my boss thinks I made a mistake, but I didn’t

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job as an editor for two years now and I report to a manager who reports to the director. The director assigns me work often. She doesn’t really work with any of the other editors directly, so I feel like she really trusts me. In all the time I’ve been there, I’ve never been reprimanded.Many of my coworkers complain about the director’s attitude but to me she’s always been very nice.

Earlier last week she called me into her office and gently let me know that I didn’t catch something I should have or emailed her to let her know. She was really nice about it and basically said it was ok because I usually always do catch things like that. The thing is, I did catch it and I did email her about it. I also sent her a follow-up email when she didn’t respond. She misses emails often because she gets so many, but she usually sees it when you send her a follow-up. I wanted to mention that I did email her, but instead I just apologized since she didn’t make a big deal out of it so I didn’t want to look overly sensitive.

Then last Friday a very similar mistake came through and again I caught it and sent her an email. First thing this morning, she sent me an email asking why I didn’t catch it when we talked about a similar scenario last week. This is the second time I did email her and she didn’t see it. Again, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure how to let her know without sounding like I’m saying she didn’t check her email. If this happens again, how should I handle it?

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.

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Megan

    I’d be tempted to do a “Hey, I wanted to check because I thought I had sent a couple emails about this like you wanted, and I did… but it looks like that might not be the best method here. Is there something else I should be doing? A Slack, mark-as-important, or a special subject line for filtering?”

    1. Poor communicator

      This is timely. Does anyone have ways to get a manager to open up on their preferred method of communication?

      My workgroup struggles with communicating with our manager. Essentially we waste a lot of time we don’t have to rehash the same information. I’ve tried asking if x method would be better for providing information about y. I’ve provide a few options and asked manager to select one. I’ve tried walking manager through the process of looking up the information on network. This has been for basic stuff such as how many teapots I processed in the last year and month. Which is in my monthly stats report where everyone else’s is located. Almost everyone in my workgroup has expressed frustration over the same issues.

      Sometimes I play dumb and pretend there is a glitch in the system or just resend the information for the fifth time. Other times I supply the file path to look it up as a way to set a boundary that I am not going to drop everything to provide information again. I’ve printed documents already provided in electronic form, highlighted info from an earlier email (framing it as if I added it after manager asked for the info), and walked over to provide a quick answer.

      We’ve asked for guidance on ways to better format and share information, but manager shrugs and says that it doesn’t matter how we do it, she just needs the information. We’ve tried to frame it as working together to better communicate, but manager doesn’t understand why we need to communicate and that this is an issue.

      This is so taxing and happens way too frequently. Manager is not going to change, and I’m just trying to keep my sanity while applying for jobs elsewhere.

      1. Electric Pangolin

        At this point, I’d consider that your boss has told you that it’s part of your job to look up the same information again for her for the sixth time that month. It’s not a problem for her and she has the authority to make it yours…

      2. Leslie Knope’s Long-Lost Twin

        It sounds like maybe your manager doesn’t really get the compound effect this is having on the whole team. If each of you is having to repeat information to her multiple times in multiple different ways every week or month, then it’s using up a large amount of time and energy for everyone. But if only a few people are flagging the issue or if you’re each flagging the issue sometimes but not all the time, she’s not seeing the full picture.

        Maybe get together with your coworkers to come up with a strategy. It could be that by discussing you all figure out that she seems most responsive to a certain way of sending information, so you all start doing that for the things she regularly asks for multiple times. Or maybe you come up with some language to use to have a broader conversation with her and then appoint a couple people to talk to her on behalf of the group.

  2. Karen from Finance

    Alison’s advice is spot-on here. By gently correcting your boss in this situation, you’re not arguing, but giving her peace of mind that something your boss thinks is an issue, isn’t. She’ll be reassured that it’s handled, so as long as you’re using the correct tone (“Oh, actually I did! please find attached the email for reference”) you’ll be fine. Otherwise you’re letting the situation grow and it may become a problem, when you don’t really have one at present.

    Did we ever get an update on this one?

  3. Rainy days

    I once accused an employee of not informing me about her vacation in a timely fashion…turns out she had, in an email I didn’t bother to read to the bottom of…I was mortified to learn of my mistake but I’m so glad she corrected me. I wouldn’t want to think poorly of her for a mistake when she didn’t deserve it.

    1. Snark

      This seems like a great opportunity for me to bang the BLUF drum again. Definitely great that she corrected you and it all worked out great! But situations like this are why I am a strong advocate of frontloading important action items and information in an email, then providing context at the end, if necessary. People should read emails all the way to the bottom, but it’s understandable that you missed this!

          1. Pilcrow

            Yep, Bottom Line Up Front.

            For example, our travel policy requires manager approval in writing and my manager is not the most responsive to email, so my email to him is something like this:

            Subject: Travel approval required – Teapot Spout Innovations conference 5/20 – 5/25

            Boss,
            Please reply with approval for my travel to the Teapot Spout Innovations conference by April 30.
            [Conference details, reason to attend, cost estimates, etc listed below]

            The very first line states what I need (approval), how to provide what is needed (reply to email), and the date it’s needed by (April 30). The first sentence provides all the pertinent info if he reads nothing else and is easy to find if he needs to look it up later.

            1. JuneBug

              YES, THIS. When I feel context is needed around action items/requests, I still try to BLUF, and then say “ask me for context if needed” or if it feels necessary right upfront, I’ll drop in a few lines of context. Nobody has time for biblical length emails.

            2. Coldbrewinacup

              Yes! This is the best way to email the boss, since he/she probably has 500 emails in the queue. Let ’em know right away what you need.

              1. Cathie from Canada

                Exactly what I was coming here to say — also, please make the subject line absolutely clear.
                I have noticed so often that people use “reply” with an old email about something else, and then the subject line is completely wrong. No problem with using an old email, particularly if there are multiple recipients, but change the subject line to alert the recipient about what this email is about.
                And don’t use vague subject lines like “update” with someone who is busy — say instead “April update on the Johnson project” or something like that — short but specific.

            3. teclatrans

              I *always* bury the lede; for some reason I tend to eant to explain everything and then wrap it up on a conclusion. But, there is a fix for this, which I finally adopted: write the whole email and then take the summary sentence & stick it up top (ideally editing it to sound like the example above).

  4. LadyByTheLake

    Critically, by pointing out that you did catch both mistakes but that information didn’t get to her, it is a way to flag that the feedback system isn’t working and come up with something else. By not saying anything, that is allowing the clearly broken process to continue.

    1. Snark

      Absolutely. If your boss gets so many emails she misses important ones from you, she needs better email filters, or you need to work out a better system.

    2. Ama

      I think I’ve mentioned this here before but there was a weird glitch with my boss’s email for awhile where the email client was marking messages as read that she had never actually looked at. It took us a few go rounds of me waiting several days for responses from her only to find out she thought she was waiting on me to realize that something was wrong and get our IT staff to try to figure out what was happening and why (it turned out to be something with the way her phone email client was syncing with the server).

      Whether it is technical issues or just a high volume of email the boss is having trouble managing it is better for OP and her boss both to know now that something’s gone awry.

      1. BRR

        The technical glitches can sound fake but weird things do happen. Outlook decided to auto-archive, which there was no setting that would have done this, emails from one particular colleague. I had no idea a couple of urgent requests were in there until she IM’d me.

        1. A Simple Narwhal

          I had an issue where outlook would delete emails at random. There was no rhyme or reason, just poof. My coworkers would have the emails and my response (which saved my gravy on several occasions), but there was no record of it ever existing in my account. It took a lot of time proving the issue to an IT person (who definitely didn’t believe me) before we found out there was a very random glitch that would cause outlook to super-auto-archive some messages to a hidden folder within a folder within a folder that could only be accessed through the web browser version of outlook, and not the desktop app.

          So yea, crazy technical problems do happen!

        2. Beatrice

          I had a coworker once whose Outlook decided she wasn’t going to get any emails from me, period. She didn’t have a rule sending them anywhere, they weren’t in her deleted/spam/junk/clutter boxes…they just never appeared on her side anywhere. I could get emails from her, but she didn’t get anything from me.

          I have no idea what the actual glitch was. I fretted about it for a couple of weeks, and then decided it was up to her to get IT involved and figure it out. I resorted to IMing her or talking to her in person whenever needed. Once in a blue moon, I’d need to actually get a meeting request or something best communicated in longform writing to her in Outlook, and I’d send it to her boss and ask him to forward it to her (hoping that might spur her to work with IT – it did not.) The problem apparently fixed itself after about six months and I can now email her without a problem.

          1. soon to be former fed

            I still have a problem with this sometimes due to a name change SIX years ago. Federal IT isn’t the best.

        3. Pilcrow

          I’ve had Outlook randomly block/mark as spam emails from internal distribution lists. Never could find out what tripped the filter. Some messages got through and others did not.

        4. Elle

          I had an issue where none of my colleagues in the US could email me (I’m in the UK). External emailscame through, as did internal emails from the rest of the world, but the Americans had to get someone else to forward me stuff for about 6 weeks. IT didn’t seem to consider it a major problem, so I was forced to wait and see whether deployment of the next scheduled update fixed it.

      2. RandomU...

        My boss used to have emails deleted if she read them on her cell phone. So as she would scroll through if she happened to hit on an email and opened, when she went to the next one the first one would delete.

        So she’d be skimming on her cell phone, skim past an email that she didn’t mean to open, and then when she got back to her laptop it wouldn’t be in her inbox anymore.

        Not sure how they fixed it, but yes it does totally happen.

      3. The New Wanderer

        My Outlook glitch was, it decided it wasn’t going to send emails to one specific coworker (who I could IM and the system provided their email address so it was valid/verified). On the one hand, it would immediately give me a “Message undeliverable” message. On the other, after 5 seconds, the Message undeliverable message would disappear, and the email I had sent would also disappear out of the Sent folder. No trace. I tried cc’ing myself, then another person, then bcc’ing. Same result, as long as that one targeted email remained, the message self-destructed.

        So, you never know. OP’s situation resolved well, but really anyone in this case should definitely pursue the technical glitch angle rather than take the blame for something they aren’t doing wrong.

        1. JuneBug

          I was thinking the same thing as this thread. Glitches really do happen, or folders get messed up, or things are getting flagged wrong when they enter the inbox – there are just so many ways people organize their email and just as many ways that it can go wrong. OP, follow Allison’s advice!

  5. Binky

    I think in this sort of situation it makes sense to go to your boss and have a discussion about how you can best flag these issues for her, since email isn’t working. I’d say something like “after our last two conversations about the errors you caught, I double checked my emails, since I thought I had flagged them for you. I can confirm that I did send you emails on this topic on [specific dates]. Maybe those emails didn’t get to you in time, since you had to catch the error yourself. Is there anything I can do (send edits earlier in the week/drop by with handwritten notes/flag this stuff over the phone/title the relevant email a specific way) to make sure you get my input before you start your review?”

    That way you’re not taking unwarranted blame, and you’re not blaming your boss for missing your email. You’re just trying to find the best way to do this work going forward.

  6. Mint Hartke

    In your response, OP, I would actually be explicit about the “why” here… because ultimately, this is what a lot of people really don’t get about work relationships. There’s a huge power differential between you and the Director, and that plays out exactly in these kinds of ways. We hear all the time about how managers don’t want you to bring excuses, only solutions, and pointing out that someone with a lot of power over you is wrong can feel like a really dangerous thing to do.

    I would write something in reply to her email like “Hi, I wanted to clarify this. I didn’t speak up before because I didn’t want to be perceived as defensive or as making excuses, but I actually did email you – twice – about the original error, and I emailed you on Friday about this one as well. At this point, it feels like 1) there might be some kind of technical problem, if you’re not receiving the emails, and 2) that you’re starting to see a pattern of mistakes on my part that isn’t quite accurate. I’m happy to work out a new system with you to ensure none of these errors goes unnoticed by either of us again, of course.”

    1. Alianora

      Good advice. I’ve struggled with this kind of situation before, and my approach is often the same as the LW’s because on some level I feel like it’s my job to take the blame for my director’s mistakes. Explicitly calling out this dynamic actually would make me feel more comfortable, because the director’s reaction would give me a good idea of her stance on the matter.

    2. RUKiddingMe

      I like this but I would omit “quite.”

      It’s not “not quite accurate,” it’s “not accurate” at all. I get the idea of softening language but I really don’t think omitting “quite” makes it sound harsh whereas including it sounds like LW bears *some* blame, which she does not.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      While I agree, this is a conversation OP needs to have in person, not through email, especially since boss is stating she wasn’t notified about the mistakes…over email.

  7. Mint Hartke

    Also, like, managers, y’all need to take some responsibility for this. If you’re not creating an environment where your staff can be honest with you about stuff like this, then they’re … well, they’re not going to be honest with you about stuff like this. That kind of culture doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen when there’s a focus on hierarchy and where there’s authoritarian management styles. You might hear 75% fewer excuses, but you’re going to miss way more in legitimate and useful feedback, and in new ideas that your staff doesn’t feel confident bringing to the table.

    If this person didn’t feel comfortable, in the moment, indicating that she had indeed _sent an email_, imagine what else the staff at this workplace isn’t saying.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, absolutely. But it’s also true that there are people who bring this kind of over-deference and fear into workplaces for their own reasons (previous jobs, family dynamics, etc.) regardless of how safe the manager makes it to speak up.

    2. Washi

      I don’t think there’s any evidence to support that this is a culture problem. The OP says the director was really nice and that she didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to seem overly sensitive/defensive, not because she was afraid of the reaction.

      1. Legal Beagle

        Just pointing out that the OP also says her coworkers routinely complain about the director’s attitude.

    3. hbc

      Eh, the OP doesn’t seem to have any fear of this manager, and everything she has to say about the manager says that the handling of problems (or mistaken problems) is handled in a calm and reasonable way. Sometimes you just get employees who have personalities, past bad managers, and/or draconian parents that make them feel the world will end if they speak up for themselves.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I agree. I blame the manager in this case for approaching it as “You made a mistake. It’s no big deal but see, here’s a mistake and you made it.”

      Instead of my bosses approach which is “Oh there’s an error here, did you see that, I didn’t see a flag on it but the system eats things…so…?”

      I have had bosses with leaky memories at times and they have always approached me as “Hey did you notice this?” and most of the time I say “Yeah I did and I fixed it, that’s an old document, here’s the new one!” kind of thing. Then there’s no finger pointing right out of the gate. That’s a management issue right there.

      A lot of people are conditioned to never question or push back at their managers in that case either, it’s a power issue. So yes, another issue with the manager not making that mentality extinct because they encourage being corrected when necessary.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      While it’s true that managers shouldn’t create environments in which their subordinates don’t feel they can speak up, the OP stated that the director has been nothing but nice to her. This is more of a case of the OP being too timid to speak up.

  8. BRR

    Similar to Alison’s suggestion, I would likely start with some variation of playing dumb. I find that sometimes you tell awful lies to soften the message. “Oh did it not go through?” You know it did, the other person probably knows it did, but you avoid saying “read your emails!” Then as others suggest, maybe set up a new system if these emails are causing a bigger issue.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      I wouldn’t play dumb, that can come back to bite you. Just be matter of fact. “I did send an email, did you not receive it?”

  9. Essess

    I would go to my boss and ask how she would like this type of error resolved in the future since the current system since the current system of sending her an email hasn’t worked for the last two incidences.

    1. soupmonger

      Well, first of all you feel to actually tell your boss that you did send emails. The issue here is that the OP appeared to be rendered incapable of correcting the impression that it was the bosses mistake, not theirs.

      1. Essess

        That’s the same as I am recommending. I am saying to actually tell the boss that sending her emails the first 2 times didn’t work so how would she like this taken care of in the future? And if the boss says to just send her an email just like before, then I would ask what the boss would like done next time if there is no response to the emails since the boss has raised concerns about the way it was handled the last 2 times when there was no response. This way you are bringing up the facts into a pro-active discussion for the purpose of avoiding a future recurrence of the issue rather than a finger-pointing blame session for the past mistakes.

  10. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!

    The director clearly knows that you reported the errors and is trying to set you up for something.

    Get out of there ASAP.

    1. Curious Georgia

      What a peculiar assumption to make! Are you this inclined to jump to the worst possible conclusion and assert it as fact in your day to day life, or is this a special online feature of your character?

      1. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!

        After 30 years in my line of work, I have seen and dealt with people at their worst. Therefore, I always assume the worse and am usually correct.

        1. BeenThere OG

          Sad but true. I can relate to this entirely, every time I assume the worst and act accordingly I am safe and continue employment. The minute I let the guard down the knives come out and before I know it I’m gone.

    2. Alianora

      Many people at that level get a ton of emails and don’t fully read through all of them. You can’t assume everything you write gets read.

      1. irene adler

        Very good point. Which makes it even more important to bring attention to the two missed emails. This way the director might alter her behavior and take extra time to watch for OP’s future emails (and to realize that she may be missing other important info because of overlooked emails).

    3. Legal Beagle

      But OP has the emails clearly showing that she caught the errors. This would be a very inept attempt at a set-up.

  11. That Californian

    If it helps to frame it a little differently, I would like to point out to LW that this is an essential editing skill. We are paid to point out/correct errors consistently and professionally, and your boss has now made an error twice that you have not corrected. I understand why you didn’t, of course, but it can help to bring it up by reframing as part of your overall job. Pretend it’s a structural error in a document, and point it out as clearly, matter of factly, and without judgment as you would any other error.

  12. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

    I don’t understand why you would have a system where you aren’t able to correct the error in a file or software program. It seems strange to be able to see but not edit. I never had an editing job where you’d be in that position.

  13. The Man, Becky Lynch

    This is exactly why you should correct someone when they’re incorrect about your mistakes. She wasn’t fussy over the first mistake but most of us have somewhat lasting memories, we do see things pileup. So then if you do actually make a mistake or in this case, another missed email dings you for a mistake in her mind, it’s all snowballing.

    Instead you can nip it in the bud with the “oh I did, the email must have been eaten by the internet! I can forward it to you!” and then this next time it happens, the boss would think “I wonder if I missed another email, I’m going to dig now and not assume the LW missed this after all.” Then you start to create a pattern where she realizes she may actually must miss things and instead of accusing you, she asks you “Did you see this? Did you flag it? I don’t see the email anywhere…”

    I do this with my boss all the time when he forgets to forward me something and we get a reminder that something is late or there’s confusion at some point. Sometimes it’s his fault, sometimes I misfiled it, sometimes it’s actually a vendors fault, etc. But because you’re truthful with each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt, you don’t start piling up mistakes that are not actually your mistakes.

  14. Kristine

    My boss has a habit of coming to our desks and saying “You did X wrong” in an accusatory tone even when we do X perfectly correctly. When she first became my boss I took the approach of playing dumb and saying things like “Oh no, did I? Let’s go through it.” I’d walk through it with her and she’d eventually realize I did everything correctly and sometimes would apologize for accusing me of being wrong. My coworker took the more direct approach of saying “No, I did X correctly. You’re thinking of the process for Y”, which my boss did not take kindly to and told my coworker she was being insubordinate.

    It’s annoying to have to play dumb every time she does this but sometimes the only way to get through the day is to learn how to manage your manager.

    1. irene adler

      Yeah, it can be exasperating to have to cater to the boss like this.

      Hoping boss learned something when you took the time to walk through the process with her and never repeated her error re: X again.

    2. RUKiddingMe

      So pointing out factual info is insubordinate? Oh wait, fragile ego and nit enough deference right?

      1. Kristine

        Pretty much. She once told someone she manages, “If I tell you to stand on your hands and walk backwards the only acceptable response is “Yes ma’am” because I’m your boss”.

        1. Cat Wrangler

          It wouldn’t be my response but I did have a manager like that. I did quit but not for being told to walk on my hands.

      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        I find that astonishing. I would have been the one giving the direct and factual answer, in an upbeat and cheery tone even, because there’s nothing wrong with that answer!

        But I would definitely not last long under a boss like that because I refuse to do that much emotional labor for domineering assholes who just want their egos stroked.

    3. JeanB in NC

      My former boss used to approach everything as “you made a mistake” and she’d start a conversation with “you did this wrong”. I finally just told her flat out that her starting out by telling me I was wrong made me very defensive, and that I would appreciate if she could just ask me about the thing instead of starting off from a position that I was incorrect. She actually did try to do that, though I’m not sure all bosses would appreciate that kind of honesty from a subordinate.

      1. Dan

        I’m surprised bosses think that “you’re wrong” (unless one is demonstrably and unarguably wrong) to be an effective way to communicate. I’m not a boss yet, but I’ve been doing things long enough such that I’ve come to the conclusion that starting a conversation with “you’re wrong” to be the fastest way to not get anything resolved, with pretty much anybody. And even if a subordinate did f something up, what’s to be gained by being that blunt about it? Odds are, they probably weren’t as wrong as the boss initially thought.

        If you think someone screwed something up, IMHO the best way to point it out is to ask them to explain how they got such-and-such. Maybe their premise was faulty, they were considering things that ultimately weren’t important, or whatever. And if they did forget something, most people are just going to be like, “Oh shit I forgot to do X. Sorry, won’t happen again.”

      2. Cat Wrangler

        I actually complained about a colleague who upon receiving an external complaint, responded to the the complainant, berating me in passing before getting my version of events (The complaint was regarding information which I had sent to the email address they had written down on the attendance sheet of a meeting). I got nowhere with my issue that an internal investigation and measured response to external complaints would have been the graceful/intelligent thing to do, notwithstanding the complaint was BS but people can make mistakes, it happens. My colleague’s kneejerk response was the part that offended me.

        I did take some comfort in forwarding the original dated email which included the disputed email address, to the new email provided with the information but I never got an apology from either party.

    4. The New Wanderer

      This is actually the situation I can see happening where the OP thinks of the manager as nice and reasonable (because OP is, if anything, overly deferential), but the coworkers don’t like the manager’s attitude, possibly because they are less deferential and more direct.

      If you’re working with a manager who prefers deferential, best to play the game even as you’re proving that you’re not to blame for something. Maybe take the slightest internal joy in doing the slow reveal? And look to get out from under them because being called insubordinate for correcting a manager’s mistake in a completely neutral way is ridiculous and having to constantly play dumb to cater to someone’s ego sets up bad habits for later management.

      1. MassMatt

        I am wondering if the director has a history of doing things like this and this is the reason she is disliked by her coworkers.

    5. soon to be former fed

      I couldn’t mollycoddle a manager like this. How is it insubordinate to tell the truth?

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        Same. Could not, would not, wouldn’t care if I lost my job over it. My self respect is worth more than money. (I’ve walked the walk and put my money where my mouth is in the past, so this is not an idle internet boast.)

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

        I’m a pretty direct person but still I somehow don’t see it as good manners to tell your manager “no, I did this correctly”. I would probably go for something like “I thought the green teapots were supposed to go to the brown box but maybe I misunderstood something. Would you mind explaining to me what the correct procedure is?” And some managers could get upset about that one too…

  15. RUKiddingMe

    “… if you make an actual mistake in the next few months, you want it to look like number one, not number three.”

    This!

  16. SheLooksFamiliar

    A former boss of mine frequently didn’t get attachments to emails I sent him. Instead of asking, ‘Could you re-send it? The Internet ate it,’ he replied, ‘You forgot to attach the document, please correct at once.’ Grr.

    Because his default conclusion tended to be ‘You screwed up,’ and because I was in a mood that day, I sorted my Sent Emails page to his name, took a screen shot of all my emails showing attachments, and sent it to him: ‘Here’s a history of my emails with attachments. How do YOU suggest we correct this?’ I never found out what the problem was, but at least he stopped assuming I was a screw-up.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar

        Don’t give me too much credit – I was annoyed more than brave! Luckily, my boss acknowledged that I actually had been attaching documents all along, and he stopped saying, ‘You forgot something.’

  17. AnotherKate

    Agreed with others who see an inherent process issue in this letter. What is the publication process at this company? How is something going live before an editor has officially signed off that all problems are fixed? Why would you employ an editor whose role is only to flag, but not actually fix, errors? I would be very annoyed if I worked in a place that required me to catch every error but didn’t empower me to fix it myself once caught.

    That said, in a world where it IS the OP’s responsibility, probably her job is to follow up and say “wait, we can’t publish this piece because the final QA isn’t complete; I need approval from Boss.”

  18. I'm that person

    Hit reply, add the email from Friday as an attachment and say, “I sent this to you on Friday, you must have missed it.” It’s better to have her a little annoyed with you for correcting her than for her to think that you screw up all the time.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever

      I think the issue should be corrected, but saying “you must have missed it.” I think is a bit to direct. I think it would be best to give the manager the benefit of the doubt, as others have said weird tech glitches/mistakes do happen. I think a softer framing of “I sent this to you on Friday, something must have happened, or it must have gotten lost.” This leaves it open for an actual tech error, or that what happened was manager just didn’t see it.

      1. Alianora

        Yes, I would say something like “Here’s the email I sent you on Friday, guess it must not have made its way to you.” Keep it vague and non-confrontational.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch

        I agree. I would soften the approach, at least at first.

        Then if it gets to become a habit that she’s constantly accusing you of screwing up, then you go the route of the person above with the manager who never got their attachments. But at first, it’s best to approach cautiously with a “Oh dear, you didn’t get that email? Sigh, internet eating correspondence again, I did send you an email, should I forward it?”

  19. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

    I basically try to give people an out. Since this has happened twice, I’d just ask and say that you’re afraid that it might have gone into her Spam box or something along those lines. Stuff like that does happen (heck, once my dietitian’s emails started randomly going into Spam after I’d gone to her for like three years), and it’ll let her know that you’re being responsive (plus, if she actually DIDN’T get them, you’ll know that y’all have a technical issue that needs to be taken care of).

  20. ThinMint

    “(But you know what is a moral judgment? Thinking that she couldn’t handle you just explaining that you did send the email.I’d be totally taken aback if I found out that an employee wasn’t speaking up when I criticized them incorrectly on something so objectively black and white.)”

    How would you address that, as the manager? I’m curious.

    1. hbc

      I’ve had some success pointing out times that I took much worse feedback than that in stride. Once it got far enough that I had to point out that they were not doing their job effectively if they were letting problems go unaddressed, with the pretty clear implication that their job was more at risk from lying by omission than by telling me a slightly unpalatable truth.

    2. Mint Hartke

      Personally, I would do some serious introspection on why my staffer felt their life would be better if they took blame for something they didn’t do than if they challenged me on one tiny insignificant thing. A conversation needs to be had to create a better relationship if the manager wants to actually get honest feedback from their staff.

    3. LaDeeDa

      I wondered about that too. Why couldn’t she just say “OH! I emailed you about it! I know you get a gazillion emails, let me send it again.” With my boss, 30 min prior to any meeting I re-send her any emails relevant to the call– I know she read them, she likely responded to them, but she won’t remember, and I don’t want her to have to hunt for them during the call. The other thing I do is, I message her on our instant messaging system when I need her to give me an answer. “Hey! I sent you an email 2 days ago about XYZ, do you have a minute to respond?”
      That is her style… not mine… but it all about managing up.

  21. LaDeeDa

    As everyone has said it is an opportunity to come up with a better way to communicate. I have learned that with boss and grand-boss that I have to do things differently for each, and both ways are different than my preferred communication method. Learning what they want to get what I want has been crucial in not only my success but in getting things done efficiently, and to prevent these kinds of misses from happening.

  22. Batgirl

    This reminds me of when my boss asked me verbally to change shifts “Hey Batgirl would you work earlies next Monday?” And I stupidly say yes without getting it in writing.
    I show up on Monday for the early shift and he’s all: “What are you doing here? I asked you to do lates?” We both disagree but the upshot is I do my commute twice that day.
    We are both convinced the other one is wrong: annoyingly we both know that he has a much better executive function in terms of memory than I do (I have to write things down usually, he doesn’t, but this is one of those rare occasions where I am SURE). He’s lucky that I like him.
    Two days later he walks up to me (when I have witnesses!) And he says “Hey Batgirl will you do earlies on Friday”
    In a flash I understand the weird glitch that’s happening.
    “By earlies, do you perhaps mean lates?” I say sweetly.
    “Wait. Yes. Did I say earlies?”
    Oh so sweet…..

  23. Luna

    “I was sure I sent you an email regarding X… let me double-check my outbox; maybe the system was being finicky again.”

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

      What’s wrong with a direct “Oh, I *did* catch that mistake! I emailed you about it twice, but I never heard anything back” right at the beginning when the boss made her first error? Why would OP need to be the one offering up excuses for the BOSSES error? Are that many bosses so thin skinned that they can’t handle the truth without a ton of coddling and hand holding?

  24. Banana

    I totally know how LW feels though. Once, I made a mistake on a project, but I hadn’t realized it was a mistake because on a previous project, we’d done something a different way. When my boss pointed this out to me, I asked why we had done it differently on a different project. My boss said that we hadn’t.

    I knew for a fact–and I had evidence–that we had. I tried to explain that we had planned to do it X way, but then because of ABC reasons, we’d gone with Y way, and I was just wondering why this project was different because it seemed to me to have the same concerns. My boss would not let me speak at all. She just kept more and more loudly yelling “WE DID IT X WAY!” when I tried to start my sentences.

    I had absolute evidence but after she screamed at me for trying to correct her, I couldn’t find a way to show her the evidence without it seeming defensive.

    I still don’t know why we did it two different ways.

  25. Responding to OP#1

    OP 1 – I have a compliance type position and have to follow up with a lot of people ALL the time. For peace of mind, frankly I have just accepted that I need to follow up with them to get my work done because in the long run (when I’m retired on the beach sipping sangria) I will literally not think 2 shits about how I might have been an annoyance to someone x number of years ago.

    As far as HOW do this without being annoying. Well, I work 90% with a sales team of various levels of seniority (from sales rep to area VP) and know the people I work with very well and have established good relationships so I follow up depending on priority which can be monthly, biweekly, or weekly. I also call people instead of email because 90% of the time I have multiple things to follow up on so I will give them a call which makes things SO much more personal and people end up respecting you more when they know you’re a real person and not a robot behind a screen sending out 100 emails. My position requires a ton of follow up and there is an art to working with people and getting them to do what you need them to do. I essentially have to be a sales person to them, just as they are a sales person to their customers.

    In summary, phone calls when you can, be personable, build good relationships, and people will do what you need them to.

  26. DinoLand

    This Letter is so relevant for me right now! I am in this never-ending cycle with my supervisor now where I get blamed for doing something wrong and then I either explain myself, which makes her mad or just agree which makes me look incompetent and encourages her to bring up how I messed up last time, so frustrating.
    Example, I had to set up a room with computers, she was upset that I did not use a router (btw this is not a technical job in any sense). I explained that I knew it was best to use a router for this setup but we did not have one. She gets angry and states that I should have known in the past (when I was not employed here) we used a router and told her that there wasn’t one, eventually, I just agree though that makes no sense. I am a painfully logical person so this sort of useless emotional labor drives me crazy!

  27. Boo!

    I always forward the original emails with a note saying “I did send you this on , I’m sorry you missed it.”

    By forwarding the original there is a date and time stamp that backs up my position. I would never accept blame for something I didn’t do. I do enough stuff wrong without having to take responsibility for something I didn’t do wrong! lol

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