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I messed up and it can't be fixed. Now how do I explain?
April 2, 2014 5:15 PM   Subscribe

I work in benefits and messed up the life insurance amount for someone who died. Please help me figure out how to communicate this error to the beneficiary and upper management in the best way possible.

I work in a small HR department. I haven't had to process a life insurance claim for several years, when I worked for a different company. One of our employees died recently. The life insurance amount was reduced due to age just six weeks before the employee died, but I didn't catch it at the time. What I *should* have done was send the employee information about converting or porting the amount lost due to the reduction to an individual policy, but I didn't. Worse, I communicated the unreduced amount to my boss, who passed that figure along to the beneficiary.

I'm trying to find the right way to explain my mistake to the beneficiary and to upper management. My boss already knows what has happened.

Anonymous, because I feel terrible and embarrassed for missing this.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, what I'd do is, ask for a meeting with the boss about how to communicate this to upper management. The boss may have already done that, in which case it can be a meeting to discuss your concerns in general.

I'd not attempt any contact with the beneficiary just yet; how to do that is something that the upper management will almost certainly want control over.
posted by thelonius at 5:25 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


What I *should* have done was send the employee information about converting or porting the amount lost due to the reduction to an individual policy, but I didn't.

Regarding this part, is that really not something the insurance company should have done? It does not make sense that responsibility would fall on you.

Regarding the miscommunication, don't do anything on your own, work through your boss to get the right communication to the beneficiary, stat.
posted by beagle at 5:31 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]


How much money are you talking about? Is there any way your company could just cover the original, communicated amount? Unless it's tens of thousands of dollars, that would be the most humane thing to do, especially if the employee was only subject to the reduced amount for six weeks.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 5:47 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Have you and your boss talked about this?

If not, that's what should happen next. You shouldn't communicate directly to anyone else until your boss tells you how they want it handled. I do think that if your boss sees this as no big deal, you should raise the question of whether the company could or would make up the difference. In my organization, we probably would, if it were the company's error.

In any communications you have with anyone about this, you should of course apologize for the error. But you should not beat yourself up. Mistakes happen. Nobody's perfect, and hopefully the employee won't end up damaged by it.
posted by Susan PG at 6:15 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Isn't there a legal department or lawyer the company regularly relies on?
posted by jbenben at 6:42 PM on April 2


It sounds like you feel bad that you did not communicate the change in coverage as the employee aged-- however, I'm guessing that information was contained in the original literature provided when the insurance was procured. The reminder would have been only as a courtesy.

Next: you can get through this. It will be ok. Mistakes happen.
posted by samthemander at 6:47 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


tell your boss, and nobody else. this problem is above your pay grade. that's why your boss gets the big bucks.
posted by bruce at 7:00 PM on April 2 [11 favorites]


I'd feel terrible too. But this really sounds like it's not on you. Others nailed it: talk to your boss as your next and only step.

The only addition I'd make is that while it's a lousy situation for the beneficiary, you had no part in this decision. And frankly, six weeks in insurance time is like 14 seconds in human time. That you didn't know about the reduction when you communicated it to your boss is actually kind of reasonable.

It's just an unfortunate situation for everybody involved, but the only party that should *really* feel bad is the insurer.
posted by colin_l at 8:22 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


In some ways, it is easier for your boss to fix than for you because he can throw you under the bus. "I am sorry but the new girl (or the office blonde or the founder's daughter or the senile old bat or whoever) screwed up."
posted by SemiSalt at 1:28 PM on April 3


> I am sorry but the new girl (or the office blonde or the founder's daughter or the senile old bat or whoever) screwed up.

Or it could even have been a man!
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:31 PM on April 3 [11 favorites]


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