The Average American Worker Makes 118 Mistakes Per Year, and These Are the Most Common
Everybody screws up, makes mistakes, or otherwise causes some sort of disruption at work. It happens — we’re only human, after all. While most mistakes are harmless, there are some screw-ups that can cause serious disruption. Others can cost you a promotion or a raise, and some that can kill your career.
You might be comforted, then, to know work mistakes are incredibly common. In fact, according to a new report from identity-protection company Identity Guard, the average American worker screws up 118 times per year. Many of these blunders involve technology (which Identity Guard’s report mostly focuses on), but there are plenty of regular, run-of-the-mill lapses that occur all the time. You’ve probably committed one yourself this week.
We used the Identity Guard report to find some of the most common workplace missteps and added a few others. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most prevalent mistakes made in the workplace — many of which the average American will make more than 100 times in a given year.
15. Wardrobe malfunctions
- Wardrobe malfunctions: Not just a Janet Jackson problem.
As surprising as it sounds, “wardrobe malfunctions” are actually pretty common. According to Identity Guard’s report, a full 18% of American workers experience some sort of wardrobe malfunction every year. This could mean a number of things, of course, and not necessarily having your pants fall down or your blouse pop open. And typically, the biggest punishment is probably the accompanying embarrassment rather than a formal reprimand.
Next: A common email faux pas
14. Mistaken CCs
- 11% of workers have accidentally copied the wrong person on an email.
To quote Jim Halpert’s impression of Stanley Hudson: “Why do you keep CCing me on things that have nothing to do with me?” It’s a good question, and we’ve all accidentally added someone to an email who probably should’ve remained in the dark. Sometimes, it’s a minor annoyance to the CC’d. Other times, it can be a big blunder if the material is sensitive. If you’ve done it, feel better knowing 11% of all workers have, too.
Next: The art of surfing forbidden websites
13. Visiting NSFW sites
- 4% of workers have been caught visiting sites they shouldn’t be.
By now, most of us are familiar enough with technology, the internet, and the basic rules of decency to stay within bounds while you’re at work. Of course, there are risky clicks if you’re surfing Facebook or Reddit at the office. But most of the time, you know you shouldn’t be visiting sites featuring pornography or graphic violence. Still, at least 4% of American workers do it, according to the Identity Guard report.
Next: A broad, but serious, problem
12. General negligence
- More than a fifth of workers have been disciplined for being negligent.
OK, it doesn’t get much broader than this. “Negligence” can refer to anything and everything, but it shows up on the Identity Guard report nonetheless. Let’s be honest, too — we’ve all been negligent at some point. It just doesn’t lead to disastrous mistakes all too often. But when it comes to negligence in the workplace, it can be damaging. According to the report, 22% of American workers have been formally disciplined for negligence.
Next: Where did that file go?
11. Losing or deleting files
- Oops! 20% of workers have lost or deleted important work files.
Who hasn’t had a file or document mysteriously disappear from their computer? Again, this is one of those things that just seems to happen every once in a while, with no rhyme or reason. Usually, though, there is a reason, and it’s typically that you did something with the file. You might not have realized it or did anything purposefully, but it can happen. And the Identity Guard report said it happens to roughly one-fifth of American workers.
Next: Paging Hillary Clinton …
10. Using personal email accounts
- It’s not just those in government — 25% of workers have sent important or sensitive work information through personal email accounts.
If you’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it’s that email accounts can be dangerous — specifically, using the wrong email account. If you’re sending sensitive or important work documents over the internet, do so from your work account. That’s what it’s for. Hillary Clinton learned this the hard way, as have many other government officials. Leave the personal email open on your phone or at home to avoid any mistakes.
Next: A problem that is disabling
9. Disabling cybersecurity measures
- 7% of workers disable cybersecurity measures, exposing their companies to risk.
Your computer comes with all sorts of bells, whistles, and whosie-whatsits. For the majority of us, we tend to ignore a lot of them and get on with our day. But some people like to dig in and make changes — and sometimes they do it to their work computer. The problem is a lot of times they’re disabling security measures meant to protect the user and the company. This can lead to increased risk of cybercrime and a few other things.
Next: The natural product of disabled security measures
8. Downloading viruses or malware
- Malware and viruses are downloaded by 1 in 8 workers.
Jumping right off of our last point — one of the things that users can expose themselves to are viruses and malware. By disabling security programs, this can become a very real issue. Although it might seem like computer viruses are a thing of the past, they’re still out there. And malware is still a very serious issue. According to our report, 1 in 8 workers manages to download viruses or malware on their work computers in a given year.
Next: Not everyone can juggle.
7. Too much multitasking
- You’re twice as likely to make a mistake while multitasking.
Your boss probably likes the concept of multitasking. You might be pretty good at it, too. But jugging multiple tasks or projects at the same time can increase the odds of a screw-up occurring. It might seem obvious, but multitasking is often the root of many workplace mistakes. Studies have shown the average worker is actually twice as likely to make a mistake while multitasking rather than focusing on one thing at a time.
Next: Ignoring what your boss and colleagues are telling you
6. Ignoring feedback
- Managers providing constructive feedback increase employee engagement by 3,000%.
When you’re comfortable in your job, you might feel you’re above feedback. Your boss or colleagues might hit you with some pointers, advice, or things to focus on after a review, and you might just completely ignore it. Big mistake. Not only are you showing disregard for your superiors, but as your role evolves you might be stuck in old, inefficient methods. Listen to what your co-workers are telling you, and do your best to give it some honest consideration.
Next: Clumsiness can be expensive.
5. Breaking or ruining company property
- From spilled coffee to dropped laptops, it’s easy to make a costly mistake in seconds.
The king of all mistakes is probably breaking company property. Although you might not be operating heavy machinery at your job, you can still cause a lot of damage by simply tripping or spilling something. Again, this is something that tends to happen to everyone at some point, as we can get careless or absentminded from time to time. But your laptop isn’t exactly cheap to fix, so try not to spill coffee all over it or drop it in the elevator.
Next: Ever experience bad customer service?
4. Bad interactions with customers
- Bad customer service costs businesses $62 billion per year.
A pretty common screw-up? Having a tough round with a customer. Not everyone’s in a customer-facing role, but for those of us who are? We know things can sink fast. And sometimes there isn’t much you can do to right the ship. Bad customer service reviews can hit your company hard, too. While not each and every irate customer is going to be your fault, if you generally have a bad track record when dealing with people it can set you back.
Next: Further issues dealing with technology
3. Unfamiliarity with technology
- 15% of workers don’t know what a computer virus is.
Digging back into the Identity Guard report, we find that a general unfamiliarity with office technology is another huge issue for many businesses. A few stats from the report: 15% of workers don’t know what a computer virus is, 33% don’t know what malware or spyware is, 64% don’t know what a VPN is, and 50% don’t understand what encryption is. Get to know these terms, and know how your company deals with issues surrounding them.
Next: Why can’t people show up on time?
- 19% of workers say they are late to work at least once per week.
This one is so simple that it’s almost comical. For a lot of people, getting to work on time is a major problem. Studies have shown almost 20% of workers are late at least once per week. This can and will drive your boss and co-workers crazy, especially if you have a job that requires you to be on-site on time. If you’re chronically late, there’s a solution: Wake up earlier, and get out of the house earlier. Yes, traffic is bad. But that’s not an excuse.
Next: Let’s get political.
1. Getting political
- 25% of American workers have been negatively impacted by political discussion at the workplace.
For our last point, we’ll stick to something increasingly topical: Getting political at the office. Politics is a hard subject to avoid these days, and you probably should discuss it with your colleagues to stay informed. But there are times and places for it, and you shouldn’t use your office — or position at the company — as a soapbox for your political rants.
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