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How do I fix it?

How do I fix it?

How do I fix it?

So..  I blew it.

With the owner of the company, no less.

I recently rejoined the company that laid me off last year. I never felt any resentment about it, as it was primarily due to the economy. I actually thought it reflected well on me that the only person they've brought back since then is me.

When I came back, the owner asked me to help him with a project. This project had been passed from one engineer to another for a while and by the time it got to me, I simply did small parts of the project, as requested.

A few weeks ago, we needed to issue a new set, and I was charged with ensuring that one part of our drawings matched the other. I was asked to do this by the owner. I sat down, did what I thought was a thorough job, marked up my changes and sent them off. He specifically asked me whether I had done so and I assured him I had.

Well, that didn't really work. There were still errors. Errors that I should have caught. I don't know how these errors escaped my eyes, but they did. My company is thus put in an uncomfortable position of seeming incompetent and incapable of simple coordination. With an important client, of course.

Despite the questionable ownership of the project, I don't want to make excuses and pass the buck on. I should have caught it and I didn't. And I now find myself embarrassed that after getting called back I have ticked off the very guy who thought enough of me to give me a call back.

I've sent the owner an email apologizing for my oversight and ensuring him that I will be more diligent in the future.

Other than doing my job well (and I believe that this instance notwithstanding, I have), what can I do to make this right?

I'm not used to this. It sucks and I can't stop thinking about it. I'm willing to do anything in my power to right this.  
Replies continue below

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RE: How do I fix it?

Next work day, do your best. And the next. And so on.
We're not machines.  We make mistakes, our pencils have erasers, etc.
I'm sure writing down your story helped a little. Your boss thought enough of you to bring you back.  You were honest with him, you apologized, now it's time to move on (I don't mean to leave your job).  Don't work scared.

RE: How do I fix it?

If possible, face-to-face with the owner,

1. Apologize, but don't throw yourself on the floor and beg forgiveness.
2. Say you will ensure that you will do everything in your power to prevent the same from happening on future projects.
3. Tell him how you plan to make this happen, and here is where you might sneak in a suggestion about project continuity.
4. Thank the owner for understanding.

Then settle down and take you mind off of it.

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: How do I fix it?

You can't fix _that_ blooper; you already got caught.

To reduce the incidence of future bloopers, live by these rules:

- Never send an email or other correspondence at the end of the day.  Finish the work, get it ready to send, but DON'T.  Go have a beer, go home, get some sleep.  Dream about something else.  Sometime  before breakfast, you will discover/ remember one or more things that you should check or change before sending the work out.  Write them down.  Check and change and check again before sending.

- Have the work checked by someone who is capable of understanding it, but is not too familiar with it.  They will immediately see major issues, every damn time.

- Teach the work to someone who may not be capable of understanding it.  Their questions and dumb looks, and the act of teaching, will help you discover how to make it better, and probably also uncover a few bloopers.

- Go over the work with tradesmen who might be involved in executing something related.  Don't ask them to 'check' your work; they'll get insulted about doing your job for you, for less money.  Instead, try to find some minor points to ask their advice about, wrt speed or efficiency of execution, or ask how it used to be done and why that worked.  Guys who actually have to beat on metal for a living have a different perspective on the cuteness of your ideas.  If you curse like they do, and they learn they can trust you, they will tell you the truth, and teach you a lot.  One way to earn their trust is to make sure that they get credit for their ideas, and especially that you don't get credit.  Take notes and spell their names right.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: How do I fix it?

Excellent advice, Mike.

RE: How do I fix it?

Most owners I know do not expect super human attchievements they just want employees who get things done right, on time and on budget and solve far more problems than they create. They will accept that errors are made it is what you do about them that matters. That however does not stop them being annoyed at the time, we are all human after all.

By all means give an apology but do not say I promise it will never happen again, they are just meaningless words, tell him or her what you will do to minimise the chance of it happening again, that is constructive and what most will want to hear, not someone grovelling and making promises that both know cannot be kept.

My personal advice would be to view a situation like this from the other persons point of view, what would you expect to happen if a supplier or tradesman let you down in a similar way? What would make it more acceptable to you? Do that the chances are the owner is not that different to you.

RE: How do I fix it?

Thanks for the responses..

I do not have delusions of perfection. I understand that we all make mistakes. I think what irks me, though, is that this error is attributable to effort (for lack of a better term). I take pride in my work and strive to get things right, but it is what it is.

A complicating factor in my situation is that we are a very small satellite office with only 3 employees. The owner is not in the office and there is only one other engineer in the office, the branch manager. He is as helpful as he can be, but at the same time he has other responsibilities. I occasionally hesitate to distract him from his responsibilities when it comes to minor issues such as this assigned task. I think the best course of action at this point is to talk to him and ask for more feedback regarding quality of work.

RE: How do I fix it?

Did anybody die?? NO.  Do some as suggested above - use the advice that makes sense to you and get one with your life.

WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE - but sometimes people can die from our mistakes.... Just make sure you do your best..  at all times.

I usually complete a project and then think about it for a day or two.  Something always comes to mind that could be done better....

RE: How do I fix it?

The idea of walking away from the problem and coming back to it later works for me every time too.  I always find something else.  No lie...

That's why I never finish my work!  bigsmile

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: How do I fix it?

Geez, Mike...I thought that only applied to me! I'll be sure to get that project out next week...or the week after...or...

As primarily a sole practitioner, I also have to let my work get cold and go back to take another look.  Irritates clients sometimes because it takes longer, but it makes me sleep better.

RE: How do I fix it?

Bad news early is good news.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: How do I fix it?

Few companies have dedicated checkers anymore, I happen to work for one of those few. I do the best I can, but I know that some things will be missed. The best think is to use a consistant approach to checking so minimize the change of skipping a step. I have created checklists at times, but drawings are different enough that a checklist that is complete is way too long and one of a reasonable length is way to short. When I was checking my own work, I would try to put some time in between when I finished the drawing and when I checked it. You are much to likely to pick up on a mistake when you are looking at it with fresh eyes.

Peter Stockhausen
Senior Design Analyst (Checker)
Infotech Aerospace Services

RE: How do I fix it?

Ok "much to likely" should be "much more likely", I should have taken a break before hitting submit ;)

Peter Stockhausen
Senior Design Analyst (Checker)
Infotech Aerospace Services

RE: How do I fix it?

One common theme in my life is that a dumb mistake will result in unwanted attention.  Often, I have been able to turn that around as then I had those people's attention and they noticed success that they would not have noticed before.  They may never forget your blooper, but it can change from "black mark" to "funny story" over time.

RE: How do I fix it?

Was this a Japanese firm? I think I would rather take a black mark and learn from it than commit hara kiri.

RE: How do I fix it?

I've been told that one "oh, sh!t" can wipe out 100 "atta boys."

You can't focus on a mistake beyond accepting your role in it, identifying how it happened, and taking steps to see that the same error is not repeated.

I would ask this: what is your firm's QC process? Three people in one office makes it tough to have work back checked. The owner should be aware of this. Is there a review procedure? At my former employer's office the rudimentary QC was to have a PE not involved in the project have a quick look-see. It's a little shocking how errors/coordination items that have been looking you in the face (unnoticed)for weeks jump off the page at somebody who is not involved in the project.

Quite frankly, now that I am self employed the lack of another set of eyes to review technical work is my biggest actual concern.


RE: How do I fix it?

When I make a mistake or an ass of myself, after accepting responsibility and apologizing, I allow myself 15 minutes to review events for lessons learned and then move on.

You cannot re-write the past but you can ensure the full story has a better ending.

If you loop and obsess you waste too much mental energy.  Go to the gym and exhaust yourself a few days a week to ensure you get good sleep.  If you are doing anything that matters at all it will help you deal with the stress.

Good luck.


RE: How do I fix it?

Thank you to all who responded.

The predominant theme was to walk away from your issue and come back and look at it again.

I took the advice to heart and applied it to the situation itself. I stopped thinking about it, let emotions calm down a bit and realized it was nowhere near as big as I felt it was. I'm unaccustomed to failure, but I guess we all eat crow at some point. I ate mine, it's over and I'll move on.

Thanks again.

RE: How do I fix it?

And btw..  Jed..  I think you're right..  part of it was just getting it off my chest.

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