Service of When to Tell the Boss

April 15th, 2024

Categories: Admissions, Apology, Trust, Truth

The trend these days is to never admit to an error, never apologize and look for someone or something else to blame if caught. I am ever thankful that my job isn’t crucial to life and limb such as folding parachutes, operating on patients, or air traffic controller. It’s hard to ignore a mistake made by people in these jobs. My errors are embarrassing but they don’t kill anyone.

A friend shared this situation. She was working at home when she heard a crash in the kitchen. Her cleaning woman was working there. My friend figured that the woman had broken one or two wine glasses that were on the kitchen counter. She didn’t want to make her feel badly so she didn’t leave her office to confront her.

The cleaning woman didn’t say a word about it. Both glasses appear to be missing. Was it strange that she didn’t own up, my friend asked?

In the days before email I’d mailed out a “Save the Date” for a client’s press introduction. The client received a copy and called to say the date was wrong. At first I thought she was teasing me. When she said she was serious, I immediately said I’d pay for the printing and postage of another mailing. She said that the mistake was her fault, that she hadn’t told me about the date change, and she acknowledged that she’d approved the copy with the wrong date. She wouldn’t hear of my paying for the correction.

I’ve made mistakes or inadvertently caused a kerfuffle and while it’s hard to do, I’ve prepared my client or boss, getting in front of the issue by admitting it. Never once have I been sorry. I figure the person would rather hear it from me than be blindsided should there be repercussions.

My laptop has a voracious appetite. I was convinced I’d seen an email from a client—it flashed by. But I couldn’t find it anywhere including in my deleted, junk or spam files. The man is terribly busy, but I fell on my sword and asked him to send it again. He laughed. I never found the original.

What should my friend do about the cleaning lady—ask if she broke the wine glasses or forget about the instance? Have you owned up to a mistake or do you cross your fingers and hope it goes away?

7 Responses to “Service of When to Tell the Boss”

  1. EAM Said:

    I think that it depends on the situation. My Mom has also had the experience of service people breaking things hoping it would go unnoticed. I tend to get ahead of things by being transparent. At times, it has created more work and explanation than I would’ve preferred.

  2. Martha Tepper Takayama Said:

    It can be easier if someone owns up to an error even though it is uncomfortable for the person who commits it. Being forthright and honest makes the situation more comfortable.

    The manner in which you address the matter can vary according to what you perceive necessary. My father had a collection of antique pouring and drinking vessels on shelves on the wall in his law office. A cleaning lady broke one while dusting (which may not have been required of her) and told my father, but with great apprehension and offers to reimburse. My father gently reassured her that such things happen, that there was no need to think about trying to compensate for the item and relieved her of her financial anxiety. From then on, it was made clear that it was not part of her daily office cleaning work to dust those shelves. Everything was resolved peacefully.

    The current common practice of refusal to take responsibility for all kinds of other errors today, especially medical, scheduling, financial, transportation and social have much more potential for serious consequences. It seems to be a phenomenon that has to be addressed from a very early age on. Once again the current social/political Trump philosophy is based on denying any and all responsibility for any and all errors! When will it change???

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A housekeeper admitted that she’d broken the saucer to a coffee cup and saucer given to me by a favorite person. What upset me was that she didn’t tell me until AFTER she’d tossed the broken dish. My husband had been fabulous at piecing together broken dishes. He didn’t get the chance. Oh well.

  4. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Honestly is ALWAYS the best policy. Accidents happen, but people expect, deserve and respect being told the truth. I always give clients the same advice because 1) it’s the right thing to do, and 2) it’s always the little lie that will cause your downfall. Remember, Martha Stewart didn’t go to jail for stock manipulation but for lying about it!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    True. And I add to your advice, when it comes to being loosey goosey with the truth, “who remembers?” if you make up something.

  6. Anonymous Said:

    Loretta on Facebook Own up, and apologize. 🙏 the wine glasses were not sentimental glasses in the family a long time. If not treasured family heirlooms, …order similar set on Amazon or Macys and have them shipped to house without prior discussion. I think “employer” would be happily surprised by employee’s gesture.
    In a different employee/employee situation owning g ip is still best option, —-employer also should ask themself “am I approachable”, and Msybe seek input from employee what can “we” do yo avoid this happening again.
    If errors/mistakes/breakages happen “too” many times ,…then maybe time for new employee!

  7. Hussein Ahman Uttah Said:

    Oh I can do better than that! I well remember my father suddenly starting to notice when silver cutlery, – over time, – was no longer present in the silver drawer.He was starting to get nervous about the family and /or various slaves possibly not being careful about accidentally tipping away cutlery into the bin with grub.

    A few weeks ago I noticed the same thing and asked over the dinner table for everyone to please be vigilant about our antique Rosenthal “Romance” by Bjorn Wiinblad silverware that my mother had given us as a wedding present which was starting to “reduce substantially in number” in our cutlery drawer. Curiously, at the same time, some el-cheapo stamped-out garbage cutlery seemed to be proliferating out of nowhere in that drawer as ad hoc ‘replacements’.

    Quick as a flash, Moustapha Bin As-lip, our junior offspring retorted that it MUST be our cleaning person, because none of us w/could possibly have thrown them away!

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