my manager accused me of making up numbers

A reader writes:

Long story short, my manager has accused me of making up numbers twice.

The first time, I knew I had not made up a number but I had always been told not to be defensive about feedback so I said, “I’m sorry, it must have been a calculation error.”

The second time, I immediately knew that it had just been a misunderstanding on my part regarding which data to use. She pointed out the mistake and told me she was disappointed and that it should have been an easy project (true). Then she told me that if I didn’t understand, I should ask and not make up numbers.

I was taken aback but apologized for the mistake and went back to see what had happened. When I went back to her to explain what had gone wrong, she reiterated that if it had gone upwards, I would have been yelled at.

Alison, data integrity (and just integrity in general) is important to me. I would never make up numbers, and I’m hurt and offended that my manager would think this about me. Add in that it’s performance review season and I’m suddenly doubting how I’m viewed here. How can I get my manager to stop assuming the worst when she doesn’t understand what I did?

What’s your manager like aside from this? If she’s normally a reasonable person who doesn’t jump on you and assume the worse, this may just be a weird fluke. But based on what you’ve described here, I’m worried that it’s part of a broader pattern with her.

And really, telling you that you’d be “yelled at” is not exactly a hallmark of a well-functioning workplace, although maybe she meant it as shorthand for “this would be a big deal” rather than that you’d literally be yelled at. For the record, yelling isn’t a thing that you see in good workplaces.

Regardless of the bigger picture, though, it’s reasonable to go back to her now and say something like this: “I’m really concerned that you thought I might have made up numbers the other day. Data integrity — and integrity in general — is really important to me, and I’d never, ever make up numbers. I did make a mistake, but it was a mistake of misunderstanding which data to use. It’s important to me that you know I don’t fabricate numbers, since that’s such a serious thing.”

This isn’t being defensive about feedback. You took responsibility for the mistake you did make but now are setting the record straight on another matter of significant importance.

If you want, you can add in, “Have I done something to make you worry that I would do that?”

This should make her much more hesitant to jump to that conclusion in the future. Ideally it will shame her a little bit too, if it nudges her to realize that she was accusing you of something pretty offensive, but not everyone is susceptible to shame. (Which is unfortunate, because in situations like this, a little shame is warranted and can be quite effective in changing people’s behavior.)

{ 165 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. la bella vita

      Totally agree. Worst Boss Ever used to call random (male) analysts into his office to check my numbers in front of me (I was a couple levels up from them) if he didn’t like the results – he would condescendingly tell me that I obviously did the analysis wrong and then get legitimately annoyed when they would get the same result I did. It was so humiliating (he was a huge misogynist and LOVED to demean women).

      Reply
        1. la bella vita

          Technically, he was my grandboss – speaking of being “yelled at,” he was big on yelling. One time he screamed at me on the phone “are you f***ing stupid or just lazy?” because he didn’t like a footnote… that he forgot he wrote. My manager, courageous leader that he was, said precisely nothing. I was out of that place in 7 months.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            I commend you on your restraint. I might’ve been sorely tempted to slash his tires or something on the way out the door. What a colossal jerk.

            Reply
          2. LabTech

            One time he screamed at me on the phone “are you f***ing stupid or just lazy?” because he didn’t like a footnote… that he forgot he wrote.

            What is it about terrible bosses and criticizing you for their own work? I’ve had this happen with multiple terrible bosses in the past. Once even going so far as to question whether it was actually his own handwriting…

            Reply
            1. Melissa D

              I had a boss demand that I do something a certain way. I explained that I really didn’t think doing it that way a good idea and would likely result in chaos. I was basically told to shut up and do as I was told. I managed to build a template of what my boss wanted, and had her sign it with that statement that this was EXACTLY what she wanted before I put it into effect.

              Predictably, chaos ensued a few weeks later. My boss stormed at me and starting screaming about me “sabotaging everything”. I quickly found the signed template (which mirrored exactly what I put into effect) and said, “you signed this”.

              Her response? “I would NEVER ask for this design and you obviously built a bad template and got me to sign it while I was preoccupied just to sabotage me and my company. You know I have ADD and you preyed on me. This is still all your fault.”

              I quit the next day.

              Reply
              1. la bella vita

                Wow. She sounds insane. Glad you escaped.

                Relatively benign story from the same terrible job: on my second day, my terrible, spineless boss (the one who let his boss scream at me on the phone) kept me until 10pm for no apparent reason other than he was a workaholic (red flag #1 for the 80+ hour work weeks I was in for that they totally lied about in the interview process). At some point during the evening, he asked me to print out some slides and stop by. I printed out two copies and brought them to his office – he took one look at them, sighed, and said “well, you’ve made your first mistake.” He then proceeded to pull the staple out and lecture me about how I was to use mini binder clips in this condescending tone, as if everyone know that staples are the devil. He had no concept of the difference between true business norms and personal preferences.

                Reply
              2. Sarah With An H

                I am going through this right now. My boss told me to do a project a certain way. I didn’t agree with what he wanted me to do, said I didn’t and didn’t understand why he wanted me to do it, but ended up doing it that way because that’s what he wanted. A few days later, when reviewing this project, he got upset with me and told me I was incompetent and that he could no longer trust my judgement. I pulled the email where he told me what to do. He got angrier and changed the subject. That subject had him griping at me for not completing another project on time that he handed to me after the deadline. I will own up to my mistakes, but I will not take the blame for something I’m not at fault for. I am currently looking for another job.

                Reply
  1. Allypopx

    I’ve worked exclusively in places where “yelling” is short hand for “being spoken to about something you’ve done wrong” or “being spoken to in a firm, disappointed manner” and I’ve always understood the intention, but as time goes on and I spend more time as a manager it’s really starting to grate on me. I’d really like that vernacular to die.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      I am taking this to heart, I think I’ve probably used this shorthand (even “getting in trouble” is still childish and problematic). I suppose I just struggle to explain to junior employees what is a big deal and what is not.

      Reply
      1. Allypopx

        I’m guilty of that too, totally. It’s just struck me over time that it’s a scare tactic and once that sunk in I really tried to get it out of my language. There’s nothing wrong with saying “this is a big deal”. Tone communicates a lot. And I’ve found explaining consequences for the company, or for them, or for myself, to be a better way to get the point to sink in. Adults respond to logic pretty well most of the time.

        Reply
        1. Alton

          I think that’s a really good point, and that making an effort to say what you mean and explain things is a great idea.

          My problem with “yelled at” and similar vernacular is that in my experience, it can come across as alarmist and difficult to interpret. I’ve had colleagues/bosses who would say things like “Oh my God, if so-and-so saw this, they’d freak out!” and ones who would say things like, “So-and-so department can be very exacting about this and might take issue with the numbers, so please be aware of that.”

          With the latter, I feel like I understand the issue. The former either makes me inclined to freak out (what if I’m reprimanded? Or fired?!) or makes me start to see that colleague/boss as someone who might be an alarmist or very focused on the possibility of conflict, which makes it hard for me to judge how to interpret their warnings.

          Reply
      2. Busytrap

        Dangit, why did you both have to sound so reasonable on this? I say this all the time as shorthand for “you’re frustrated with me” or “you disagreed with me and said so” and my husband Hates. It. I always argued that it was the best way to shorthand say that we disagreed on something. But your points are valid, so I guess I’ll also take this one to heart. He’ll be pleased… Womp womp. :)

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          Haha you just made me remember how my mom ALWAYS called me out on my over-the-top language when I was a teenager. I was just trying to express how things FELT!!

          Reply
          1. Triplestep

            My daughter (21) likes to say that I am “yelling” at her when I am speaking in a calm tone, saying something she does not like (usually because it is the opposite of what she is saying, and she’s mad it is making sense.) I’m not proud of it, but I’ve been known to actually yell with her, so I don’t want to be told I am yelling when I am not!

            Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            My mom could have a terrifying tone at times and as a kid/teenager, I genuinely felt like she was yelling at me. She used to always be baffled about why I referred to her yelling at me … but it really did feel that way!

            Reply
            1. Evan Þ

              Same with my mom! Once I even called her on it in the moment and said “Wait – you’re yelling at me right now, just like I was telling you about yesterday!” She was still baffled, but once I repeated that yes I did consider that yelling, to her credit she tried to use different tones from then on.

              Reply
              1. MsChanandlerBong

                I admire your mom. Every time I try to tell my mother that something she says or does is hurtful, she tells me I just want to be the center of attention and can’t stand it when people don’t fawn all over me.

                Reply
        2. KF

          Ha. My husband likes to use the term “ballistic” regardless of how mild mannered my approach to a problem (neither one of us yells). I’ve had to explain any number of times that his hyperbole doesn’t help the situation and that, in fact, that accusation is likely to escalate the problem. It never occurred to me that it might just be shorthand for him disliking what I’m saying or the tone I’m using rather than commentary on how I’m actually saying something.

          Reply
          1. LN

            Yeah, people tend to communicate poorly when they’re upset by something. I was literally almost whispering/mumbling the other day when my boyfriend complained I was “yelling at him.” What he meant was that I sounded angry, even though the volume of my voice was almost undetectable by human ears. It wouldn’t annoy me so much if he weren’t usually the FIRST person to trot out “dictionary definitions” in arguments, like he’s the only person who’s allowed to use colloquialisms or metaphors or exaggerate, but….hey, this is AAM, not my therapist’s office.

            Reply
            1. Floundering Mander

              Hey, are you seeing my husband on the side? ;-)

              We just had an argument that went something like this. I was trying to be very clear about something mildly annoying that he did and didn’t seem to understand. He accused me of yelling at him and getting upset. I was talking in my normal voice.

              But his middle name starts with P, and I joke all the time that it stands for pedantic. He’d never let it slide if I said he was yelling in the same circumstances.

              Reply
        3. Jennifer Thneed

          My wife and I had a good friend who was going thru a rough patch with his husband. Our friend would say his husband yelled at him. Sometimes our friend would say his husband screamed at him. And I assumed that voices were actually raised, in anger, at high volume. We would say that was an outsized reaction, be generally supportive, tell him he wasn’t unreasonable, tell him gently when he *was* unreasonable, etc.

          A couple years down the line, the marriage was strong again and my wife and our friend hung out together sometimes playing board games. There was a conversation about (I don’t remember what and I wasn’t there). Our friend reported back to me that my wife had screamed at him, and that landed like a rock on my foot.

          Folks, my wife doesn’t scream. She doesn’t yell at people. She’ll yell at cats who are being bad, but … srsly. When she has strong emotions, she shuts down and goes all rational. She really truly does not yell or scream in anger and after 15-ish years of marriage I was very certain of that.

          …which meant I had to recalibrate everything our friend had told us about arguments with his husband. And I talked to the friend about it. He said he’d been using “yelled” to indicate intensity of emotion but, oh yeah, he could see how I’d take it literally like that. That friendship never officially ended but yeah, we don’t see them anymore.

          Reply
        4. Specialk9

          Don’t you Hate when you get logicked into changing behavior? Argh, it’s the worst. (I usually make faces, cuz I’m mature that way.)

          Reply
    2. SarcasticFringehead

      I’m working hard to rephrase it in my own conversations – my manager is very supportive, so when I say something like “I worry I’ll get yelled at by X for following Y’s directions,” he’ll immediately get worried that X has given me the impression that they’d actually yell at me, when what I mean is “I’m concerned that X doesn’t agree with Y and may get frustrated (at me or not) if I follow Y’s directions.” It’s not useful shorthand if it mischaracterizes the situation to the point where the actual issue may not get addressed.

      Reply
      1. nonegiven

        I’d phrase that as I wish X and Y would get together and make up their minds how this needs to be done and then let me know.

        Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        Ooh! That’s much better. I say “yelled at” all the time when I don’t mean it literally, and it can cause misunderstandings. I’ll retrain myself to say “chewed out”!

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I have to say, I don’t like “chewed out” either. These are business relationships, not parent/child relationships. I don’t think good managers chew people out. They have serious conversations — sometimes very serious — but that’s a different thing.

          Reply
          1. Allypopx

            That’s it, thank you Alison, I couldn’t phrase why that phrase also bothers me. It still seems aggressive and condescending. I don’t even really like the word “reprimanded”. “Spoken to”, maybe, but I’d rather identify the problem and have a conversation about the actual tangible consequences of the actions instead of having this environment where people are worried about “getting in trouble”. It does feel uncomfortably parental.

            Reply
            1. Ann O'Nemity

              I usually use “coach.” As in, my manager coached me in ways I could improve my performance. Or, I need to coach Wakeen on eliminating errors. I like the positive association and it makes me feel just a little better about giving or receiving constructive feedback. For me, “yelling” requires a raised voice.

              Reply
            2. NW Mossy

              Depending on the context, I might say “gave feedback,” “clarified,” “reinforced expectations,” “followed up,” “retrained,” or something similar. The specifics of the situation (“when you did X, Y happened and Y is not a good result because Z”) and the tone with which I discuss them will then indicate if this is a little-c conversation or a big-C Conversation.

              Reply
          2. Kathleen Adams

            I dislike “chewed out” even more than “yelled at.” Football coaches chew out their players. Drill instructors chew out sloppy Marines. Bosses should not chew out subordinates.

            Reply
              1. Katieinthemountains

                But this is Ask A Manager! I bet a lot of us have been chewed out. At my former workplace, where we put the fun in dysfunctional, we used “got chewed” to mean “BigBoss lectured me for a poor outcome that was largely out of my control/for completing a task in a different way than what he secretly wanted”. So yes, exactly as you define it.

                Reply
          3. LN

            I have trouble with this one, because I always picture somebody literally gnawing on someone’s arm like a caveman. I have no idea why, but somehow what there the metaphorical language is supposed to convey, for me it just…doesn’t. So I just have this mental image of people literally chewing on each other.

            Reply
            1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

              Same! ‘Tis the ’tisms.
              And to be a little crude for a second, replace ‘chew’ with a synonym and you wouldn’t say that about your boss…

              Reply
        2. nonegiven

          I always get pissed when my husband says I yelled at him about something when I just told him what he needed to know at a normal volume.

          Reply
    3. NW Mossy

      This exact situation caused me to call an employee in another site last week to make sure everything was OK. I was hearing through the grapevine at my site that one of my employees was “yelled at” by a colleague in another area, and knowing that colleague’s history of handling issues poorly, I legit thought for a bit that my poor employee’s in the middle of a shout-fest. Thankfully it ended up being the colloquial use of yell, but I’m sure my employee thought I was loony for being concerned.

      Long story short, if you tell me someone’s yelling at you and I know that person to be a yeller, I’m going to be on that immediately. I HATE IT when people try to resolve stuff at work by talking louder and listening less.

      Reply
      1. Allypopx

        I’m glad you were concerned! That’s a whole other side of the problem – words have meaning, and using the phrase colloquially can normalize actual yelling if the understanding is at all murky. It should just be an unacceptable standard to allude to, full stop.

        Reply
    4. Hey Karma, Over here.

      I read it as, boss was saying “if I hadn’t caught this, you’d be in trouble.” But with the added attitude. Boss is saying, if upstairs found out you were making up numbers, you would be in real trouble, so I’m doing you a favor. You aren’t as slick as you think you are and you are going to get caught and I won’t be able to help you then.
      Instead of listening to you.

      Reply
      1. Original Poster

        Unfortunately, in this case, I think the yelling in question was probably more literal than figurative. Thankfully I have not been yelled at yet, though I have witnessed it.

        Reply
        1. kitryan

          It’s pretty problematic that there’s workplace yelling and that the manager’s jumping to ‘making up numbers’ instead of ‘made an error’ or ‘misunderstood directions’ or something like the actual explanation. This may be a case of ‘your boss/workplace is bad and isn’t going to change’. I’m sorry that you’re in this situation and hope that Allison’s advice will help. Also, if the instructions are unclear and leading you to use the wrong documentation/data as a source, it would probably be good to do some of the CYA stuff recommended in other entries, like restating back your instructions and emailing the actions you plan on taking after verbal meetings – ‘per our discussion, I will take the data from the Llama snuggling tracking chart and the data from the volunteer snugglers schedule and I will have a report on our snuggle rate by Tuesday.

          Reply
    5. Escapee from Corporate Management

      I also used the word “yell” as a metaphor, as I had never been subject to actually yelling at work (but I have been the recipient of calmly-stated disappointment). Then I realized my wife, now a recovering attorney, thought I truly meant my bosses were yelling at me. It turns out that in her law firm experience, the partners were frequently berating the associates. That explained the sideways glances she was giving some of corporate executives whom I genuinely admired. It also greatly reduced my respect for the senior attorneys in her firm.

      FWIW, I have found that calmly-stated disappointment is 100x more effective than yelling in yielding results in the workplace.

      Reply
    6. Susan K

      Ugh, yes, there is too much potential for misunderstanding with this term. I’ve been, uh, “yelled at” at work because a trainee said I “yelled at” her, and our manager took that to mean that I literally yelled and screamed. What really happened was that I caught a serious error the trainee had made and told her — without raising my voice — why it was a big deal, and she complained to the manager because I hurt her feelings.

      Reply
    7. OlympiasEpiriot

      Nope, not “shorthand”. That is hyperbole.

      And, as I have a resonant voice, I frequently get accused of yelling even if my voice is not raised. Been going on my whole life. Being told that is yelling is at best annoying, at worst is a case of redirecting a whole conversation into a blaming situation as people will jump all over that as an excuse to ignore a message.

      Reply
  2. MicroManagered

    I think, in work situations like this, immediately apologizing is an understandable reaction, but it’s likely to be viewed as an admission of guilt.

    Something that’s been helpful to me in situations like this (where my boss is bringing up something that I apparently did wrong and I feel put on the spot), is learning not to explain myself or apologize until I’ve had some time away from the confrontation to figure out what happened. I might say something like “Wow. I’m really concerned about how that happened. I’m sure it’s possible that I made a mistake, but I really want to figure out what happened. Let me check a few things and let you know where I think this went wrong.”

    Then I go back, check through emails and any other documentation I would have. When I have a clear idea of what might have happened, I go back to my manager with “So I looked through ____, and I think what happened is X because Y.” If X or Y is a miscommunication, I say that. If X or Y is just straight-up my mistake, THEN that’s when I own it and apologize.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      This is great advice, and I co-sign. I wouldn’t apologize right away, but I would also take a beat and follow up, as MicroMangered recommends.

      Reply
    2. Allypopx

      I second this really hard. If it’s a data thing I default to “let me check on that” and you know what – sometimes I’m not the one who was wrong. If I get the same result a second time I explain my process to my boss and how it led to my result. Sometimes it’s just a misplaced step, but sometimes (not often) my boss was the one with the wrong calculation and then we can catch that.

      If it’s a conduct issue, I try to clarify what I did, what my boss would have preferred I do, and if it’s reasonable I agree to do it his way in the future. And then apologize for inconvenience/miscommunication/whatever, but not until the issue has been fully addressed.

      If I really do something wrong-wrong, I usually know, and in that situation yeah, I just own it and apologize. And discuss what I’ll do differently going forward.

      But if my integrity was straight up questioned? I think I’d have to say “Wow, that’s a really serious accusation.” Don’t default to apologizing, OP. You can stand up for yourself and still be professional.

      Reply
      1. Original Poster

        Thank you so much for this. I think this is what I was struggling with – I knew that an error existed, and I’m definitely an over-apologizer, but I really did not feel right apologizing for something like this. Going forward, my strategy is going to be taking a moment to process and then coming back to discuss further/ask for clarification/whatever. This is my first professional job, and I’m finding that I’m just not quite executing some things correctly (not being defensive, taking ownership of things you did wrong, etc), but I’ll get there!

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          It’s hard to do, but when it comes to apologizing, apologize for actual mistakes you personally made, AND NOTHING ELSE. The words “I’m sorry” should only cross your lips when you are acknowledging that you legitimately personally did something wrong – don’t apologize for unfortunate circumstances, wrong results that came from running the correct calculation correctly but with bad input data (assuming you didn’t gather said input data, anyway), don’t shoulder the blame for things other people messed up.

          Especially if you’re a woman, people will take you less seriously and view you in a more negative light if you apologize for stuff that isn’t your fault. Don’t make it easier for them to do so – don’t hand them the opportunity on a platter.

          Reply
          1. Allypopx

            “Especially if you’re a woman, people will take you less seriously and view you in a more negative light if you apologize for stuff that isn’t your fault. Don’t make it easier for them to do so – don’t hand them the opportunity on a platter.”

            Unfortunate but very, very true. Great point.

            Reply
        2. SarcasticFringehead

          That’s definitely a great strategy, but keep in mind that you’re not necessarily dealing with a reasonable person here – a good manager will not immediately jump to assuming you made up numbers unless they have other reasons for believing that. Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if you can’t “fix” these interactions by changing your behavior.

          Reply
        3. MicroManagered

          I think if you are concerned about things like not being defensive, owning mistakes when you make them, valuing your integrity, etc. you’re off to a good start. Not all workforce veterans execute these things perfectly each time (myself included!) and some let those bad habits fester unchecked until they become the Difficult Coworker.

          My gut reaction isn’t always my best reaction. I’m a big over-apologizer and I assume it’s my fault first. I think putting some space between that impulse and your response to mistakes is the best antidote to that tendency. Eventually that space gets smaller and smaller until for some things you may not even need to fully walk away and do copious research to figure out that X is wrong because you were provided with bad information. You might be able to gather your thoughts right in the moment and relay that. It just takes practice.

          (And I’m kinda wondering about your manager if she’s being this harsh with someone new to the workforce. I’d maybe just tuck that away as you go forward and remember you might be dealing with a bad manager.)

          Reply
        4. Red 5

          I think when it comes to taking ownership of mistakes, after the part of it that’s outside your control (a bad manager is a bad manager no matter what you do really) the piece that’s served me best is to remember that even when owning up to remember to point out that now that I know what I did I have a plan in place to not do it again.

          For instance, last year some stuff got missed in my normal routine because I was having a bit of an off time due to personal circumstances. When something important fell through the cracks, I owned up to it and also said “I’ve put together a checklist system for myself to make sure that I’m always hitting all the points of this process.” That gave my manager a chance to have input on my checklist if he wanted and showed that I not only recognized my mistake, but understood how to fix it and had taken steps to fix it before it even became a thing.

          Because I have a good manager, I also am able to sometimes say that I’m actively seeking input for how to keep it from happening again/fix the process that’s a problem and get his advice. It took me a very, very long time to be able to say “I’m just not sure what to do” because I’ve had so many bosses that would really not react well to that. But keep at it, you’ll get there. It’s hard, but worth it.

          Reply
      2. Specialk9

        Yes. Accusing you of fabricating data at work is a big freaking deal. For your manager to jump from ‘mistake, maybe yours, dunno’ to ‘you falsified data and lied’. I mean, OP, I honestly don’t know how I could get past this once, but twice would have me applying for jobs. I’m NOT amused by my integrity being impugned.

        (Yes, I sound like a thesaurus when I get mad. I mostly keep that under wraps normally.)

        Reply
      3. Bea W

        My boss started randomly questioning my integrity in weird emails that seemed to come out of left field. I did what you described each time, replying calmly and using facts, and each time my boss immediately back peddled and claimed to not have really meant it “that way”. I She only ever said this verbally though, never in writing. I make no apologies for doing things I did not do, and in my case I’m pretty sure my (now ex) boss was trying to do some weird entrapment thing. I was doubly glad to have stood firm in defending my professional integrity each time.

        Reply
    3. Murphy

      Definitely this. Be concerned about the error and frame your response around finding the cause of the error and fixing it. I got phone call like this the other day that some data had been left off a spreadsheet. I said, “That shouldn’t be, let me take a look at that…”

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        +1 this is what I’m trying to change my default to, because I used to always lead with an apology and I realized my boss sees it as a sign of weakness!

        Reply
    4. Red 5

      I agree here. Now that I’m in a workplace where I can do it, I’ve really learned to say basically “that is really weird, I can definitely fix it, but after I fix it I’ll make sure to figure out why it happened so we’ll know for the future.”

      Instead of an apology, I try to make sure there’s an assurance that the problem won’t persist/that I’ll take care of it because generally that’s what they’re actually worried about. Granted, that doesn’t sound like the case here because jumping to “don’t make up numbers” is just a weird spot to land on even in this kind of situation. But the same idea applies I think.

      Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP, I would take Alison’s advice and follow-up. The allegation that one is “making up numbers” is severe enough that it necessitates a response. I think it’s better for you to have had the chance to offer your perspective than to hope your boss spoke imprecisely. You’d have to be careful about tone, but I think there’s a way to raise this issue in a conscientious way.

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      I agree with this, OP.

      Can you lay out the steps you used to extrapolate the numbers from the data? If you can show a clear, concise “path” that you took from Point A to Point B, that should go a long way to clearing up the notion that you made up the numbers.

      Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      Seconding that this is a severe enough situation to need a response from the OP. An allegation of making up numbers could be the sort of thing that winds up getting someone fired down the line, or preventing them from getting promotions and raises – even if the claims aren’t true. OP, you have every right to defend your integrity and credibility, and this is a situation where if you don’t it could come back to bite you later.

      Reply
  4. Robin Gottlieb

    Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean you have to be overly defensive. The person knew she didn’t make a mistake the first time so she shouldn’t have apologized but explain how the numbers were not made up.

    Reply
  5. Samiratou

    This has me steaming mad. I’m an analyst and this manager has no business managing people who work with data if she can’t understand some of the basic issues around data accuracy (more complicated than it seems like it should be) and to immediately jump to “making up numbers” means she should in no way be responsible for communicating findings to anyone else, either.

    Not helpful, probably, but I’m sorry your manager sucks OP.

    Reply
    1. Friday

      Also an analyst, same thoughts. OP if I were you I’d be looking elsewhere. Data and reporting accuracy is OUR WORLD.

      An interim approach, as a good CYA, could be to include a data source summary page with your reports – exactly how you queried your system(s) for the data, your search parameters, data issues, any assumptions you made about the data to derive your conclusions, etc. I tend to stick a (usually hidden) worksheet in my reports that detail this out.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        Yep, if someone accused me of “making up numbers,” I would march into my manager’s office and drag him into that meeting so he could calmly explain that that is an out of line accusation instead of me saying the 4 letter words that would be floating in my brain.
        It’s like accusing a nurse of not caring about patient health. Don’t Do It.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Hmm, depends on who said it. I’d be pissed if one of the receivers of my data said it since they don’t live in my world so to throw that phrase around is to basically say they know how to do my job better than I do. But a manager saying it is different.

          Reply
        2. MommyMD

          Making up numbers is an unfortunate term. However, I don’t take it to imply that OP was cooking or doctoring numbers, more like “you can’t come out with numbers out of thin air” that are not correct.

          Reply
    2. the_scientist

      Indeed. I’m a fellow data person and I’m incensed on the OP’s behalf. Accusing someone of fabricating data is a BFD and it’s really concerning that the boss is jumping to this directly. Depending on the manager’s response to OP’s follow-up, I would strongly consider them to start looking for a new job. If you don’t have credibility in your reputation (which includes being honest about data accuracy errors), you are in serious trouble, and staying in a workplace that believes that you are “making up” numbers is going to harm your reputation down the road.

      Reply
  6. Snarkus Aurelius

    You should be mindful of a much bigger issue: how quickly your boss was prepared to throw you under the bus. That should worry you a lot.

    Looking at the bigger picture with her is a good idea, but even so, that behavior belongs to someone who would blame you and accuse you of malicious intent without even asking you for an explanation. She won’t ever be someone you can really trust, and you can’t rely on her if something goes wrong.

    What a coincidence as I’m dealing with this right now except I didn’t do anything to lose my boss’s trust. The people who are convincing me to stay do not understand this perspective and why I’m so insulted. Knowing how quickly and easily I can be blamed for something doesn’t inspire confidence or trust. Without those elements, you can’t have a fruitful working relationship. You can have a very paranoid and distrustful one though.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      You should be mindful of a much bigger issue: how quickly your boss was prepared to throw you under the bus.

      Hmm, I’m not sure where you’re seeing that. She warned the OP that if bad numbers went out to a broader audience it would’ve been bad – which is completely true, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that if that had happened she would’ve blamed it all on the OP. And in the second situation, it was actually the OP’s error, so I don’t see where that’s throwing someone under the bus.

      Reply
      1. Samiratou

        To me it was jumping to “making up numbers.” In reading through other comments apparently that may not be as bad as it sounds in some industries, but it’s not a throwaway line around here and if my manager accused me of it, twice, and refused to hear any explanation or discussion without calling me “defensive”…yeah. It’s entirely reasonable to ask how someone came to a number, if it doesn’t jive with what you expect, and it’s also entirely possible that after discussion the numbers may be compiled differently or use a different source, but to shut someone down like that is not a good sign.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          But none of that comprises “throwing under the bus,” which is about finger pointing when someone is asking for an explanation of an issue. It sounds like these were all one-on-one conversations between the OP and her manager; a boss pointing out errors to an employee in a private discussion is not even remotely throwing them under the bus.

          Reply
      2. Former Retail Manager

        I mostly agree. The overall picture is a boss who appears to not trust OP. I don’t know that we really know enough to know if the boss would throw OP under the bus, although my own life experience tells me that I’d assume she would (but I assume that about every boss, even ones I’ve liked and respected). But the bigger issue to me is why the boss’ first question wasn’t, “OP, I was checking over these numbers and found a discrepancy here and I can’t reach the same result that you did. Can you tell me how you arrived at this figure?” Using wording like this would have given then OP an opportunity to discuss her process with Boss and potentially offer a coaching opportunity for Boss to assist OP if they are struggling with a particular task in which they are consistently reaching an incorrect result. Jumping to an accusation of fabrication just seems like a leap for me unless there are other issues with OP or Boss has heard something from someone.

        Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      ” accuse you of malicious intent without even asking you for an explanation. ”

      I don’t work with numbers, but the most awful boss relationship I ever had, this was what she did. I wanted to reword something a certain way, based on lots of information. I hadn’t even gotten a clause out of my mouth to explain it when she said, “Why don’t you want to help the reader?”

      “Helping the reader” is the reason I get out of bed and go to work each day. It’s core to my spiritual view of why I do what I do.

      Reply
      1. Not a Morning Person

        Oh my, TootsNYC. How awful. I hate that kind of negative assumption that comes out as an accusation and assumption of deliberate bad acts.
        I don’t recall where I first heard this, and I’ve not had the opportunity to use it…but one way of responding to those kinds of offensive assumptions is by saying, in a very calm and puzzled tone of voice, “That’s an interesting assumption.” Then you wait for them to either explain or backtrack. And it does require that our brains aren’t hijacked by the stress of an unfair accusation.
        I agree with the other commenters that addressing the accusation calmly with the manager is the best approach. Alison’s script is great. Use it. And here’s another option: “I was taken aback by your assumption that I would falsify the data. I’m really concerned about that. It was a mistake, certainly, but not a deliberate one. I take date integrity and my personal integrity very seriously. I would never falsify data. I used (insert the method/process/sources) to come up with those results. I’d appreciate your guidance on what I should do differently going forward.” It’s just another way of wording it.

        Reply
      2. London Cat Lady

        Yeah Toots, that’s bad! I used to have a manager that made accusations and assumed the worst too. If you’d made a mistake due to failing to take a certain step, her response was “WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THAT? COULDN’T YOU BE BOTHERED?” If you were lost in work and didn’t realise she was speaking to you, you were being rude and ignoring her. And explaining you would never be deliberately rude got you labelled as exactly that, because – gasp! – you were disagreeing with a MANAGER. All of us had complained to her director at various points but he was terrified of her himself, so she got away with her outrageous antics.

        So glad I don’t work at that screwed up excuse for a company any more.

        Reply
  7. hiptobesquared

    I have had this happen to me (my boss accused me of fudging my time card with no evidence) and it was absolutely horrible. He never did totally believe I didn’t do – and for the record I would never ever do something like that – and it was crushing and made me stop trusting him to be a fair supervisor. Definitely address this.

    Reply
    1. Cafe au Lait

      OOOO, I had this happen to me. My boss scheduled me to work 1/2hr past our closing time. In the past, supervisors got out right at closing with the other employees. So I stayed, and the first week I submitted my timecard with the new closing, she emailed and said “It is a fireable offense to pad your timecard.”

      I sent her back the schedule SHE WROTE, and pointed out that I was scheduled until 4:30. I didn’t even get an apology :-/

      Reply
      1. PB

        What a jerk. I had a coworker at an old job (not even my manager) get on me for recording something in a way she thought was an error. I sent her back documentation proving that what I did was correct. She didn’t apologize. Instead, she sent out an all-staff email saying “New procedure!” linking to the documentation I’d sent her. An apology and acknowledgement would have been nice.

        Reply
      2. NotAnotherManager!

        I don’t think I will ever understand people’s inability to acknowledge and apologize for a mistake. First, the accusatory tone of the email sucks. The first volley should have been more positive (just want to remind you of procedures, are you sure this isn’t a typo, etc.). Second, the response to clarifying the schedule should have been, “I’m sorry! My mistake – thanks for reminding me that I asked you to work until 4:30.”

        Reply
        1. Cafe au Lait

          Yes, especially as I had been there three and a half years at that point. Maybe closer to four. It was the first time something like this had happened. I’m not sure why she couldn’t have checked the schedule. It was a big to do every semester that we needed to turn in our schedules to her–to the point she’d follow up in person if they weren’t on her desk by the deadline. As a manager (without time keeping responsibilities) I usually go to the schedule first when I’m trying to suss out why a student hasn’t shown up for work.

          Reply
  8. Lil Fidget

    I wonder if the manager didn’t mean that they literally believed OP was fabricating data, so much as they felt like the process OP should have used was obvious and evident, and the one they did use was outlandishly wrong? Probably not but OP should gut-check.

    Reply
    1. Margaret

      I bet I’ve used a phrase along the lines of “making up numbers” at some point in talking to staff – but along the lines of what you’re saying, I would mean that it looked like they’d used a plug or made assumptions that were clearly a shortcut when better data was available. I think in that kind of case, context (I’m in taxes/accounting, and sometimes making things balance with imperfect data means you plug an immaterial difference somewhere) and also tone – my saying “well, we can’t just make up numbers, let’s see if we can track it down by looking at X” is different than being told sternly “you can’t just make up numbers! go fix this!”

      Reply
      1. Original Poster

        I’ll post a standalone post with more detail, but this is on the right track. She couldn’t figure out my thought process with something, and I probably should have asked for more clarification. I don’t think that phrasing really helped the situation though. Maybe in the future it would be better for everyone to just say, “What was your thinking on this?”

        Reply
        1. Dust Bunny

          yeah, the phrasing here was terrible. Being careless about stuff like this matters. I don’t mind if my boss says, hey, this isn’t the result I’m getting, what’s going on? But if he accused me of making stuff up, I’d be pretty offended. People are responsible for how they word things.

          Reply
    2. lauraxe

      I wondered about this as well. It’s probably not the most likely scenario here, but there is a chance that the supervisor meant something like “if you don’t know how to calculate/find a certain figure, you should ask instead of guessing” – but it really depends on how egregious the error was.

      Reply
    3. LBK

      Yep, I said something to this effect below – I doubt she’s literally accusing the OP of just putting down a random number, but rather maybe making some assumptions/calculations that aren’t accurate.

      Reply
    4. MommyMD

      I got more the feeling that Boss was upset with inaccurate numbers which she could have viewed as sloppiness and meant more like “you can’t pull inaccurate numbers out of thin air” versus maliciously “doctoring” the numbers. I think Noss meant pay more attention.

      Reply
  9. KG, Ph.D.

    My best friend’s manager accused her of making up numbers on a regular basis — and there wasn’t even a mistake involved! The numbers were correct, the manager just didn’t understand them because she wasn’t familiar with that portion of the company. So rather than asking for a bit more background or context, she jumped to accusing her employees of making up information. This was just one of a host of problems with this particular manager, but luckily, the higher ups figured it out and terminated her (the manager) after documenting some of the more egregious issues.

    Anyway, all this to say that I hope this is a fluke with OP’s manager, rather than a sign of more serious issues!

    Reply
    1. AndersonDarling

      It’s amazing how some managers fly using the “everything I don’t understand is wrong” method of managing. I’ve know people who were promoted to divisional level directors and they really didn’t know a thing about the organization or daily operations. They could just BS their way through any conversation. “That must be wrong” with the follow up “I’ll tell a random story to distract everyone from my ignorance” can get people far. Unfortunately.

      Reply
  10. Callalily

    This reminds me so much of my supervisor accused me of shredding an old missing receipt… it was the only one we ever noticed missing and she assumed that I had to have shredded it on purpose! Even though it had nothing to do with me and I had no incentive to destroy it… I cried the entire walk home that day because not only did she believe I destroyed documents, she thought I was a liar too.

    In this situation I would first ask directly what it is that she means by ‘making up numbers’ – I work in accounting and this is a common expression used when you don’t use the correct numbers (this, and ‘pulling numbers from the sky’). The numbers (even though real) are meaningless if they aren’t correct and essentially it is like you made them up.

    I’m inclined to believe this is how the manager is thinking. Most managers would’ve fired you if they literally thought you made up the numbers – it is a pretty serious offence!

    I would take the instructions of asking and not making up numbers to mean that if OP is confused that she needs to ask what to use, not just pull figures she is not 100% certain are correct to use.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Oh well put, this is what I was trying to express above, but you did it much better. I’m not entirely convinced the manager actually believes OP just fabricated numbers. I think she might have meant “you were so off base you might as well have made up numbers.”

      Reply
    2. LBK

      Totally agreed. We call those kinds of numbers “car-trees” – if you have a number of cars and a number of trees, you can multiply those together to get your total car-trees, but that statistic doesn’t actually mean anything. In other words, you can take any two valid numbers and do a calculation on them, but that doesn’t mean the result is valid. In that sense, the resulting number is “made up” not because you chose it arbitrarily, but because your process was arbitrary or invalid.

      Reply
    3. Stellaaaaa

      I had a thought in the same ballpark, which is compounded by the fact that OP really did make a mistake the second time. I’m not one to accuse someone of making stuff up when they’re simply mistaken, but on the other hand I don’t care for avoiding the admission of a mistake with “I misunderstood.” She used the wrong data. It’s a mistake. Occasional mistakes are fine! But it seems like both players in this conversation have their own ways of not being direct.

      Reply
      1. QA grump 42

        > I don’t care for avoiding the admission of a mistake with “I misunderstood.”

        But… that *is* an admission of a mistake, it just also says something about the nature of the mistake (e.g., it wasn’t due to malice, or forgetfulness, or excessive workload).

        Reply
  11. JL

    I JUST had this happen to me at the end of last week, except it was about jobbed time. I am exempt but we job hours to projects and our company treats our budgeted hours vs. actual project hours in a totally ass-backwards way, where we generally are praised for being over hours and scolded for being under. I am the only person in my department who works on one particular ongoing project that has a catch-all job code, rather than a departmental one, so any hours I bill to that are listed separately, and are not delineated by person. (In other words, it says “Teacups=143 hours,” which is the sum total of hours ANYONE worked on teacups last month).

    My reported hours in August, according to my boss, were 40 hours under what is budgeted. She knows I work on this project, but failed to ask me how many hours I’d worked on it in August. This didn’t come up until September 22, so for 3 weeks she had been operating under a false assumption that I had said I had more work than I’d actually had. (I’d actually reported 65 billable hours). When she sent me the reprimanding email, I was FURIOUS, but swallowed it enough to tell her that, no, I’d actually billed 40 more hours than she thought. I told her I was very uncomfortable with the idea that she must have spent the last 3 weeks thinking I was lying about my workload.

    Lo and behold, the word “lying” was offensive enough to her (even though we were talking about the possibility that *I* was a liar, not her) that she went back and looked at my full hours report — a thing she hadn’t done before reprimanding me — and then changed her tune. She never did apologize; she just redirected her reprimand to be less about my hours and more about how much time the project takes.

    All of this is to say: Definitely respond, and hopefully your boss is significantly less of a jerk than mine. (I have thought about writing in to AAM in the past but I’m 99.7% sure the response is going to be “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.”)

    Reply
  12. C in the Hood

    Nothing scrapes my grill worse than having my integrity questioned. I was once accused of not providing a document to someone and I clearly remember that I gave it to them. They did not believe me. After a short argument about it, and realizing that they were never going to listen to me, I took a break outside to walk & cool off.

    It turns out the person found the document buried under stuff on their desk and subsequently apologized to me. Since then, I’ve been really careful to “cover my tracks” with this person.

    Reply
    1. Soupspoon McGee

      Someone once emailed me and cc’d my boss and hers, telling me I never sent her information I’d promised. I knew I’d done it, so dug through my emails and forwarded her the email I’d sent her four months previously, complete with the documents and the next steps (which were here responsibility). I prefaced the forward with a cheery “Maybe this got lost in your inbox; as I said before, as soon as you do x and y, I can do z.” I made sure to cc the same people.

      Reply
      1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

        I just did this today! If you’re going to cc the Big Cheese at my company, make sure it wasn’t YOUR mistake. I’ve got receipts for days, and I will attach them and reply all.

        Reply
      2. Eva

        I’ve developed a habit of doing this. I hate how often I need to copy other people on correspondence, but I also meticulously file my email so if somebody says I didn’t send something or they didn’t get it, I can usually go back and find the evidence to back myself up.

        I got so upset recently because somebody basically messed up something by pretending they never got more information from me, and I have a new manager and this was one of the first things she’d asked me to take charge of, so I thought she would think I couldn’t handle it. I went into her office and as soon as I mentioned the project and that I know I’d sent the info, she said she could see what was going behind the scenes and had already figured out that they were setting me up to cover their own mistake. Thank goodness for good managers.

        Reply
  13. Infinity Anon

    Why would she assume the number is made up rather than simply incorrect. That is pretty bad and does not speak well of her as a manager.

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      To be honest with you, this workplace has some…interesting characteristics going on. I think she was incredibly stressed out, because this kind of thing is out of character for her.

      Reply
      1. Not a Morning Person

        Good to know that it is out of character, so she’s not a completely bad boss. But also good to know how she is different when under stress. Be aware when you notice the stress level increasing and CYA accordingly.

        Reply
  14. LBK

    FWIW, I’ve worked in reporting and data analysis for a few years now and I’ve heard the phrase “making up numbers” thrown around colloquially (and I’ve probably used it myself) to just mean getting a number that doesn’t make sense, whether by misunderstanding the request, due to a calculation error, etc. I wouldn’t assume she literally means that you actually just picked a number out of thin air, especially because of this: Then she told me that if I didn’t understand, I should ask and not make up numbers.

    It sounds like she’s thinking that you’re not fully grasping requests but you don’t feel comfortable asking for clarification, so you’re just piecing together what you can come up with based on your understanding. In both of your examples, it sounds like you did think you were doing the right thing and didn’t realize the error until it was pointed out, so maybe you just need to have a conversation about QCing – sometimes it takes a while to develop a gut sense of whether numbers look wrong or not, and in the meantime it can help to figure out some safety nets.

    Reply
  15. Stranger than fiction

    I actually had a similar incident just today, Op. The owner was asking about a number and I replied (only to him) that it was a 90-day average. Then he forwarded it to the rest aand asked again and my boss said “no, that’s a weekly average”. I was like “crap” for a few minutes and then the owner replied, just to me again, that they discussed it and I was right. Phew!

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      I think that’s why I was in such a panic about this. *I* knew with 100% certainty that I had not made up either of those numbers, but the fact that she came to that conclusion twice alarmed me and really made me wonder why she thought that. It still does, to be honest. Someone can tell you they believe you, but when they come to that conclusion in the first place it’s hard to get past that.

      Reply
  16. Original Poster

    I really appreciate all the helpful advice! I ended up approaching my manager pretty quickly since the situation was really bothering me, but I think all my AAM lurking must have helped because my script was very similar to Alison’s! She seemed surprised that I was concerned about the situation and assured me that she had no concerns that I would make up numbers. (I was relieved to hear this, but slightly frustrated because I did not have that impression initially).

    Both situations were out of character for her, and I honestly think she hadn’t considered that what she was saying amounted to an accusation. Lately, if she’s not sure where I’m coming from with something, she asks me to explain my thinking, which is much better.

    Reply
    1. Samiratou

      Glad to hear it, OP! In my experience it should be on her to ask for clarification on where your numbers came from rather than being so dismissive, so I’m glad to hear she is doing that more lately.

      Reply
    2. Liane

      I am glad things are looking up. When I first read, just above, that it was out of character, I was about to post suggesting that was even more of a reason to just talk to her.

      Reply
    3. Escapee from Corporate Management

      OP, congratulations on taking the lead and ensuring a successful outcome. A thought for the future: given your boss’s use of “making up numbers” and “yell”, I would guess (but cannot be sure) that she use language very casually without understanding the impact her word choice has on you. This is common among managers, who are often unaware that comments made to a subordinate are likely to be taken literally and seriously. I hope she builds that awareness over time and causes you less stress, but this may happen again.

      Reply
      1. Original Poster

        This is a good point – I don’t think she has been managing for a particularly long time, and I will fully admit to being the type of person to overanalyze word choice on this type of thing, so it’s possible she’s just not used to having to choose her words so carefully. I’m going to assume the best intentions but recognize that we just have different styles and (as people here have kindly assured me) discussing feedback =/= being defensive.

        Reply
    4. Amber T

      Ooh I posted a response before I saw this. Glad the situation is fixed! I mentioned below – I frequently ask if I’m “making something up” if I think my information might be wrong.

      Reply
  17. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Defending yourself when someone is calling you a cheater, is being defensive. It is also appropriate. You can to use Alison’s words, ask for clarification or push back. Even your boss cannot pronounce you a cheater without consequence. You don’t have to be slandered to be a good employee. At that point the line you don’t want to cross is in your rear view mirror.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      I’m sorry, no. The word defensive does not just mean ‘behavior of defending’ – it has connotations of being bristly and overreacting, of responding out of proportion to criticism.

      One can defend one’s position without getting defensive. (Though the manipulative will call one that anyway.) They are not the same thing.

      Reply
  18. Jubilance

    OP, is this a new role or area for you? I ask because I wonder if this is a situation where you don’t have any context for what the numbers mean, so you can’t self validate if the numbers make sense before it goes to your boss.

    For example, maybe you’re calculating sales numbers, and due to an error you calculate that a salesperson sold 100 million teapots – a person familiar with your company/industry/niche area might immediately see that and thing “there’s no way Bob sold 100 million teapots, let me check my math”. When you’re new, you don’t have enough contextual experience to self validate. When I’ve been in those situations, I go to a subject matter expert and ask them if the numbers make sense, before I pass it on. In time, I gained enough experience where I’m able to catch most errors myself, but sometimes I still IM someone and ask them to validate a value for me, or to refer me to another data source/report where I can validate my numbers.

    Your leader should have coached you through this instead of how she handled it.

    Reply
  19. SusanIvanova

    “…if it had gone upwards…”

    Which, in a rationally run place, is why she’s doing those double-checks that caught the error. If it had gone upwards, the fault ought to be hers for letting that happen, whether because it’s her specific job to check, or for not having any sort of process where other people could catch them.

    Also in a rationally run place, any “yelling” should land on the manager. A manager that lets higher levels bypass them to go directly berating their team members is a bad manager.

    Reply
    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      THAT is where the distaste came from. There was something inherently wrong with the way the boss is speaking to LW. This is very much what that wrongness is.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      I work in publishing, and recently worked for someone who had COWS! if there was a mistake caught on the last read, or on the blueline.

      I mean, that’s why we’re reading it, right? It didn’t make it into print!
      Everywhere else, and I mean everywhere else, people say, “Wow, you caught that!”

      I’m the department head, so of course I’m also thinking, “Eeep, what if we hadn’t caught it? How can we avoid it?”–but so is everyone who works for/with me.

      We don’t need a huge scolding. The error was fixed, which is ultimately the important point.

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        I worked at a place once where the validation tests ran overnight on a bank of servers. The software was so complex that throwing real data at it was the only way to be sure – and file sizes were pushing a terabyte when I left.

        New management came in with the idea that the overnight tests should not fail. Soo… I can run those tests locally and have a turnaround time of a month, or I can look at the failure cases, fix the overlooked edge condition, and keep going?

        Reply
  20. Amber T

    You know your boss best, OP, so the answer to my question may just be a straight up “No.” That being said – is it possible she’s using “making something up” as a poor way of saying something’s wrong? The only reason I ask this is because I do that to myself (I would never, however, use that phrase to point out someone else was wrong). If I’m checking something with my boss or a colleague, I might ask “is this right, or did I just make that up?” For me, it’s a lighthearted way of saying “I’m checking to see if I’m right because I may be wrong.” Again, using that for someone else’s work is dumb, precisely for the reasons you point out, but is it possible that she means “this is wrong” and not “I think you’re lying?”

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Yup. See my advice post to Karma. Words that sound the same, come from similar places, but the attendant connotations are very different.

      Reply
  21. Ladydoc

    When I was in training I wrote a book chapter for my boss (a usual thing in academic medicine). He read it and called me in to his office. “This is really, really good. Are you sure you wrote it?”

    Did you *seriously* just suggest that I plagiarized the chapter?

    Yes, yes he did. And didn’t even understand why that questiom made me go up in flames.

    Reply
    1. LN

      Ohhh man. I’m not actually sure what’s worse, when the accuser blows up at you, or when the accuser drops a bomb like this and acts as if it’s no biggie. “Hey, so you didn’t happen to plagiarize this did you? Oh and can you grab me another cup of coffee, thanks!” Like, WHAT. Do you UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE SAYING?

      I think it probably speaks to their own personal integrity more than anything, but hoo boy it drives me nuts when people do that. I really do think I’d almost rather them be unreasonably angry over an unfounded accusation, rather than so cavalier I’d have to seriously question their judgment about everything.

      Reply
    2. kitryan

      And of course, you couldn’t have done it be cause apparently you’re not good enough? So you’re a cheater who is bad at your job- why on earth would that upset you?
      Some people!

      Reply
  22. Granny K

    Pah-leese! I can make statistics look like anything I want depending on how I arrange them graphically. No lying necessary!

    Reply
  23. Adele

    When I was about 45, Old Boss came into my office with a recently completed report in her hand. “Where did you get these numbers from?” she asked.

    “From the financial data system,” I replied. “Why?”

    “I think it is time for glasses,” she said.

    She was right. I didn’t realize it but I could no longer reliably discern threes from eights, sixes from fives, etc. I went out and bought a pair of reading glasses that day. That was twelve years ago. Now without glasses I can’t event tell there is anything other than black-ish smudges on a white background!

    Reply
    1. Not Your Babysitter

      Are you telling this story because you think the OP needs glasses? I don’t see any indication in the post that this is relevant, so I’m confused how this is meant to help the OP.

      Reply
  24. marleehousie

    I had the same thing happen this week. Absolutely crazy and out of nowhere.

    My manager relies on me to run numbers and manage risk and flipped out when I alerted her to a larger-than-expected (to her, not so much to me) risk issue. She accused me of going overboard with risk calculation and not wanting the company to be profitable by actioning risk issues.

    I was amazed, but agreed to let the risks ride out as she had strong feelings about the inaccuracy of my data, despite her not having any alternate data or anything beyond anecdotal knowledge of the situation. It was a long, loud, emotional conversation (with the door open, so likely most of our office heard it) and I spent the rest of the day in a fog.

    The risk was real, the company is now out the money, my workload has doubled (with tedious tasks). My manager apologized but I’m still very shaken and seriously considering moving on from the organization after fifteen years of management.

    Word choices and tone matter when you’re accusing a long-time, loyal employee of mismanaging their core job duties.

    Reply
  25. Janelle

    Not being defensive about feedback does not equal being reprimanded for something you didn’t do. You say “oh actually if you see here it is correct”. Not take punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Before you comment: Please be kind, stay on-topic, and follow the site's commenting rules.
You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS