The Career Doctor™

by Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

Looking for a first job? Thinking of changing careers? Facing a lay-off? The Career Doctor™ is a Larchmont psychologist specializing in career counseling. If you'd like to ask a question of your own, use the anonymous form below, and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact information is here.

I MADE A BIG MISTAKE AT WORK -- SHOULD I TELL?

Dear Career Doctor:

I lost some important reseach data at work. I have looked everywhere, but I just don't know where I put the report. I remember the important numbers and can just hand write them in the appropriate file. Very few people look at the file and I probably would not get caught.

On the other hand, I could tell my boss -- but I am afraid he will get very mad about my carelessness. If I contact the research company, they will replace the report for about $250. I could just contact them and pay for it and slip it into the file, or I could ask my boss to have the company pay the $250.

I have been worrying about this for the last three days. Please help soon.

Tom

Dear Tom:

Usually, it is best to go to a boss, admit the mistake and offer a solution. (Bosses hate to be surprised if someone discovers a mistake and they have not been told.) Give the boss the option of having you write in the numbers or ordering a new report. You can even offer to pay for the replacement. (I would be very surprised if the company would take you up on that offer. In fact if they did, I would question a long-term career there, because it would probably mean that the company is really cheap with their employees, or they do not value you sufficiently.)

Of course, if your boss is the extremely rigid or critical type who will hold this mistake against you (another reason to consider a job move) then you have the option of simply ordering, and paying for, another report. If that is discovered, you can simply say that you were taking the initiative and responsibility for correcting your mistake. No one should ever hold that against you.

I would never advise you to simply write in the data without your supervisor's knowledge because of the possibility of being accused of falsifying data.

Everyone makes mistakes, so don't beat yourself up. Just decide what to do and do it without looking or feeling guilty.

The Career Doctor

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The Career Doctor™ is Larchmont psychologist and career counselor, Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez.

Her office is at 90 Beechtree Drive in Larchmont, 914-834-1982.