In the ever-evolving landscape of human resources and corporate leadership, acknowledging and addressing employee concerns is paramount to fostering a healthy work environment. A recent example leadership actively embracing accountability comes from Costco’s CEO, Ron Vachris, and outgoing CEO, Craig Jelinek. Their response to employees unionizing at the Norfolk location in Virginia sets a powerful precedent for leaders everywhere. In this blog post, we explore their admirable stance on accountability and responsibility and provide valuable tips for leaders on how to take ownership when faced with challenges.

Costco CEOs’ Acknowledgment:

Ron Vachris and Craig Jelinek exhibited a rare quality in leadership by acknowledging their own role in the discontentment that led to employees unionizing. In their own words, “We’re not disappointed in our employees; we’re disappointed in ourselves as managers and leaders. The fact that a majority of Norfolk employees felt that they wanted or needed a union constitutes a failure on our part.” This candid admission of responsibility serves as a model for leaders facing similar situations.

Tips for Leadership:

  1. Listen Actively: Leaders must cultivate a culture of open communication. Actively listen to employees’ concerns, feedback, and suggestions without judgment. By creating an environment where employees feel heard, leaders can gain valuable insights into potential issues before they escalate.
  2. Self-Reflection: Take a cue from Costco’s CEOs and engage in regular self-reflection. Leaders should assess their own actions, decisions, and communication styles to identify areas for improvement. Accepting personal responsibility is the first step toward building trust within the team.
  3. Avoid Blame-Shifting: When faced with challenges, resist the urge to blame others or external factors. A leader’s ability to take ownership of both successes and failures fosters a culture of accountability. This, in turn, encourages employees to do the same.
  4. Proactive Problem Solving:Instead of reacting defensively to employee concerns, adopt a proactive approach to problem-solving. Address issues head-on, involve relevant stakeholders, and work collaboratively to find sustainable solutions. This approach demonstrates commitment to positive change.
  5. Transparent Communication:Transparency builds trust. Communicate openly with employees about organizational decisions, changes, and challenges. Keeping employees informed fosters a sense of belonging and helps prevent misunderstandings that can lead to dissatisfaction.
  6. Continuous Learning: Embrace a growth mindset by viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. Leaders who continuously seek to evolve and adapt are better equipped to navigate the complexities of managing a team.


The example set by Costco’s CEOs serves as a beacon for leaders seeking to navigate difficult or undesired outcomes. By actively listening, engaging in self-reflection, avoiding blame-shifting, adopting proactive problem-solving, practicing transparent communication, and embracing continuous learning, leaders can foster a workplace culture that values accountability and ultimately ensures the success and satisfaction of their teams. The great news is that you do not have to do this alone. Our HR Consultants at HR Idaho have the experience needed to help support businesses through the good times as well as the challenging times. Contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation.