Is An Employee Error Report A Good Idea?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about job errors:

We have some agents who consistently make errors (and they are normally the same error) which could cost our company anywhere from a hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. One of our managers wants to send out a list weekly showing the error report which would have the following info: What the error was, who made the error and how much the error cost the company. Could this get us into potential trouble with employees? Most of the times it’s the same employees who are making the mistakes and we are following a disciplinary action plan. But to try something different they want to send out the list. What do you think?

Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

I think you know the answer to the question–and hopefully others have your good judgment. No positive result would be obtained by putting up a list of those who have made errors, complete with number of errors and cost to the company. On the contrary,a great deal of harm could be done to the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone.Even though employees likely have no recourse about such a list (unless there is a disparity based on protected class status and a complaint was made), there is no reason to think such a list would reduce errors and many reasons to think it would be a failure from which the managers would never recover. I’m also inclined to think higher level managers would not approve. You say a performance improvement plan has been started for each problematic employee. If so, and if it is managed correctly, employees will either improve to the required level of satisfaction or they will be dismissed. In that case, the list with their names isn’t needed and the word of their dismissal will have a heck of a lot more impact.I doubt your company posts personnel actions for everyone to see. If employees know that those who make serious or repeated errors will be put on a performance improvement plan, you’ve essentially put up a list of personnel actions, so it is likely higher level managers would not approve if they were asked about it.Also consider this: If the names change from list to list, that would indicate that errors are sporadic, so why point them out to everyone? If the names are about the same every time, it would be an indicator of managerial failure. Management would be saying, “This is a list of people we haven’t trained well, haven’t monitored effectively or haven’t been willing to deal with.”

Another issue is that by posting a Scarlet Letter List or a Foul Up List or whatever employees decide to call it (and you know they will develop a rude name for it) they will be encouraged to give sympathy or at least empathy to those named. Or, they will feel superior because they’re not on the list and that can create conflict. OR, worse yet, they will figure out how bad the mistakes were and in the future if they have problems they’ll be able to point out that at least it’s not as bad as so and so did.If the managers want to make a point about errors, consider instead a chart with columns for “Error” “Cost of Error” “To Keep This Error From Happening.” (Or something similar). Leave out the names.Consider taking one common error per week and do some short training about it. According to how many employees you have, consider having a supervisor meet with individual employees to talk about how to prevent common errors.Some might suggest making a list of those who have made few errors. However, I don’t think any list with employee names attached is as effective as dealing with individuals–either to thank them and commend them or to correct them and train them.It could be that those who have made few errors have techniques they could share with supervisors who could incorporate the ideas in training. Certainly the information about high performance and few errors should be reflected in formal performance evaluations.If the manager who wants this pushes it, suggest another kind of list: It would have columns for Manager, Number of Errors Made by Employees For Which This Manager is Responsible, Cost to Company.I’ll bet no managers would want such a list!Robert Mager has a great classic book on the subject of performance improvement, as does Ken Blanchard and others. This could be a great management training project as well as a work improvement project.Best wishes to you with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what is decided and what is the result.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.