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In general I have a difficult time knowing when to defend my position that a mistake was not my fault. I'm working in a retail store right now, but I've had this question in other environments.

Where I work there used to be only one person working at a time. Recently it switched to two. There's certain tasks that must get done and these are shared responsibilities. My boss messaged me in the morning that I have to write yesterday's report as we forgot to write it yesterday. We agreed he would do it while I worked on other tasks, and I even saw him writing it. I'm guessing he forgot to hit save. Should I message my boss this or just say I will take care of it?

Another time we were closing up the shop. My coworker had locked one set of doors and left the keys in the middle. Not knowing he hadn't put them back, I locked the second set. This was a huge problem as the person the next morning was locked out. I told my boss I will double check the key is where it belongs before locking the second door, but IMHO my coworker was more at fault for leaving it where it doesn't belong. Should I have said any of this?

Also the boss complained the store was left in a messy state. My coworker did not help with cleaning at all and went home early. I told my boss I had stayed until the end of my shift and done as much work as I could. Was this right?

Obviously I don't want to snitch or create an environment where people are trying to throw each other under the bus to get ahead.

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  • Are you being reprimanded for theses? – zmike Apr 23 at 16:28
  • Are you officially or defacto ahead of your co-worker in seniority? Just wondering if there is any expectation that you should be checking their work. – Myles Apr 23 at 17:21
  • IMO don't take the blame for someone else unless you're absolutely sure it's a one-time thing that will never happen again. If you don't have to name names, you can say it was not you and leave it at that, although that is often just a symbolic fig-leaf. – Pete W Apr 23 at 19:05
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Inform your boss as soon as possible

It sounds like there is currently an informal closing procedure, which is causing problems.

Moving forward, have a close check-list signed by the shift manager

Create a point-by-point checklist of everything that needs to be done to close. Have every employee initial tasks they have done, and have one employee, the shift manager, sign at the bottom verifying the tasks are complete. If you currently don't have a shift manager, then appoint one, or set a rotating schedule, whichever works for your business.

Employees on the last shift understand they cannot leave until either 1) Checklist is complete or 2) The shift manager cuts them for the evening. This is enforced across the board. It's common for shift workers to have to stay slightly after the last shift to close up. Any employee who routinely cannot do this needs to not work the late shift, or be let go.

The checklist 1) Makes sure the boss' expectations on closing are explicit 2) documents who did what, so you're not in a tough position of snitching 3) establishes a person, the shift manager, ultimately responsible for closing up. Let every employee working the last shift know they are expected to stay after close and complete this list.

The checklist needs to be very specific, like

  • Floor swept, no noticeable debris on the floor [initial here]
  • Front door locked, key replaced in cash register [initial here]
  • Back door locked, key replaced in cash register [initial here]
  • Lights A, B, C turned off. Only low level lighting left on [initial here]
  • ...

Manager signs here

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I suggest two things.

First, these matters should be talked with your coworker first. Reach out to them and kindly tell them about these matters and that you want to know their opinion on how could you both improve that (phrase it like that, instead of "you did X, your fault", as it is more constructive). Work towards an agreement/understanding that works for both of you.

Now, one thing is not pointing fingers or shifting blame, and another is to willingly take the blame or not say something. Next time, say something when approached by your boss. Something perhaps like "sure thing, boss. I'll be extra careful next time with the keys. I will tell [coworker] also to be more careful, as he/she was the one in charge of the keys that day."

See? No need to "snitch", just focus on pointing the facts (your coworker was in charge of the keys that day) instead of phrasing it as a blame thing. But most importantly, speak first with your coworker to reach an agreement.

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Distance yourself from the idea, that everything that happens is someones fault. In reality there is multiple reasons why things happen and more importantly it doesn't really serve anyone debating who's fault something is, if it isn't too dramatic and there is no legal repercussions.

My boss messaged me in the morning that I have to write yesterday's report as we forgot to write it yesterday.

This, for example, doesn't sound like your boss is blaming you, but it is stating that you together as a team, did not write it (which is factual) and now someone needs to write it, which happens to be you.

Instead of trying to determine who is at fault for past events, try to think about how to avoid future events in the future.

My coworker had locked one set of doors and left the keys in the middle. Not knowing he hadn't put them back, I locked the second set. This was a huge problem as the person the next morning was locked out. I told my boss I will double check the key is where it belongs before locking the second door, but IMHO my coworker was more at fault for leaving it where it doesn't belong. Should I have said any of this?

Miscommunications happen, and telling your boss what you can do to avoid this problem in the future is the right thing. In a healthy work environment, there is no point in arguing of who was at fault, it just feels petty.

Also the boss complained the store was left in a messy state. My coworker did not help with cleaning at all and went home early. I told my boss I had stayed until the end of my shift and done as much work as I could.

You probably don't want to be the person who always stays late and does extra work, so the best thing is to bring it up neutrally, without blaming your coworkers. "I stayed long to clean up, and in future we should find a way where this work is done earlier, so nobody has to stay late."

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  • "Distance yourself from the idea" I agree with this in theory but find in practice this doesn't always work. If someone comes up and says "you didn't do x like you were supposed" how can I respond without it being a matter of blame? – casablancaeggplant Apr 30 at 7:20
  • @casablancaeggplant I didn't write "Never talk about blame". There is enough situations where you need to cover your ass. It just is not a very useful thing to assign blame to someone by default. And even worse, it can be very transparent and you will not appear as a team player if you seem to try avoid responsibility in every case by pointing fingers to others. – Helena Apr 30 at 13:53

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