Can I Be Fired For Spilling Sugar Packets?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about minor errors:

The other day I left some artificial sweetener packets on the counter in the lunchroom. They were left opened and some sugar may have spilled –I was in a hurry to get to the bathroom. One of my supervisors approached me and asked if I left the mess. I told him no because I was too embarrassed to admit that I did it and that I had to rush to go to the bathroom. He started asking others in the room and everyone else said no. He then said that upper management was going to start cracking down on people leaving messes in the lunchroom, and that there are cameras around. I was wondering if I can be fired for leaving this mess?

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

I doubt you would be fired for leaving sugar packets on the counter. It sounds as though this wasn’t the first mess to be created in the lunchroom, so probably others have done the same thing or worse.However, you might be fired for lying and continuing to lie by not taking responsibility for it. If an employee can’t be trusted to tell the truth about small things, how can he or she be trusted with the larger issues?It’s not too late to make things right.

Email your supervisor or talk to him and explain that you didn’t admit to spilling the sweetener because you had been rushing to get to the bathroom. Tell him you’re sorry you didn’t tell the truth and that it won’t happen again. Then, tell him you are going to volunteer to tidy up the lunchroom at least once a day for the next few weeks as a way to make up for what you did, and that he can be sure you will take full responsibility for cleaning up any mess you create from now on. That will go a long way toward letting him know you can be trusted.Lunchroom courtesy is a continual problem in most offices. There are several ways to keep it clean: Assign people on a rotating basis, ask for volunteers, or simply have one or two good citizens in the office clean things up when they are in the lunch room.The important issue in this case, however, is that you regain the trust of your supervisor—who probably suspects it was you and is disappointed in you not being truthful about it.It isn’t the biggest sin in the world to confess to, so just do it and get it over with. Then, keep the lunch room clean for a few weeks and be the leader in showing by your example that if everyone helps there can be a clean, pleasant place for everyone to relax.Best wishes for being gutsy and showing what an honorable person you are!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.