Steps for addressing the situation without delay — and with a cool head.

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Accepting responsibility for our errors is part of any job. But how about when we’re blamed for somebody else’s screwup?

It happens. Usually it’s just a misunderstanding. Other times someone is trying to pull a fast one.

Either way, don’t let it ride. You never know how the hit to your reputation will play out farther down the road. And, if the finger-pointing was intentional, you don’t want to get known as the office patsy.

Instead, address the situation without delay and with a cool head. What you’re aiming for here is a calm and friendly statement of the facts, reminding everyone that, for example, inventory updates are the function of so-and-so, not you.

You might also ask your supervisor for help. Again, stick to the facts. Resist the urge to hotly accuse so-and-so of stabbing you in the back, even if you suspect (or know) that is the case. Always remember that reacting with anger or outrage tends to make people look guilty even when they’re not. Taking the high road, on the other hand, makes you look good while making a wrongful accuser look bad.

To prevent future episodes, you may want to start creating paper trails. You don’t have to make a big deal of this. It’s easy to summarize the results of that informal hallway meeting and zip it off in an email to the appropriate parties. Putting things in writing also ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Is there ever a situation when you should accept blame for someone else’s mistake?

Sometimes. When the issue is so minor that calling attention to it would make you look petty, letting it go may be the best option. The plus side is that others will notice you’ve opted to be the bigger person, and will respect you more.

You can also earn respect — and gratitude — from co-workers by occasionally covering for them. While it’s never a good idea to shield someone’s habitual poor performance, it can sometimes be the best and kindest thing to protect a new team member or anyone with less power than you.

Just don’t make a habit of it. Being the one to constantly shoulder the blame is not good for you or for your career.