update: my employee accidentally sent a rude message about me … to me

Remember the letter-writer whose employee accidentally sent her a rude message that was about her and intended for someone else? Here’s the update.

I have a great update to share with you. I spoke with Jane and took your advice as to how to frame up the converstion by asking her if there was something I could do differently/provide more background or reasoning when giving direction. I know there was a debate among the readers if this was appropriate because a male boss might not handle it this way and/or if this seemed a little timid. I personally was concerned about how to handle it if the conversation took a turn and Jane wouldn’t admit to it at all— after all, she already denied and dodged it once. If that happened, I certainly couldn’t have insisted the message was about me, since I had no solid proof. But we all know it was.

Anyway, to my surprise, she aknowledged the situation right as I brought it up, with a lot of head nodding and “yes” or “right” in response to me framing up the situation. She then went on to apologize! She admitted to lying about who the message was intended for and said she knew she shouldn’t have done that. She did give an excuse saying she was having a rough day that day, but quickly added that she knew that didn’t excuse her behavior, which she said was limited to only that one time. She seemed concerned about how this would impact our relationship and even added that I have been very good to her and I didn’t deserve that treatment. She also said I do a great job already providing context for changes or direction and this was all on her. She said she’s glad I addressed it because it’s been weighing on her and she didn’t know how to bring it up. She seemed genuine and so I’m going to concentrate on that and not focus on if this had been a reoccurring thing between her and Mary or if she was just telling me what I want to hear to save her skin.

I’m really glad I sought out this group and your advice. As a new manager I’m still learning the right ways to address situations and while I knew it was wrong to ignore it and that would just eat away at me, I needed guidance as to next steps. I also am taking the readers’ advice to heart about how to view the relationship in general. Since our talk I’m doing a better job not taking things personally, and not looking for affirmations from my team when I do what I’m supposed to do. Our relationship now is more business-friendly vs. just friendly and that alone has made a world of difference.

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. CatCat*

    Really like this update. It sounds like you handled this really well, OP, and continue to learn and grow as a manager. Great job! :-)

    1. Artemesia*

      Wow. It is really hard, especially when new and insecure as a manager, to confront this sort of thing. It is totally necessary to do but it is hard. I know that in management positions I have avoided conversations I should have and I admire that you took this on. And how great that it worked out so well.

  2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Yay for happy updates! Also, glad to hear you were able to shift your mindset. It’s AMAZING how much pressure/stress we put on ourselves.

    Sounds like you’re on the path to being an excellent manager!

  3. dr_silverware*

    I love this—you handled this wonderfully, and she really turned it around to handle it wonderfully as well.

  4. WillyNilly*

    If I were Jane I would really respect you as my manager for how you handled this. Good job.

  5. CBH*

    What a great update! We all have bad days; it sounds like Jane owned up to it. OP you are a great manager and did everything in a professional and friendly manner.

  6. Cassandra*

    Best outcome I can come up with. I suspect your working relationship with Jane will come out of this stronger.

  7. Triumphant Fox*

    If I were Jane, I would be so relieved to come clean. I get the impulse to lie about it in the moment and the obsession/guilt over having done that after the fact. You’ve given her the opportunity to apologize, clarify and move on – and you seem genuinely open to her criticism. Maybe the fact that she put this all on her is a sign of not wanting to get in trouble, but I’d like to think that Jane will feel more comfortable coming to you with issues in the future.

  8. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Kudos to you for wanting to learn to be a better manager! I’m not saying you were particularly bad, just that a manager who is willing to look at their processes/habits and ask “what’s working and what isn’t?” and then saying “okay, let’s fix what isn’t” is so great for morale and productivity. Hurrah!

  9. Trillion*

    Yay, that’s great! Also good for the workers of us to read and remember next time we get caught being unprofessional: apologize, admit you were wrong, and hopefully we can all move on.

    1. Yvette*

      “…apologize, admit you were wrong, …”

      That’s good advice for almost any kind of miss-step in the work place. Apologize, own it, and if appropriate, outline the steps taken to rectify and or insure it does not happen again.

  10. Bob*

    I did that once. Luckily, I decided to go straight to her office and face the music. I walked into her office and she was on her cell fighting with her spouse. I ignored her, walked up to her PC, closed the chat window, deleted the history on that chat and walked away. I work in IT so I told her later that I was testing a new policy and wanted to see if an update got installed on her PC.

  11. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Love this update. You handled it well – I like that you spoke with her about it rather than just stewing about it (which I have to admit would be my first instinct – I’m trying to break myself of that habit). Great job!

  12. Galatea*

    It’s always great to read about workplace issues being resolved so well, and this is some solid advice on how to move forward when it happens!

  13. idi01*

    Once I walked into one of my managers department just as he started criticizing me to his staff (he had his back to the door). I just made a joke of it and said something to the effect that I have heard a lot worse from my wife. I wasn’t too upset about it, people always make complaints about their boss, most of the time they are just blowing off steam.

  14. ChaoticGood*

    This is fantastic, OP, thanks for the update! I love it when good advice brings good results.

  15. Julia the Survivor*

    If my boss stopped looking for personal affirmations in and around the job, life would be so much better! Good for you! :)

  16. LG*

    What a great update. You handled this so well! And, as always, I really appreciate when folks write in to update us.

  17. Former Employee*

    I love happy endings in real life.

    If it turns out that Jane was just telling the OP what she knew she was supposed to say, it will come out sooner or later – it always does.

    For now, I would assume that Jane really is a decent person/good employee who was just having a bad day and went off the rails. Haven’t we all (maybe just not in a way designed to get us in deep with our boss)?

  18. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Thank you so much for this update. It’s a really good reminder that with a little courage and goodwill, situations can work out for the best for everyone. You sound like a great manager. Good luck with everything!

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