my coworkers keep reporting my mistakes to my manager

A reader writes:

My supervisor has been calling me into her office and telling me about mistakes I’ve made that she found out about from my peers who work with me. They are minor mistakes and I take full responsibility for them, but what should I say to my supervisor about being “tattled” on?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Tegdirb*

    Eh, I think this is one of those things that’s not a problem if you work in a functional workplace but is a giant red flag if you work somewhere where your co-worker thinks she’s the boss’ BFF and that others are jealous of her (her words) and is very proud of herself for forcing out ONE of her work enemies and also this place has had trouble keeping folks in your role for some mysterious reason.

    Just sayin’.

    And to be honest in a functional workplace I’m not sure why a supervisor wouldn’t be the one catching these mistakes?

    1. Leatherwings*

      Eh, ideally supervisors would catch stuff like this (and hopefully do catch big stuff), but that’s not always possible. I had an employee come to me concerned that a bunch of minor mistakes were being made by another person. They were tiny, but compounding because it was a budgeting thing. I would’ve caught it eventually but this allowed me to fix it before it got worse.

      The employee making the mistakes was very very defensive and accused the other person of tattling. He really misjudged how I was going to react to his defensiveness; I was less than pleased.

      1. Anna*

        I dunno. If my supervisor were calling me in over and over, I would wonder first why my coworkers weren’t letting me know about the mistakes first and then why the supervisor wasn’t requesting the coworkers do that. If it’s a repeated thing it speaks to a larger performance issue. I feel like something about this being mishandled. Either that the coworkers aren’t talking to the OP first and then working up the chain if it continues to happen or that there are enough mistakes that it’s a larger performance issue and the supervisor needs to address it from a big picture standpoint.

        1. myswtghst*

          I think this was the only thing that seemed off to me – depending on how often it’s happening, I might wonder if my supervisor had encouraged these people to come to me first, and if they hadn’t, I’d wonder why not. If this happened over and over again, I might try to start a conversation with my supervisor about the bigger picture – “I’ve noticed lately that you’re getting feedback about my errors from Jane and Tyrion pretty often, then we’re meeting pretty often to go over it. Would it make sense for me to encourage them to come directly to me with the little stuff, or for us to meet once a week / every two weeks / whatever is reasonable to discuss errors all at once?”

          1. Sketchee*

            I really like Alison’s advice on this one. If you want to encourage one on one conversations with coworkers.. Have one on one conversations. “Hi Jane, thanks for letting me and boss know about that problem! We have it fixed. Feel free to come to me with stuff like that, I’ll get it all set”

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Well, it depends. If my bosses had to check over all of the 38 reports I run every time, then they may as well hire someone else or do it themselves, which defeats the whole purpose of my job. Once I passed training, I was given the autonomy to run and distribute reports myself. Sure, a mistake happens once in a while and someone notices (entry error on my part or mistake in the database input by someone else) but in that case I simply correct it and redistribute. I think it’s highly dependent on the role how much micromanaging is needed.

      3. Tegdirb*

        And to continue the eh, theme: Eh, it’s the manager’s job to manage so she should tell the tattling co-worker’s to speak to the LW and make it clear to the LW that the tattler’s are there to mentor her.

        Unless the boss likes to give the impression of a dysfunctional workplace with them occasionally at the helm.

    2. paul*

      Supervisor’s aren’t omniscient.

      But agreed; this isn’t an inherent red flag but in a bad workplace could make life hell.

      1. Bunny*

        I worked in a place like this, and it was awful. The game was to report co-workers for anything and everything, no matter how small, and earn favor with the manager. If you were in with the manager, you were golden. If you were not, you got horrific shifts with no regard to seniority and were hit with other punishments.

        This created an incredibly toxic workplace, as you might imagine.

        I, thank God, am no longer there. I lasted a year and half. Another woman quit over the phone. This was a state public affairs job with state benefits with a pension. At one point I was out for week with epileptic seizures brought on my stress, which until that point had been well controlled.

        If your work sucks, okay. Bring it up to management. If it’s a minor mistake, or something someone is having trouble with, maybe you should sit down with a fellow human and help them out.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      Another colleague and I had to go our department head about our department admin because she kept making a lot of mistakes. To her, they weren’t a big deal and when we addressed them with her, she dismissed us. To us, getting special ed paperwork IS a big deal (and potentially expensive), and we were the ones getting the flack for her errors. Our admin couldn’t see the whole picture but our DH could, and it took going to her to get an improvement. I think the job is beyond her abilities, but my boss wants to work with her. It still creates more work for all of us, but at least we know her work can’t be trusted and our DH knows it’s happening.

    4. Koko*

      Well, in a functional workplace supervisors feel comfortable delegating tasks to employees who they trust to do whatever necessary to complete the task/meet the goal. That’s what allows the supervisor to do higher-level work – knowing that someone they trust is on top of the details of the lower-level work and will pull them in only when/if necessary.

      I have worked with supervisors who can’t let go (especially ones who were promoted up the ranks in the same company), like it used to give my director anxiety not to know every detail of what every employee in our department of 12 was doing. After a few years he finally learned to relax and trust that we’re doing what we need to do and he doesn’t need to be in every meeting and copied on every email thread. Our department is staffed with honest, hard workers who take ownership of their goals and will find solutions when problems arise, so that has freed up our director for more strategic work.

    5. Spondee*

      We have a (mostly) functional workplace, but my direct reports have their own accounts, so I’m not in every meeting or on every email with them. Often their editor or account manager is the one who catches their mistake. I do try to review their work, so I can catch bigger patterns, but I don’t look at every change they make to every job. I appreciate that their coworkers feel comfortable enough to let me know when someone needs a little more coaching.

    6. INTP*

      It depends on the work and work process whether a supervisor should catch the mistakes. I work in a quality review role, and we all perform checks at various parts of the production process. So if someone makes a mistake earlier in the process, it’s going to be the person that performs one of the later checks who catches it – we would all be redundant if my boss were inspecting everything herself.

      I do agree, though, that this is a much bigger problem in a dysfunctional workplace than a functional one. If everyone’s mistakes are being pointed out and the boss is understanding about a reasonable amount of mistakes, it’s annoying but not a major threat to your employment. If you’re being targeted by someone who hates you or just because your work culture makes everyone feel their positions are precarious and they need to throw each other under the bus, and your boss is getting the impression that your work is more mistake-ridden than everyone else’s, that’s a problem.

    7. Edith*

      “And to be honest in a functional workplace I’m not sure why a supervisor wouldn’t be the one catching these mistakes?”

      I would think the opposite– that a workplace where the supervisor is so into the minutiae of her staff’s work that she’s the one who catches mistakes would be an indication that it is not a functional workplace.

      Unless these are big mistakes I think that instead of pulling Joe in for a meeting every time a peer reports a mistake, a better response from the manager would be “Joe forgot to carry the one? Have you talked to Joe about it?”

  2. Moonsaults*

    I’d look at who’s telling on you and if they do this to everyone else. There are those people out there that are trying to be the hall monitor of the business and run to the boss with anything they can to try to earn points for themselves. Perhaps it’s that.

    Who knows what their reasoning is, the point is these are mistakes that you seem to think are minor but if a supervisor is pulling you into the office for each one, no matter how caught it, you may be underestimating how big your errors are. I would adjust my attitude more than anything, little mistakes all the time are frustrating for everyone involved.

    I’ve had people shrug off huge mistakes and one person (who didn’t last long, needless to say) who laughed when we pointed out that when wrapping, we needed to have it look professional/neat, etc. “Oh yeah it looks terrible doesn’t it.” Right and there’s nothing laughable about it.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      One of the things I might do in this situation is ask my manager to calibrate for me. “Is this a huge error I should worry about, or is this a minor thing I should encourage people to report to me directly so you don’t have to deal with it?”

      1. Moonsaults*

        It would depend on your tone and your relationship with the manager.

        I have people who if they responded to me pointing out their mistakes, I would think they were utter smartasses and should know better. Some people do not gauge mistakes the same way and my POV is “I would have just fixed it myself and been done with it if it wasn’t a big deal. I’m speaking with you now because it’s an issue that a couple more of these and you’re gone.”

  3. Anon for this one*

    This is a topic I’m very interested in because I have one coworker who does this, but not in a constructive way. In a gotcha way. As in, I’m in charge of our department’s webpage, and when he found a broken link, instead of emailing me or even telling me in person (because he literally works right across the hall from me; he wouldn’t even have to leave his chair), he emailed the company’s IT manager, my boss, and my grandboss. A long whiny email that said he doesn’t understand why this link doesn’t work, and isn’t this going to be a problem for our customers, and shouldn’t we provide the best customer service we possibly can?????? Since I wasn’t included on this email, the IT manager sent it to me. I was so, so tempted to reply that in the future, in order to get these issues fixed as quickly as possible, it would be most helpful if he came to me directly. (Did I mention he’s right across the hall from me, and if he was really concerned about the customer experience, he could have said “Anon, the link to the form is broken”?) But I didn’t, because I assumed/hoped/desperately wished everyone on the receiving end saw that he was just trying to get me in trouble. And it continues to happen, any time he finds (or THINKS he finds) a mistake in my work, and I’m getting tired of it.

    1. Caledonia*

      wow, that’s annoying. When I looked after my School’s webpages, IT would do a monthly check of the links – is that something your IT dept could do? Or maybe there’s some sort of programme that does it that you could use?

      1. Formica Dinette*

        There are online services. Find ’em by searching for “free link checker.”

        I hope Anon is right that the people her coworker emailed saw what a jerk he was being. My response to people like this is usually replying all with something along the lines of, “Thanks for catching this! If you find any broken links in the future, it would be helpful if you let me know directly so I can fix them immediately.” Pretty much what Anon said she’s tempted to do; I don’t think it’s snarky and it shows I’m being responsive and customer-focused.

      2. Anon for this one*

        The broken link is only one example. There have been other errors (or, more often, things he thought were errors, but he was wrong), web-based and not. The link was the most egregious example because he went so far over my head and skipped me entirely. Usually he emails me and my boss, and I reply all to make sure boss knows I’m on top of it.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Maybe have a separate conversation with boss about this? “While I try to be diligent and avoid errors, occasionally mistakes slip in, and I really appreciate if someone who notices them brings them to my attention so I can fix them quickly. The problem is that I get a lot of emails from Fergus that aren’t actually pointing out things I should fix – sometimes they’re things that aren’t errors at all, and sometimes it seems as though he loops in Boss and BigBoss even though it’s my responsibility to make sure they get fixed. Going forward, is there a way you would prefer these be handled?”

    2. fposte*

      I can assure you that your boss and grandboss are too, and I’m surprised that they haven’t told him to cut it out.

    3. BRR*

      Alison did a whole post about “tattling.” Not sure if it will be of interest or helpful but the link will be in a reply.

    4. Katie F*

      I would have sent the reply, personally, with him and my supervisor/boss CC’d on it but left off teh IT manager & grandboss. Just a quick, simple, “Hey (Immature Coworker), it was brought to my attention that you discovered a broken link on the website’s home page. While I appreciate you wanting to see this addressed quickly, in the future it would result in quicker resolution if you contacted me directly, as I am the person who would need to go in and make the fix. Thanks, (Anon).”

      It’s polite, it’s professional, it shows him that they came to you with the issue because IT’S YOUR ISSUE TO FIX and if he does it again, the boss will able to reply, “Um, I’m pretty sure (Anon) let you know last time this happened to come to him/her directly, why did you send this to me?”

      1. OhNo*

        I like this approach, too. It skips over being accusatory or upset, and just comes across as calmly professional. Depending on the relationship with the coworker and boss, you might want to leave off the CC the first time and only include it once you’ve tried communicating with the weird guy directly, but that’s totally office-dependent.

        1. Katie F*

          Yeah, that’s a good point. I think it would also depend on the relationship with management – like, if I didnt interact with my manager all that often I would probably CC them on it, but if I have a lot of daily interactions I’d just let the boss know I was sending the e-mail and not CC them.

      2. Doug*

        I don’t know, to me this still comes across as critical or lecture-y in tone. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending this unless I was higher up than the coworker.

        1. Katie F*

          It’s probably a tone-in-writing thing, because I kind of ‘hear’ it as very much neutral, but firm in making the point. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being forthright and upfront about this having been handled incorrectly last time, as long as you’re clear about it and come at it from the point of “here is how we should handle this in the future” rather than complaining about the past.

          1. Formica Dinette*

            It sounds overly formal and serious to me, but I bet simply changing from passive to active voice would fix that.

            1. Koko*

              Yes, when my coworkers normally write emails to me they’re very casual – breaking that and using formal language immediately makes me think the person is choosing their words very carefully for some reason, which then makes it seem like there’s some kind of Situation At Hand.

              I would strive for something that sounds more like you dashed it off without much thought than that you constructed it to be carefully neutral: “Thanks for catching that, Bob. If you find anything like that again, just let me know. Thanks!”

              I wouldn’t especially belabor the point the first time around until/if he circumvents me again and then I’d say, “Hey Bob, I just heard from Boss about that broken link. Is there a reason you didn’t tell me directly?” And then you pretty much force him to show his hand – he’s probably not going to say, “I wanted to make sure you got in trouble for your errors,” because he would look petty, so instead he’ll say something like, “I wanted to make sure the issue was resolved and Boss was in the loop.” Then you can address it more directly and say, “Great, then going forward you can just bring the problem to me. I’ll be able to get started fixing it right away, and I definitely keep Boss in the loop on challenges and problems when we have our weekly check-ins. That way Boss stays informed and can help out with bigger issues, but doesn’t have to stop what she’s doing every time something simple needs to be fixed.”

        2. Mike C.*

          How is it too critical if the employee truly cares about timely customer service? She should be thrilled to learn how issues can be fixed in a more efficient fashion.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        I would even go along with Immature Coworker’s take on it–play up the customer service thing.

        “In the future, please notify me immediately of any broken links so that I can fix them as soon as possible to minimize any effect on our customers. Thank you.”

        That way you sound thoughtful, as well as calling out Coworker on his BS, since reporting it to you directly is indeed what he would do if he actually cared about the customer experience.

        1. Stardust*

          I like this wording. Good point, the guy-across-the-hall does seem to want to get OP in trouble more than resolve the broken links.

      4. Anon for this one*

        This is what I should have done but everything I wrote sounded snarky, so I gave up. It was before I discovered AAM. ;-)

    5. Mike C.*

      You should have replied with just that. Point out that if you are to provide the very best customer service you need to be notified first rather that wasting the time of the other folks.

    6. Moonsaults*

      I’m surprised that everyone didn’t actually respond with “Actually Anon is the one who handles this, talk to Anon about this kind of thing.”

      I’m constantly telling people who the correct person is to contact at any given moment is regarding whatever they want to have handled. It’s not rude or unprofessional to guide someone in the right direction as long as you don’t say “Hey stupid, wrong person, way to be a jackass!” even though you want to so bad sometimes.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah that’s totally annoying and if that’s what these coworkers are doing then that needs to be nipped in the bud just as much as the mistakes.

    8. LQ*

      I have a coworker who likes to do this. I’ve tried very hard to cultivate a you bring me a problem and I’ll be happy about it and you can get chocolate! sort of attitude. Most people now bring the problems directly to me, they didn’t to the person who had the role before me. (or rather a very small group of them did, but most didn’t) There is one hold out. My boss, her boss, my boss’s boss, her boss’s boss’s boss all get copied, sometimes I get included sometimes I don’t.

      I’ve been told multiple times by a lot of people in that chain to not worry about this coworker and that I’ve done a good job in being open to feedback and improving all the things. Is this person a one off? Or are most like it? Are your bosses reasonable?

      I think if the bosses are reasonable each of these messages are a mark against the person. (If they do something about it is a separate question.)

    9. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      Any suggestions on handling something similar? My role in my department includes trouble-shooting. When a teapot lid comes out of the mold just slightly too large for the teapot, I have a tool that will modify the size just enough to make the lid fit before sending it on to be glazed. I also watch for patterns — if the misfitting lids are usually 1.2 mm too large, I go to the department that creates the molds and let them know so they can improve the molding process.

      The staff members who test whether the lids fit the teapots are all in another department. Most of them bring the misfit lids to me. But, there is one person (Vizzini) who always takes his misfit lids to Inigo, who is a supervisor in my department, but not my supervisor. Inigo then has to send the lids to me. Vizzini has been in his current position for over a year.

      I’ve asked Vizzini to bring the lids to me. He responds by saying that Inigo always takes care of them, and I tell him that Inigo “takes care of them” by sending them to me. Vizzini will then laugh and say, “Well, who knew?” Then we have the same conversation again a week or two later.

      How to handle this? I’m tempted to tell him that if he stayed away from land wars in Asia and Iocane powder that his memory would improve, but that seems a bit harsh …

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The most logical solution is for Inigo to tell Vizzini to send them to you.

        And now I want a peanut.

  4. Camellia*

    Hmm. Are you new or somewhat new to this job? I ask because sometimes when a new person comes in I’ve had managers ask me to let them know when the person makes mistakes, and what kinds of questions they are asking. This is because the manager doesn’t work side-by-side with the new person and they want to know how quickly they are catching on, how they are doing, etc. That way, if the same mistakes are being made over and over or the same stuff has to be taught and retaught, they can address it.

  5. AndersonDarling*

    I’d respond to the manager, “When I notice mistakes, I communicate with my co-workers to make the correction. Should I be bringing these to you instead?”
    But … that wouldn’t be the most mature way to handle it.

    1. Anna*

      It’s fairly mature. You can leave off the first part and go with the second part, Or at least hedge it a little. “Should be bringing mistakes to you instead of following up with my coworkers about the ones I find?” I would also recommend doing this after you have the “thank you for bringing this to my attention” conversation. Like a day later when you can say, “In regards to our conversation yesterday, I wondered…”

  6. Whats In A Name*

    I wholeheartedly agree with Alison’s response “There’s no reason to address the fact that your coworkers brought these mistakes to your manager’s attention, because that’s not relevant here, and it will make it look like you’re more concerned about that than about the fact that you’re making mistakes”……

    Petty or not, that’s how it will likely come across.

    1. Willis*

      Agreed! Plus, the manager is obviously aware that your coworkers are coming to her with these mistakes. If she wants them to stop doing so or to speak with you directly about them first, she can certainly say so (and, for all you know, she might have already).

  7. Jesmlet*

    How I would handle it- say nothing and stop making mistakes. If the mistakes are important enough for your boss to call you into her office, then they are things you should be noticing and not your coworkers. Sure, it’d be nice if they just told you, but if there’s nothing to tell, there’s no problem.

    1. LQ*

      Depends, if the person who is bringing up the “mistakes” is in QA then it is their actual job to catch mistakes, which it should be. Their entire job depends on the OP making “mistakes”. Not all jobs are 100% mistake free. I’d guess that very few are. There will always be something to tell because it isn’t the developers job to make mistake free work, it becomes nearly impossible to see all the possible permutations when you are inside the development, especially if it is a complex tool.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        But your boss wouldn’t call you into her office to tell you made mistakes that are just part of QA’s job to catch and make you aware of.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Not in a functional company, but if all companies were functional this blog would be much less interesting. I worked at one place who thought that the test suite should never fail. QA’s job was just to create test suites, not find problems. These were tests that took from 12-48 hours to run on the high-powered test servers – they’d take much longer than that on the development machines – in a very complicated system where it was impossible to detect every possible side effect from a change. Even so we’d only break them maybe once or twice a month.

          Fortunately I had a sensible manager, because a work cycle of “fix thing, go on to related thing, occasionally discover side effect 2 days later, fix that” was much more efficient than “fix thing, run test locally, wait 3 days to go on…”, but every so often upper management would notice the failures and raise hell.

        2. James*

          Depends on a number of factors. If it’s an occasional typo or slip-up then no, the boss shouldn’t call you into the office. If there’s an indication that something is going wrong, they should. If QA/QC issues start increasing, they should. If it’s an issue of work approach (ie, if the boss suspects you erred because you were on Facebook and only half-paying attention), they should. I’m not saying any of those are happening here (we don’t know); I’m just saying that I’ve seen every one of them happen, and had a few myself (after my second kid was born my work quality declined, because of the whole “only able to sleep two hours a night” thing).

          QA/QC’s job is to fix errors before they go out the door. But any manager worth their paycheck keeps an eye on that process, and why is MUCH more significant than what in many cases.

    1. fposte*

      If you’re an employee who’s admittedly been making mistakes, that’s a bad time to annoy the crap out of your manager by going all tit-for-tat.

      1. Doug*

        If other people are also making mistakes but the manager is only hearing about yours, is it beneficial to stay silent?

        1. Camellia*

          Good point. In that case, AndersonDarling’s response above might actually work: “When I notice mistakes, I communicate with my co-workers to make the correction. Should I be bringing these to you instead?”

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I’d fix my own mistakes before starting to point out other people’s. Otherwise, it would just look petty.

  8. James*

    A certain amount of “tattling” is to be expected. Work should go through a QC process, and if there’s an issue it may have to go through the manager (QC being separate from the folks doing the work, for obvious reasons). The company I work for has a formalized set of procedures for doing exactly that. We also have random audits and procedures for reporting issues concerning things that don’t have a deliverable component (such as work approaches, how you deal with clients/underlings, etc). You’re at work; the company has a vested interest in the quality of your work.

    For more personal stuff, such as how you dress or the tone of your emails or the like, I prefer this to be handled at the lowest level possible. I can say from experience that it comes off as obnoxious when the person who has this kind of concern doesn’t talk to you first, partially because sometimes there’s a reason for your actions. I got reprimanded once for not dressing appropriately for the office–the reason being, I was doing field work part of the day that week and there were company-mandated dress codes for that field work! A friendly “Hey, some folks have noticed you dress a little casually for this environment” among peers can be quite effective at figuring out what’s going on with these types of situations and how to fix them, without giving the appearance of an official reprimand.

    Have you considered going to this person and asking them for advice? For example, you could say “You’ve caught a few of my errors. Could you help me figure out how to keep them from happening again?” (Tailor this to your situation–mine generally involves client deliverables, so I think in those terms.) You don’t have to make friends with them; this is more about showing that you are a professional, you acknowledge that you made mistakes, you acknowledge that this person caught them, and you’re trying to do better. If this person is a decent employee they’ll at least respond in a civil manner. If they get upset, defensive, or dismissive, well, at least you know what you’re dealing with.

  9. The Kurgan*

    In my experience, much of this is due to coworkers’ one-upmanship and not to any real desire to increase efficiency. If it were a true attempt to be helpful, the colleague would speak directly to her erring teammate.

  10. anonanonanon*

    I have to deal with this on a regular basis- two team members making the same mistakes over and over with no concern or effort to improve. So I tell them and then also tell their manager because it needs to be addressed.

    1. Been There - Done That*

      I’m in a similar situation, where careless coworker’s errors often create extra work for me. When I’ve mentioned them to coworker directly, she gets defensive and gossips about me behind my back. I have to wonder if letter writer has been defensive (and doesn’t recognize it), which is why team is bringing mistakes to boss instead.

  11. hbc*

    Even if we agreed this is the wrong way to handle mistakes, the fact that the manager is passing along these observations is a clear statement that she is okay with mistakes being reported this way. Otherwise, she’d tell the coworkers “Take that to OP” and OP would never be called into the office.

    So while it might be okay to *suggest* that coworkers could bring those items up directly, saying anything like “They shouldn’t be doing this” is criticizing the manager as well.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And if this is the case, should the OP be doing the same thing? In fact if I were the OP, I’d ask. “When I catch mistakes that Flora and Fauna make, I’ve been telling them directly. Would you prefer I bring these to you instead?” (Assuming, of course, that you’re actually catching mistakes.)

    2. James*

      I think a lot of it depends on the type of mistake being made. Certain mistakes a manager SHOULD tell the workers to sort out among themselves–ostensibly we’re all adults (we’ve all worked with some people where that’s in question, but the assumption is we are), so we should start with the expectation that we can act like it. Some corrections work better when they come from peers, and some things don’t need to be dealt with by managers. On the other hand there are mistakes where the manager can be held legally responsible if they don’t step in, and some where the correction needs to come from someone with authority.

      The fact that the OP is vague about the nature of the mistakes rings some warning bells in my mind–it’s not terribly unusual and there are numerous perfectly innocent reasons to avoid doing so, but without information on what kinds of mistakes were made it’s hard to evaluate the situation.

  12. stevenz*

    Say thank you.

    In my first professional job I did a pretty good piece of economic analysis and sent it around. My “legendary” predecessor who had moved to a different part of the agency, caught a mistake and emailed everyone on the list about it. I didn’t like that, but I didn’t like making the mistake more. So I emailed him back and thanked him very sincerely for letting me know about the mistake. He was probably astonished. He wasn’t a particularly nice guy so he wasn’t very warm and welcoming to me when I started but that gesture seemed to move him a little and he was a bit more relaxed, though we never really got along well.

  13. Jack the Treacle Eater*

    I’m not sure I agree with the idea there’s no such thing as tattling in the workplace. My experience is that in dysfunctional workplaces people often take trivial, non-existent or fictional errors as high up as they can because they think it will get them attention or status, get one over their colleagues, advance them in some way, curry favour with the boss or do their colleagues down, or because doing so gives them a feeling of power over those they are reporting.

    If the mistakes affect the mission significantly, are not being addressed at shop floor level, raise some wider procedural or systems issue, or are something else the manager genuinely needs to know about then fair enough; but far too many people will take trivial issues to their manager for no better reason than internal politics.

    I’d also say that managers should discourage workers who repeatedly bring issues to them that could be resolved at shop floor level or who do so for political reasons. It can suck a manager’s time away from important tasks, distract from issues that really do need to be addressed and create conflicts and divisions which are highly corrosive to good morale and effective work.

  14. TL17*

    How receptive is OP to feedback? If a coworker says, “hey, X happened when you did Y, make sure next time you ____ instead” how does OP react? Sometimes coworkers are hesitant to correct even a minor mistake if the reaction isn’t going to be good. Alternatively, is OP’s workplace very top-down? Some managers give the impression they want to control everything and that same-level feedback would be stepping on toes or otherwise unwelcome.

  15. Jamie*

    I’m inferring the letter writer has been called into his manager’s office numerous times due to mistakes because if this only happened once or twice the letter writer would have mentioned that or not bothered to write at all. This makes me wonder if the letter writer is in a habit of making mistakes and how often mistakes were made before coworkers began going to the manager.

Comments are closed.