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Dear STC: I Keep Making Mistakes At My Job. What Should I Do?

December 18, 2009
 Hi Bradley,
I do indeed feel stupid at work. I’m always being told that I miss details and no matter how many times I check and check again my work, it always seems I miss SOMETHING. This has been haunting me since first grade, and right into the work world, I’m 33 and an office worker, and am currently being treated for ADD, though I don’t think the meds are helping.
Only at work do I miss details and get told I make stupid mistakes. I would love to get a job that isn’t detail oriented, but I don’t know what that is. I have lost more jobs than I care to count because of this, and go from one job to the next starting over, only to have it end in the same result, despite putting 649% effort into doing a good job. Yeah, that’s my venting session for the day. =)


Hey, Bob –

Thanks for writing.

That sounds very frustrating. I wish I could do something to help you. The best thing, as you say, might indeed be to find a job that is not detail oriented. But you know that’s not going to be easy to find, unless you are parking cars or something like that (but even that requires you to keep track of things).

Is there something else that you are brilliant at? I’ll bet the weakness you struggle with is offset by your true gifts – what are they? Have you taken the time to discover them, and maybe think of ways to make them part of your job or career? I don’t know, just a thought. One thing I am certain of is that you are not stupid! You have just not yet been discovered.


This is one of a sampling of letters – well, emails really – that I have received from readers of my posts “It’s Okay To Feel Stupid Sometimes” and “Are You Feeling Stupid At Work? I’m Here To Help.” It’s also a chance for you to comment with better advice than what I gave. I mean, what do I know?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2009 12:18 pm

    Having worked all my professional life as a writer and editor (the last 24+ in publishing for human resources professionals), I know that detail matters. Some of the writers I managed sometimes had difficulty with detail and the impression left was sloppiness at best. We would sit down and look at what might be done to reduce the possibility of missing something important or not catching those errors that caused problems.

    Perhaps a few of the following might be helpful to Bob:

    1. Is it possible for you to team with someone you trust, someone who can provide that second set of eyes you might need?

    2. Lists might help. When you are given a task, break the task down into its parts. Do those and check off as you complete each one.

    3. Is there a group in your area for people with ADD/ADHD who meet to talk about such issues as you face? Don’t underestimate what can be learned by joining such a community. Many may have tips for you that help you keep your job.

    4. Take a look at your work conditions. What is distracting that you might avoid or remove as a source of influence?

    5. Talk confidentially with your HR office. You might be directed to an employee assistance program that could in turn direct you to an organization that assists people with ADD/ADHD. Moreover, it might be possible for you to be given a reasonable accommodation. Your HR office will know about the latter.

    • December 21, 2009 6:34 am

      Maureen – Has anyone told you yet that you are really good at this? Your HR experience obviously is boosting my site here. These are some great tips for someone struggling with attention to detail at work. Thanks!

  2. December 20, 2009 6:16 am

    Most people I know who struggle with details tend to be very good with people and relationships. Shifting into a sales position could be a potential fit.

    The key is to start building a team. I’d start by getting an assistant or partnering with someone who is very good with details. That way their strength compensates for your weakness and your strengths will cover theirs.

    Like Bradley said though, I am certain you have gifts that you can tap into and become very successful. If you can’t find a job that is centered around your gifts then perhaps you can start your own business. Then you can focus on what you do best and outsource (or partner) with folks who are strong where you are weak.

    • December 21, 2009 6:35 am

      I like your idea of partnering with someone else to get through… Makes us kind of dependent on each other, huh?

  3. December 20, 2009 3:03 pm

    I agree with Chris (and Bradley). There are obviously other things he’s gifted at. It make no sense to to work in your weaknesses, we find our best success working in our strengths.

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