11:27:12

Well it's your fault for sending the date in the first place, I would think she assumed you'd be in (the office is open if someone called you?), but her fault for not putting it in the diary, but you can't blame the bank holiday date being confirmed on her

I think it's fair to ask her why she didn't put it in the diary but you have to take half the blame yourself

Humansatnav Mon 26-May-14 11:28:06

I would approach it as you stated above, sloppy of both of you, cant happen again, both to blame, going forward we need to make x/x/z procedure followed, etc.

sooperdooper Mon 26-May-14 11:28:31

What I meant to say was it's not fair to say her mistake was a big one and yours small, they were both equally a mistake

FamiliesShareGerms Mon 26-May-14 11:29:16

I'd have the conversation about attention to detail etc but using other examples than this one

mrsminiverscharlady Mon 26-May-14 11:31:43

Don't know why you think it's mostly your assistant's fault when it's at least half your fault. Maybe more than half your fault as you're the senior member of staff and so making silly slips is less excusable IMO.

HSMMaCM Mon 26-May-14 11:32:36

I would assume if you had offered the date then you would be in the office. The only mistake was not putting it in the diary.

itiswhatitiswhatitis Mon 26-May-14 11:33:28

Acknowledge you error but make it clear that had it been out in the diary then the mistake could have been spotted and resolved without inconveniencing the client.

I do think not putting it in the diary is a bigger error than not realising it is a bank holiday. If they had confirmed a day that wasn't a bank holiday and it wasn't in the diary but then you were off sick the same thing could have happened.

Humansatnav Mon 26-May-14 11:39:23

What outcome are you looking for op?

ThingsThatShine Mon 26-May-14 11:47:32

I think not putting it in the diary is a big error and you should pull her up on it, while acknowledging your mistake about the bank hol too. However the fact is if it had been in the diary this wouldn't have happened. Also if she had gone to the diary to enter it she would have seen it was bank hill presumably!

Jodi1974 Mon 26-May-14 11:48:17

She wouldn't assume I was in (it's not usual for us to work bank holidays), but I would have gone in, and have done in the past, for something pre-arranged, like this. I suppose I think the bh thing is a smaller mistake (and completely mine) as it could easily have been dealt with by me popping in for a few hours, whereas the lack of a diary entry made it impossible (and if it had happened on an ordinary working day, I still may have been unavailable as I could have made other arrangements for that day in the meantime). Thank you for the replies, I'll reiterate the diary procedures but obviously accept I am partly to blame to begin with.

wafflyversatile Mon 26-May-14 11:52:52

I'm a bit unclear. you gave a list of days you were available then didn't hear anything, but your assistant replied to his email (what email if you didn't hear anything?)

People make mistakes. I do, your assistant does and so do you. She probably doesn't need you to point out that this has made you look bad to the other person attending the meeting.

Surely the correct way to approach this is to suggest you both have a think about what safeguards can be put in place to reduce the risk of this happening in future without trying to shift blame about. If she needs to pay more attention to detail then so do you. And the other person also could have double checked seeing as it is a bank holiday.

Jodi1974 Mon 26-May-14 12:04:10

Thank you - that seems to be a good way to deal with it (I'm new to this, so never sure when I'm dealing with staff whether I'm being unfair either way). I meant that I sent a list of dates that were at the time available, and he replied to the email address attached to the office diary, which we all have access to. She dealt with it before I saw it, so I didn't see either his reply or hers. Normal procedure is when we reply confirming a date it goes straight into the shared diary, but I will go over it tomorrow and see if there is any way to tighten it up. Thank you.

rootypig Mon 26-May-14 12:07:46

We are under a lot of pressure at the moment and I generally feel that she works hard, most of the time, but there are times when things like this happen and I'd like a bit more attention to the finer details.

Just say this, and say it nicely. People make mistakes. You're under pressure - so is she.

For missing the meeting, apologise profusely and take the rap yourself. Never pass the buck downwards.

AgentProvocateur Mon 26-May-14 12:13:05

In future, can you blank out bank holidays? That's what I do to avoid similar mistakes.

wafflyversatile Mon 26-May-14 12:27:54

I would even include in any talk something about 'not beating ourselves up about it. Everyone makes mistakes and we're under a lot of pressure'.

mrssmith79 Mon 26-May-14 12:28:52

Ultimately this is your cock-up. You alone sent out an incorrect list and any repercussions arising from it are down to you. The moment you realised you should've recalled the email or telephoned the client and superceded with an amended list, copying in the assistant and anyone else relevant. Yes, she confirmed the meeting and didn't put it in the diary but if you had dealt with the situation correctly at the outset it would never have happened.

Sorry to sound harsh but I'm a firm believer in owning up to mistakes and taking the backlash on the chin. You sound like you're trying to minimise your own mistake when it was, in fact, the catalyst for this entire situation.

CrazyHorse Mon 26-May-14 12:33:04

Yep, go through the diary and block out all days you are not in (or get assistant to do it). I used to work with a shared diary, and if anyone didn't put something in the diary, and it resulted in a double booking it wouldn't have been good! Your assistant must put everything in the diary!

Jodi1974 Mon 26-May-14 12:46:36

Thanks, everything usually goes into both diaries (if something is in the joint one I copy it over and vice versa), it was just the bh that wasn't blocked in. Thank you for your advice Waffly, I'm going to follow it. Out of the 10 dates I originally suggested, 8 are now booked up with other things (meetings, trips, days off etc.), which have been arranged since because the diary was clear, so it would probably have happened whichever had been selected originally. I wish I'd caught the phonecall this morning, I could have been there in 20 minutes sad

wafflyversatile Mon 26-May-14 12:58:28

It's ok. The person who turned up for the non-meeting is probably pissed off but they will calm down (if they haven't already) and realise mistakes happen and remember that they have made plenty themselves too. If they don't they're an arse. And they actually do carry some (lesser) responsibility unless they are from another country where this is not a holiday. It's ok to be annoyed about the inconvenience but not ok to rant like they've never made a mistake ever themselves.

You don't need the attendee to have a rant at you about how you messed up to know you messed up and feel bad about it. It's pointless and doesn't get any of you anywhere. You wouldn't appreciate them tearing a strip off you for what is actually minor mistake where no one died, so don't do that to your assistant. Learning from it is the positive way to deal with it. As suggested blocking out BHs etc at the start of the year is a sensible precaution.

Once you come home tomorrow this will all be in the past. smile

Jodi1974 Mon 26-May-14 13:35:39

Thanks. I am just so annoyed with myself! You're right, it will be in the past soon. I will send him an apology tomorrow and suggest I go to him next time (and cover his travel costs, fortunately not too far, but he would have wasted most of the morning blush). We'll tighten up procedures, but I constantly worry about making mistakes like this as we have so much work (and so understaffed) it feels inevitable that we'll drop the ball from time to time. I had a ranter last year (100% his fault though fortunately), it was horrible!

Trillions Mon 26-May-14 13:52:28

Your assistant should have blocked out all bank holidays in the diary at the start of the year. That's pretty basic secretarial work! And she should always put meetings in the diary when confirmed - even if it were a normal work day you'd look like a fool if someone turned up for a meeting and you were out/with someone else/unprepared because you didn't know they were coming. A good assistant acts as their boss' safety net - she wouldn't be there if you had time to stay on top of all this admin stuff yourself.

wafflyversatile Mon 26-May-14 13:57:54

Put the blame upwards where it belongs! If you weren't overworked and understaffed this would be less likely to happen. smile

Peacesword Mon 26-May-14 14:11:40

I'm not sure I'd even be raising it. Everyone makes mistakes and things get missed when you are working under pressure. She possibly feels really bad about it, and maybe responsible, but it could be that she has already considered for herself how she can avoid it happening again. I don't think it necessarily needs raising unless its the latest in a long line of similar errors. Some people are really sloppy at work but this sounds like just one of those things that happens when we are really busy.

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