In Trouble For A Coworker’s Mistake

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being blamed:

My colleague and I are security guards who work in a museum. My colleague said he would lock the museum while I waited in the shop for the staff to count the cash.The staff left the site and my colleague returned and put the keys back in cabinet. He tried to set the alarm but it kept bleeping intermittently, which tells us there is a zone open. I told him there must be a door open, but he over road the fault and alarm, then we left the site.

The next day a door was discovered open and it was investigated. Then, other complaints were made about my colleague at other sites. We were both given final written warnings. Mine was for not locking the door. However, my colleague had the keys and he told me he was locking the site. I have worked for this company for 16 months and my record in all areas is A-1. I haven’t done anything wrong. I told him there must be a door open and he ignored me. Is this right and what should I do next?

Signed, Feeling Wrongly Punished

DearĀ Feeling Wrongly Punished:

I can imagine this is frustrating to you, because you put your trust in your coworker and he let you down. It’s embarrassing and worrisome to get a final warning when work was going so well until then.One way to consider the justice of this is to think about what you would have said if this scenario would have been in a new job interview: “OK, here is your last interview questions, Candidate #1. Let’s say you and a colleague are locking up for the night. The alarm sounds a warning to indicate that a door is open. You see or know that your colleague overrode the warning so it will stop alerting that a door is open. Then, he says it’s OK to go home. What would you do?”I think you would say that you would insist the doors be checked again, because you are responsible, just as your colleague is, for making sure everything is locked up.The big issue here is whether you knew he was overriding the warning or if he told you he went back and locked the door and that’s why the warning is no longer sounding. I think you probably knew he was overriding the warning. At this point there is probably nothing you can do to remove the final warning notice in your files, unless there is new information you didn’t provide to your managers that would make a difference. (Like the one I mentioned, where you were told the door had been checked and locked.)

You may want to write a letter to your manager, as a way to reaffirm to him that you are a good employee and that this was a mistake that won’t happen again. You would say something like, “I’ve thought a lot about what happened and feel badly about it. This letter is to let you know that I can see now where I could have done things differently. I’m looking forward to a chance to make up for this bad situation by doing the best work possible and showing my professionalism. Sincerely…”A letter (or a conversation with the manager) might at least remind your employers that you are a good employee and are committed to moving forward and not making that mistake in the future. As you come back from this upsetting situation, put all your focus on doing well. If the coworker talks to you about it, your best response is to say that you learned a lesson from it and it won’t happen again. You may feel less friendly about that person, but continue to behave professionally with him and others. If he is going to improve he will–and if he continues to make mistakes he’ll be gone one day soon. Just don’t let him take you with him!As time goes on, this will become only a problem that was corrected, compared with months of doing excellent work. Best wishes to you in the future.

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.