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Take responsibility—boldly

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Q:  I work for a firm that makes harnesses for window washers. A harness broke and injured two workers. Then I learned my manager didn’t buy the product-liability insurance I specifically asked him to get months earlier. Now I look bad, even though it’s not my fault. What should I do?

A:  You’re the boss, so you’re on the hook if an employee didn’t do what you asked. It was your job to follow up. If you didn’t, then it is your fault as well as his. Take responsibility. Explain to higher-ups that you’re taking steps to ensure this will never again happen. And cheer up: You’re lucky no one got killed. Consider that Jack Welch’s first job at General Electric Co. was helping run a Pittsfield, Mass., plant that blew up. He took responsibility and explained to his bosses what went wrong. Welch became the revered chairman and CEO of GE.

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