So I made a mistake at work not being thorough enough. It's my fault and I accept it.

Where I'm taking offence is that this mistake could have been preventing with basic tooling. And by basic I mean industry standards.

An analogy would be asking an accountant to work with a calculator only and not with Excel and telling him to be careful.

I said we can improve the situation and which tools are needed. The proposition is well accepted by my team, but the team that would have to set in place the tool and support it does not want to and they haven't for a long time now.

My question is how to react when I'm asked what happened?

  • Do I just admit my mistake and say it won't happen again.
  • Admit the mistake and provide feedback on how it can be prevented.
  • Something else.
  • 4
    Could you clarify the timeline here? Did you request the tools only after you made the mistake? Only after the mistake was discovered? Or before the mistake? Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 12:28
  • Tools have been requested for a few month prior my arrival. I was also surprised by their absence and asked if and how to set them up. Currently we're re-discussing how to set them up and who will be in charge. Lastly I've made the mistake.
    – JayZ
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 13:11

3 Answers 3


My question is how to react when I'm asked what happened?

  • Do I just admit my mistake and say it won't happen again.
  • Admit the mistake provide feedback that it can be prevented.
  • Something else.

In general, it's best to admit mistakes quickly, and accept responsibility for them. If your not being thorough enough was the root cause, then own up to it and indicate that you will try to be more thorough.

A short while later, bring up the subject of the revised tooling.

Don't try to do it right now. It could come across as overly defensive, and trying to shift the blame. And being more thorough will avoid other problems that specific tools may not.

Bringing the tooling up later, using your mistake as a specific example that could be prevented in the future, has a better chance of being successful.

  • 2
    Caveat: if the tooling had been mentioned before, it might be more beneficial to admit to the mistake and point out that the already discussed tooling would have prevented it at the same time, rather than wait. However, it still needs to be tactful and not "I told you so".
    – HorusKol
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 0:39

There are a few things you can/should do:

1) Tell them what you did, warts and all.

2) Put forward this industry-standard tool as a potential solution for preventing this across the team going forward, including potential new recruits. Explain your rationale.

3) Tell them what you'll be putting in place for yourself as your own stop-gap solution.


In my opinion, a proper post-portem analysis includes listing all the relevant factors that led to the mistake. The fact that the other team delayed implementation is necessary for whoever is doing the analysis to know.

The factors I can see here are

  • You were not thorough enough. There is no other reason to fall back to, so own it.
  • Industry standard tools were not available, despite the request you and your team had put in (which you hopefully did in writing). I know you said it was your question, but the necessity of the tools was backed by your team some months prior to your arrival (and presumably by your supervisor/manager/team lead). The request was presented to the implementation team on the date of XX.XX. and was [denied/not acted on as appropriate] until YY.YY. [despite repeated requests on the dates of AA.AA., BB.BB and CC.CC.]

I would present both factors matter-of-factly and let them draw their own conclusions.

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