You are a hard worker in a good-sized office. You have been there for almost a year, but you don’t think you have made much progress yet. You get along fairly well with your manager but are uncertain she fully recognizes your talents.
You are rereading a report that you had previously reviewed and that your manager has already signed off on. You weren’t responsible for the project, and you weren’t the staff member who wrote the final report. But during this reading, you discover an issue, a significant error, that invalidates a section of the report. You are in a quandary about how to handle the problem. Should you pretend you didn’t see it? Others didn’t catch the error so do your have any actual responsibility here?
At the same time, your boss will certainly be embarrassed if someone above her catches it. Should you just point it out to your boss hoping that she won’t “shoot the messenger?” Maybe she will see how smart you really are. On the other hand, she may recall that you also read it before it was finalized and approved.
The best option is to try and develop as much of a plan of correction as you can so that when you show your boss or other staff the error, you also present some alternatives that will lead to a quick solution. For example, if the error is due to a miscalculation, redo the numbers and rewrite the problem section. If someone used incorrect or incomplete data, find the needed information and redo that section. Go as far as you can in resolving the error.
If the report is about to go public, time may be critical. If this is the case, tell your boss immediately so that she won’t be embarrassed further. Offer to quickly help rework the section in question and assist in any way you can.
Sometimes we are tempted to just let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps you feel that others should be more careful or more thorough. Maybe you dislike the person who made the error and you would be happy to see them lose face. None of these are professional responses, and that type of behavior may come back to haunt you in the future. So don’t just ignore a problem or simply point it out. Instead, try to be part of the solution. And remember, professional ambition may be an individual trait, but professional success most often requires teamwork.