Work: It Wasn’t My Fault…

Henry was ecstatic when he was finally hired. He’d had his eye on this company for a long time; now he’s eager and rarin’ to go.  Henry’s plan is to be the model employee, to do every task perfectly.

Plans of perfection are easier to dream than to do however, and one day Henry made a mistake. He needed to open an overhead door, and as he’s relatively short, he couldn’t quite reach the latch to secure it. Henry’s a bit sensitive about his height, and he didn’t want to ask anyone else to latch it for him.

Well, things happened as you might expect, and the door came crashing down. Fortunately, Henry wasn’t really hurt; a few bandaids and some gauze for his scraped arm and he was back in business. He did have one major injury, though; that was to his pride.

Like many companies, this one has strict health and safety procedures. Any accident or injury, no matter how minor, must be reported and the appropriate paperwork filled out.

Henry was mortified by the accident. So new on the job, and already he’s failed at the one thing that the company emphasized extensively during training: be safe. He certainly wasn’t look forward to filing that report.

Henry asked Bill, who has been assigned to help out with Henry’s on-the-job training, for the necessary forms. “What are you thinking?” exclaimed Bill. “I wouldn’t report that little thing. You’re not really hurt; you didn’t need medical attention. Those reports just get us into a whole pile of paperwork, and it makes our whole team look bad because we had an accident. No one needs to know.”

“Are you sure?” asked Henry. “They were pretty clear during the orientation that it didn’t matter if an accident was serious or not, it had to be reported.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. Besides, every accident has to get reported and then the Health and Safety statistics look worse. It’s better for the company not to report it.”

Now Bill’s worked there a long time so he probably knows what really happens. So even though Henry feels somewhat uneasy about not following procedure, he has to admit that he’s kind of comforted to think this embarrassing incident could go by without notice.

A few days passed, and all was well. Then Henry got that summons that he always knew, in the back of his mind, was possible. Aaron, his department head, wants to see him in his office. When Henry walked in and Aaron said, “Please close the door behind you,” Henry knew the accident had somehow come to light. Uh oh…

Henry can’t take back the past, but he has several choices for how he can handle the situation now. What would you suggest as the most effective way for Henry to respond to Aaron?

This article is the first in a series about the workplace.
The next article in this series is here.
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