The company I currently work at offers accommodation to interns, a position I currently have. This accommodation is shared among other interns.

It so happens that I broke an appliance at the house. Obviously I did not do this on purpose but it turned out to be a consequence of a probably dumb action.

The management sent the appliance for repair or possible replacement, so they obviously know it's broken. However, they did not ask who broke it.

As I understand it, they are trying to play a fair role and not to trying to find out who is the culprit and I guess the reason is that it would be beneficial to no one.

(How) Should I convey to them that I was the responsible for this?

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    This post is not nearly as entertaining as the title promised, which I guess is a good thing for the OP, but still...
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 13:46
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    Unless it is like a 1000$ + machine I wouldnt worry about it. Stuff breaks all the time, cost of doing business. They honestly probably dont care who broke it. It needs to be repaired either way.
    – marsh
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 13:49
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    Sent a letter to your past self, reminding him that it's his duty to inform them if he broke something. Waiting till they find out by themselves is a bit too late to apologize. :-|
    – s1lv3r
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 14:06
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    It really depends on what was broken and how. It it broke because of normal usage, even if it seems like "your fault" I wouldn't worry about it. For example rinsing a coffee pot causing it to crack. If on the other hand you did something stupid, like microwaved a cd player, it's time to own up.
    – coteyr
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 0:58
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    They filled a house full of college kids - they probably expect the entire house to fall apart in the next year. Not being mean, being actuarial.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 7:57

8 Answers 8


Yes, you should. It's simple enough: "hi XXX, I'm really sorry but I think I broke the appliance in the intern place by accident. I'm taking full responsibility and please let me know what to do next"

If you are lucky they'll say "stuff happens, cost of doing business". Worst case you have to pay for it. In any case you will build trust and credibility as an honest and trustworthy person.

Making mistakes is a part of professional life and the right way to deal with it is to own up to it, learn from it and deal with the consequences.

  • 151
    Pro-tip: break appliance, own up and pay, build trust. :)
    – Masked Man
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 13:30
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    Related personal anecdote: When I was a student, I came back from work very angry one day and punched the kitchen wall thinking I'd let off some steam, but I hit it so hard that my arm went through it. I called the landlady, who was very amused. She recommended a trusted local repairman, I paid for the repair, and we were on great terms for the rest of the lease. Shit happens, people understand.
    – Anko
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 14:05
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    I'd suggest asking to cover the cost even if they don't ask you to. If it's an expensive appliance, ie. more than a hundred bucks or so, well... cost of building trust, as b3njamin says.
    – rath
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 14:34
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    The wording could be made clearer. If you mean "I think I broke the appliance" - well, the OP knows that he/she broke it, not somebody else. If you mean "I think it was an accident" - hmmm, most likely that means "actually, it wasn't an accident, but I'm not going to tell you what really happened because that would be too self-incriminating".
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 15:37
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    I don't understand the desire to pay for the device. Everything breaks eventually, especially if it is used by multiple people. So, according to this, the last poor guy who happens to use an appliance has to pay for it when it finally does break?? Just report and say "It's not working anymore." and say nothing about paying for it.
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:17

To provide an alternate opinion, no, you shouldn't "turn yourself in" at this point. It might have made sense before they had it repaired, but after the fact, it doesn't.

If they're not trying to find out who broke it, they don't care. If they want to know, they'll ask, and you should tell the truth, but I see no reason or sense in volunteering the information that you did something stupid and broke a piece of company property. It happens, it's not a big deal, and companies carry insurance and have contracts/retainers for this very reason. Cost of doing business/part of life.

You should probably be asking yourself why you're so concerned about this, when it seems that no one else is.

  • 38
    In general I agree with this. Normally I say honesty is the best policy, but if no-one else cares and no-one is asking then coming forwards after the fact is just stirring up drama to no advantage for anyone. Note that there is a big difference between lying if asked and never being asked though. :)
    – Tim B
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 15:18
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    @JohnOglesby Where are you working that "broke an appliance in corporate housing" or "failed to report breaking an appliance in corporate housing" is a black mark, let alone a black mark that would follow someone anywhere? You are way overthinking this thing. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:43
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    @HopelessN00b Any place that expects employees to have integrity and not hide their mistakes. I'm not saying or implying that it's a firing offense. But if I knew someone did damage and never owned up to it, I'd be hesitant to give them more responsibility or advancement. There is a proverb that says whoever can be trusted in small things can be trusted in larger things, and whoever is dishonest in small things will be dishonest with larger things. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 1:24
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    @JohnOglesby Although what you said seems to be true, honestly most people simply don't give a crap because they're so freaking busy already. By you deliberately telling them something that's not asked for, the listener suddenly become responsible for a piece of information that they did not want to know in the first place.
    – Nelson
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 7:31
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    Maybe they didn't make a big deal about it, not because they know it was you but because they know the perverted behavior that broke it and are attempting to exercise discretion, and if you tell them it was you then they'll know you're a pervert.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 15:40

Yes, and you should be honest as to what happened and do it as soon as possible. If you come clean right away and explain that it was a honest mistake, you will easily be forgiven.

If they find out later that you did it but didn't admit to it, you'll most likely be fired.

The reason I'm so alarmist about this is that even though your company might not fire you for something like this, in many countrys (most of the US included) they would be well within their rights to do so.

Generally speaking (and that counts for non-legal reasons too) it is within your duty of care that when you break or damage someone else's property that you notify them of it.

  • 2
    @Lilienthal In many companys it is, and in my country, immidiate dismissal for cause would permissible for this. If you break or damage someone else's property, its within your duty of care to notify them.
    – Magisch
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 13:48
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    Coming forward probably won't make a difference as to whether it's a fireable offense or not. In an at-will employment situation, it's fireable whether he comes forward or not, and in a situation with more legal protections, it's probably not fireable either way - he's not lying or covering anything up, after all. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 14:12
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    In the US, your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason, just as you can quit for any reason or no reason. Given a choice, it is better to be fired unfairly than to retain your job through dishonest means. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 15:20
  • If you fail to report it immediately, you're still better off reporting it later. Don't make a bit deal out of a small problem: just make some brief mention that this thing did happen. This shows that you aren't prone to hide something just because of fear. If you're discovered to hide something trivial, that can look really bad. Reporting late is better than not reporting (if anyone cares, which you likely can't know). Even in improbably case of bad over-reaction, then it's done. Later in life, you won't be haunted by wondering how much better doing the right thing would've been
    – TOOGAM
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 5:05

I do not feel you are obligated to tell your employer, and not just because they don't seem to care: all people deserve privacy in their living space, regardless of whether the space is rented, owned, or provided. This is respected by a variety of laws governing landlord/tenant relationships. You should generally never feel compelled to share anything that you do privately in your living space, with anyone.

In the extreme case that a tenant is routinely breaking appliances, it is up to the landlord to create a new agreement that shifts responsibility to the tenant. If you are already in such an arrangement then you should tell your employer what happened.

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    If what you do privately in your living space involves breaking property that belongs to someone else (namely, the owner of said living space), then yes, you should feel compelled to share that information. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:33
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    @Zach Lipton: Normal property rules don't traditionally apply to landlord/tenant relationships for a variety of good reasons. Lease agreements are used to define the responsibilities of the arrangement, and I think the OP in this case should stick to whatever his lease agreement is. Normal use of appliances includes human stupidity and I don't think the OP should go out of his way to implicate himself for anything he is not legally obligated to. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:46
  • This seems to be a legalistic answer about legal obligations, the question is tagged professionalism and ethics. Surely it is both ethical and professional to tell a landlord when you damage their property - even when it is not a legal obligation. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 13:57
  • Failure to report the issue is, at a minimum, unethical under most circumstances. It's absurd to think "normal use of appliances includes human stupidity". In the normal use of an appliance it might wear out, or a manufacturing defect may be realized, and these are beyond the user's reasonable control. If the poster mistreated the item (which I would infer based on his feeling it necessary to even inquire about), this would suggest the poster has responsibility for the item being misused and has an ethical obligation to be forthright about it.
    – mah
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 2:13
  • When doing a security deposit check-out, would you all eagerly point the landlord to scuffs, damages, nail-holes, etc., or let them suss it out themselves? I believe the latter option is perfectly ethical, and I think that can perhaps explain the difference of opinion here. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 18:41

As I am understanding it they are trying to play a fair role and not to try to find out who is the culprit and I guess the reason is that wouldn't be beneficial for no one.

How did you figure this? Also what do you mean you broke it at the house? You mean you live at a place they offer or do you mean you broke it at the office?

In any event, if they offer appliances I would hope they'd expect to repair said items periodically. Most companies have "repair contracts" for items in the shop and expect to repair them through the course of usage.

It would be very noble of you to admit to your error but I wouldn't really stress it. I would just write a email to whoever maintains the equipment and simply state that you broke it. However, don't be surprised to not hear anything about it because again they set aside funds to maintain items, at least any good company.

Edit: I should also add once I broke a electronic device by accident. I cracked the screen and wrote a email to admit it and prepared for whatever would happen. I never heard anything about it again. Said device was just fixed. Turns out they have a deal with a company that just hands out these devices so long as they pay the contract.


To start off with; chances are that the apartment is insured (along with the appliances) or it is under a maintenance contract so that the appliances are covered as well.

In short, the business will most likely not be coming after you to pay for the replacement out of pocket.

This is how we do it at my workplace, where we provide housing for staff visiting from remote locations in a company furnished apartment.

Now - should you own up to it? Yes you absolutely should. This shows integrity on your part.

A simple email to your mentor / manager detailing the incident should suffice. If there is anything else that is required (for example, a form that needs to be filled in) your direct supervisor/manager will let you know.

Other than a chance of demonstrating your integrity and honesty, I do not see how this could backfire on to you - of course, I assume you are acting quickly and not 6 months down the line in a sudden attack of guilt :-)


If they are not looking for the person who broke this appliance we could assume they are smart and fair as you say.

Asking this question to yourself shows your honesty and integrity, they cannot blame you for an accident. I deeply think that you should tell them and explain the situation.

For the next time (hopping that it will not happen again to you) I would advice to turn yourself in before they notice the damage by themselves, especially now you know they are fair and do not look for blaming someone.

Do not worry ;)


I think it might help you to admit fault and offer to cover the cost of the repair or replacement. Probably your manager will tell you to forget it, but he will remember that you took responsibility.

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