A reader writes:
I’m a software developer and often have to work with a lot of internal clients. Most are great, but there’s one guy I’m not sure how to handle.
When something doesn’t work right or I have an issue, my strategy is to deal directly with the person responsible. I only loop in my manager, their manager, or both if I can’t resolve the issue directly with the person responsible Most others at the company are like this. However, when this person has a problem or issue with something I’ve done, he emails my manager, his manager, my manager’s manager, all the way up the chain ON THE FIRST EMAIL. I feel this makes me look like I’m not helpful, which I am. I resolve most issues very quickly.
The last time he sent such an email, it turned out to be the case that he was doing something wrong. I really wanted to hit “reply all” when I told him this, but thought this would make me look unprofessional and I also didn’t want to waste my manager’s time with a small issue. Should I have done “reply all”? Would this make him stop? What’s the best strategy for dealing with someone like this? If I ever have an issue with him, should I include his manager on the email so he can see what it’s like?
Honestly, I probably would have hit “reply all” in your shoes. He’s the one who pulled other people in — you’re simply letting them know that it’s handled; it’s not your fault that closing the loop in this case happens to include making it clear that he the one doing something wrong. Of course, there’s an argument for being the bigger person and not taking satisfaction in such things. I’m not that bigger person though.
Anyway, this is understandably annoying. By pulling in all these people who don’t need to be cc’d, he’s basically saying “I don’t trust you to handle this on your own and/or I think that people above you need to be aware of the heinous mistake you have committed.”
Of course, before we get too worked up about him, it’s worth asking yourself whether he has any cause for that. If you have a pattern of being unresponsive to him, or if there’s been a pattern of Terrible Errors, it’s possible that he’s justified in cc’ing someone higher up. But I’m betting that’s not the case, because if he were just taking a reasonable action in such a situation, he could just cc your manager or his and be done with it. There’s no reason he’d need to be wildly cc’ing all up the chain of command.
So, assuming that he is in fact not doing this in response to some sort of pattern on your end, your two choices are to (a) ignore it and assume that others on the email chain are rolling their eyes at him too (a pretty good bet), or (b) say something to him, which may or may not be effective. If you choose (b), you could say: “Hey, Fergus, I don’t think we need to cc all these people when it’s a pretty simple matter like X or Y. If you want to just send this stuff to me, I can usually get it fixed.” Alternately, if you have a good relationship with your manager, you could ask her to suggest he cut it out. If she’s willing to say “Fergus, please send these emails directly to Jane and stop cc’ing me and others,” that would probably end it.
But if none of that works, fall back on ignoring it and assuming that others are rolling their eyes too.