I sent an angry response to a work email — was I in the wrong?

A reader writes:

My question is: *If* I was actually the toxic party, how can I recover from this? (If I was in the right, I will have to start job hunting due to the toxic workplace culture at my company!)

I will admit to having a very direct communication style, and that is especially true when I am angry. But I do not believe I should be required to provide a lot of fluff when I let someone know that I feel violated. The incident began when I was forwarded an email that was sent to my boss, his boss, and his boss. The email erroneously stated that I had not taken a required training course that I most certainly had taken. I replied to the original sender that I had taken the course, attached the “transcript” of courses I’d taken, and asked that a correction be sent to my boss’s boss’s boss.

I received a reply saying the data had been pulled 2.5 days before the email was sent and before I took the class. That is when I became angry because those who sent it knew it might be inaccurate and sent it to my company’s second highest executive anyway, without any reference to its potential inaccuracy. I said there was no disclaimer on the data presented in the email, it appeared that I still had not taken the class even after I had done so, and I explained that I felt quite violated because it had been sent to such a high level manager. I added that since the report was sent even though it was known to possibly be outdated, with no indication that it could be incorrect, a correction needed to be sent.

All hell broke loose.

Even though I was the one who was maligned, I was told that I had taken the training later than required (true, but irrelevant to the issue, and the first time in 4.5 years at the company I’d been late) and that my email was harsh and unnecessary. I refused to acknowledge wrongdoing because I was not insulting. I was direct and firm, but did not personally attack her. I do not believe I even came close to crossing a civility line!

It feels very much like I was being gaslighted. First, blame the person who was wronged, then bring up irrelevant wrongdoing on the part of the wronged person to prove it was all deserved, and last — but not least — don’t discuss the email with the person who sent it … get half the executive management of the company (almost literally, in this case) to side with you and have someone else confront her. I believe that if I were male instead of female, I never would have been spoken to about this incident. When a man has written such things, women in my company are told: “That’s just the way he is. Don’t take it personally!” I am still furious.

No details have been omitted. Am I toxic and need to eat crow, or am I working in a toxic corporate culture and need to find another job?

It sounds like you’re really overreacting:

* It’s really normal to pull this kind of list a couple of days before it’s sent out. In this case, it was a list of people who had missed a training deadline — so it makes sense that you were on there because you had indeed missed the deadline (even though you then took the course in the two days that followed).

* You could have rectified the situation by replying to correct the record (which you did) and asking your boss to issue any correction she felt would be necessary to the managers above her. Your boss is better positioned to know if that sort of correction is even necessary; there’s a good chance that it isn’t. (If I got an email telling me that an employee three levels down hadn’t met the deadline for a required training, I’d either assume the person’s direct manager would handle it, since they were also on the email, or — if I were concerned — I’d ask that manager about it … at which point I’d be told the training had happened, problem solved. I’d then spend literally no further time thinking about it, unless it tied into some larger problem. It’s not a big deal.)

* Replying that you felt violated by this is … a lot. That is not something that should typically come up at work in the context of routine emails, likes ones about training deadlines. People are going to see the initial email as a very minor thing, even with its error, but will see your reaction as hugely disproportionate. That is not helpful for you — it means you will have much less capital and credibility the next time something bothers you, and it can make people see you as touchy and difficult to work with.

* Having a very direct communication style is fine, as long as you’re aware of how to operate effectively within the culture you work in. But “especially when I am angry” is problematic when you’re at work. Anger should rarely be a thing you’re expressing at work, particularly in regard to routine interactions like this one. At work, you’re expected to not to take things like this personally. You’ve got to be able to deal with annoying stuff without losing your cool. (More here on that.) To be clear, there can be some things at work that warrant a strong reaction (although usually still a strong, controlled reaction); it’s just that this was minor.

* You could be right that if you were a man, you wouldn’t have been criticized for your email. Lots of companies have sexist double standards like that. But a man should be criticized for a message like this, for all the reasons above. If men in your company are sending over-the-top emails with no repercussions, that’s a problem. (That said, because your assessment of the email you sent is off, it’s hard to know if it’s comparable to what men are sending. If it is, that’s a legitimate beef.)

* It’s not irrelevant that you took the training late. You did take the training late! One consequence of that is that you might be included on a list of people who didn’t take the training on time, even if that list is two days out of date.

* But also, being erroneously included on this list is not a big deal. This isn’t a list of people who should be fired or demoted. It’s a list of people who still need to take a training. You can just note that you’ve now completed it. Done, finished, resolved. You’re not being maligned (that’s a very strong word for a minor administrative thing) or violated (ditto).

Ultimately, this is all a very big reaction to a very small thing. The best thing you can do is to let it go, and maybe send an email to your manager and the other person apologizing for making it into something larger.

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. crchtqn2*

    OP, could you possibly have other issues with your employer right now? Like feeling you aren’t being supported in career progression or that issues you have with the company are being overlooked?

    I know at times, I have had to stop myself from sending reactionary emails to small issues because I knew it was a combination of being frustrated at my employer rather than the person behind that current issue.

    1. ChemistryChick*

      I agree with this. It seems like this might be a “straw that broke the camels back” type of situation. Heck knows I’ve felt that way before.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        I actually disagree, because even the feel, or tone, of this question HERE has a lot of force behind it. And I think LW admits to that tendency.
        So I’d suggest not just an apology, but one that’s written in a less combative tone. I’d say I learned some things, and list them.
        I’d hedge and say that “tone” can be hard to modulate or gauge in an email sometimes and that I’m working on adjusting that so I come off the way I want to. Because that IS a problem sometimes.
        I’d admit I was late taking the course, maybe make an excuse that I never have before cause I’m so motivated or something.
        I’d try to use the apology to make myself look better. Because it’s not about what happens and it’s not about how you react about what happens or how they react to how you react —
        it’s about what you ultimately do to show you can do better.

        1. El Tea*

          Poor choice of words here, maybe? An apology written to make the apologist ‘look better’ isn’t a good apology. Good apologies are honest are written to show the apologist has recognised they did wrong, and why it was wrong. If that has the effect of making them look good.. great.. a genuine apology can be a courageous act. But if an apology tries to be a PR exercise over and above it’s primary objective there’s a good chance that people will see right through it.

          Ideally an apology deals with nothing but the admission of error. No excuses, no mitigating factors, no ‘but hey I helped an old lady cross the road that time’. When I see all that stuff it just gives the impression that someone isn’t sorry and probably still doesn’t think they did anything wrong.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I could not agree more. Something like this has a better chance of going over well IMO:

            “Good afternoon Meghan,

            I’ve now had a chance to cool down and reflect on the email I sent earlier and I sincerely apologize for the tone I used. I was frustrated and took it out on you and that wasn’t okay. I did take the training late and recognize that is why I ended up on the list. This is the first and last time I will complete a training late.

            It is not my intention to be harsh or rude to others and I will make sure that going forward my emails demonstrate that.


    2. Homebody*

      Exactly. It definitely sounds like there may be other things going on, either inside or outside work, that are contributing to OPs reaction. It reads to me that their needs aren’t being met in some way.

    3. Blisskrieg*

      Was just coming on to say this. OP, I think Alison’s last asterisk hit the nail on the head in terms of how this should have been handled by you, but the whole letter made me wonder if you work for a really punitive company and that’s why this one issue rubbed you the wrong way.

      As a manager, I get these kind of reports all the time. Other than following up to ensure the training ultimately gets done, I don’t read much into them unless someone would have a really pervasive pattern of avoiding their deadlines.

      Yes you over reacted, but I would be curious to hear an update with some more background.

      1. Jen*

        This was my thought in terms of how punitive is the company as a whole. I’ve worked at some really punitive companies where something like this could lead to a written warning or being fired. More context would be needed to know if the issue is a punitive work environment and op is responding to that or if it’s more something that the OP needs to look at.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          BUT if it IS “punitive” — it’s still where LW works.
          I don’t think it’s good to find a reason to make this person feel better for how she handled this; it’s an opportunity, a learning experience. She admits she has these tendencies and this is a knock on the door for her to improve her image at the place where she works.

    4. Threeve*

      “Violated” is such a strange and extremely loaded word to choose. Someone deliberately revealing private information about you is a violation; someone sharing mildly unflattering, only recently inaccurate information is a small mistake. What feels so disturbingly invasive about it, and why?

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, “violated” and “gaslighted” both seemed like terms that would apply to an unhealthy personal relationship, not to a work email about missing a deadline. I don’t mean to nitpick word choice—the word choice seems to reflect how OP sees the situation, which is not how most people would see it.

        FWIW, I get this kind of email not-infrequently: fiscal says I haven’t submitted a form when I have, HR says I’ve put in the wrong leave code when I haven’t, etc. All you need to do is correct it.

        1. MissM*

          The choice to use those two words as well as ‘toxic’ makes me think more of therapy internet forums, so perhaps LW has more going on in their personal life which is now bleeding over into work interactions. Either way, this especially wasn’t a personal attack but just an auto-generated list. Since this is the first training where they missed the deadline, as a manager, I wouldn’t be concerned about it especially since LW had completed it before the list was sent out. The best response would have been to send a copy of the transcript back and cc their manager, without any commentary

          1. Pickled Limes*

            The fact that the OP is framing it as “are they the toxic ones or am I the toxic one?” is especially troubling to me. Sometimes nobody’s the toxic one. Sometimes a mistake gets made or an oversight happens and nobody did it maliciously and the word “toxic” doesn’t need to enter the conversation at all.

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              Yeah, sometimes things can be mutual screw-ups. And when you are in an unpleasant or difficult work environment anyway, you can forget that unintentional screw-ups happen and take them much too personally. Which I think is what’s happening here.

            2. Subject Avocado*

              “Toxic” gets thrown around so much these days, it’s a functionally irrelevant term.

            3. Don P.*

              Totally out of my rear, but I wonder if OP has come from Reddit culture and their group “AITA” (Am I the A-hole)?

              1. Roscoe*

                This very much sounds like the type of post that would be there, along with people telling her that “people are gaslighting you”, with a dose of “if a man did this, no one would care”

                1. Content Creator*

                  That last one is also very common on AAM posts, to be fair (gender double standards, etc.)

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            I came to write the comment that I like how Alison addresses this in a nuanced way without using the word “toxic”. I’ve been thinking that “toxic” is becoming overused on the AAM comment threads.

            Not that there aren’t workplaces that fit the term! But we have a lot of people write about their (current/former) toxic workplace or co-worker as if “toxic” is one single thing. It sortof reifies something that is more of a label of a place dysfunctional workplaces can end up in a variety of ways. “Toxic” doesn’t tell me much on its own. And for the LW there was a false dichotomy between them and everyone else being “toxic” when I think no one is particularly toxic here.

          3. Tazzy*

            My company is too small for formal HR, so it falls to my boss and I (Executive and Admin Assistants respectively) to handle those tasks. If I generated a report like this, I would be expected to send the results to our Practice Admin and Medical Director simply to keep them in the loop so that (1) if it came up again, they would already know or (2) they could follow up with the right supervisors to make sure they stay on top of it. I understand how it can feel like you’ve been tattled on–and I sometimes feel like I am tattling on coworkers when I CC the right person–but it truly is just a routine part of some tasks and OP needs to let it go.

            1. Krabby*

              Yeah, my company does the same thing. I run our HRIS so I pull the reports, but it is NOT my job to follow up with people, so the report gets sent to managers and other higher level people to disseminate to the correct groups for follow up. Nothing personal, and nothing a quick email wouldn’t solve for OP.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              Yep. Training is part of my job and we do the same thing, monthly report sent to a distribution list of everyone who has overdue trainings. It isn’t intended to single anyone out or create any kind of reprimand, it’s just a heads up in case someone is having an issue or missed that they had one or something like that. If you show up on that list regularly, then it may be an issue, but once is no biggie. Granted, it also seems that part of my job is replying to panicked emails from coworkers with, “Don’t worry too much, this is just a heads up sent to a distribution list. Just get it done in the next week or so and you’re fine.” So I understand why you may have gotten nervous, OP, but your reaction was pretty outsized to the situation.

              OP, if there are bigger issues going on and this email is just the thing that flipped your switch, I get it. But at the same time, this was not an insult or a disparagement, it was just the training person doing her job.

          4. Meep*

            I have a coworker who is 100% toxic. She is older and very envious of younger people who she sees as better off than her (due to her expensive tastes) and, therefore, entitled. A year ago we were looking for a house and the entire time she was verbally abusive. When the house fell through (on the seller’s side), she was almost gleeful about it. I didn’t tell her the next time we made an offer – which surprise, surprise upset her, but made the buying process overall a million times less stressful.

            I felt absolutely insane for the entire 8-month process, feeling like she was mad at me for this thing that was supposed to be an accomplishment. But nope, she was. She complained to my other coworkers about it. Repeatedly. But it is so absolutely bonkers that I would look like the crazy, paranoid person if I tried to explain that to anyone.

            Point is, I could /see/ OP really being gaslit by this person, but I can also see OP having a victim complex.

          5. Simply the best*

            Eh. I’ve never been in therapy and I have never frequented therapy blogs. Those words are everywhere anymore. Anyone who disagrees with someone gets accused of gaslighting them. Anybody who makes the slightest mistake is labeled toxic. The smallest flight against somebody is deemed a violation.

            It’s truly unfortunate because those are real things that real people experience, but it’s next to impossible to take those words seriously anymore.

          6. NerdyKris*

            Yes that was my takeaway as well. It read like one of those more unhelpful forums that frame every relationship and interaction as antagonistic and start from an assumption of malice. I feel like LW has a lot of other issues that are all bleeding together. That they’ve been there four years and are having such a strong reaction seems to me like there’s more they’re upset about and this just hit at the wrong time.
            If they are on those forums that love to throw around the word narcissist and start from the assumption that everyone is against them, they should definitely move away from those places and find someplace healthier.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘I don’t mean to nitpick word choice—the word choice seems to reflect how OP sees the situation, which is not how most people would see it.’

          Exactly. I’ve gotten similar emails because I missed a deadline or didn’t fill in a form correctly, and the word ‘violated’ never came to mind. It wasn’t a personal indictment, just a typical call to action because something in The System said I made a mistake. So I fixed the problem or showed proof that I already had, and that was it. I might have been embarrassed for missing a deadline, but that’s on me to manage.

          Maybe the OP’s organization was keeping an eye on this training, and the email writer was asked to include certain leadership levels – normal, in my experience. Regardless, sending proof of completion would probably have been the last of it.

          1. Cat Tree*

            I agree. I recently had an issue where I showed up on a list for overdue training. But the training didn’t show up on my list, and when I manually searched for it, it couldn’t launch. Plus it was for an obsolete system and should have been removed from my plan. It was such a fiasco to resolve, and I didn’t love that my grandboss kept seeing my name on that list. But even with all that, I *never* felt violated or gaslighted. The IT system wasn’t wonky *at me*.

          2. Galadriel's Garden*

            Right on. To me, what sticks out is that OP was indeed late on their training and hand-waves that element as unimportant…but it is the whole reason that they appeared on the list, so it certainly *is* important. The System doesn’t keep tabs on “employee is usually good about these kinds of things so we won’t put them on The List,” The System just sends the data as it is. I’ve certainly missed deadlines before and certainly been embarrassed to have done so (especially when the emails with my manager cc’d show up) but energy is much better spent just rectifying it and moving on – in this case just sending a quick update that the training had been completed, and calling it a day. “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business” comes to mind.

            OP, this really isn’t meant to pile on you any further – we’ve all missed deadlines, or reacted in a less-than-ideal way in a stressful scenario, and I’ve certainly done both at the same time. I’m not proud of it, but I did use it as a learning experience to better manage my emotions as well as realizing how little stock most people put into minor slip-ups, especially if you’re an otherwise-solid employee.

          3. iglwif*

            Yeah, this is …
            OP did the training late. Missing the deadline by 2 days is not that big a deal, but it is, in fact, missing the deadline, and having that fact reported to the people it would normally be reported to should be a completely predictable consequence … and also not that big a deal.
            Replying “Whoops, actually I have done the training that training now, here’s the certificate, thanks!” would’ve saved everyone a whooooole lot of aggro here.

        3. Astro*

          Same. And when I correct it, it’s usually with my boss since they are the ones that need to know

        4. Anna*

          Gaslighting and toxic can be appropriate terms for an unhealthy work environment. What she was calling gaslighting wasn’t that she missed a deadline, but the response she got for trying to get it corrected. That it wasn’t a big deal.

          Was the reaction in this once instance in isolation over the top? Yes. But also note the response she’s been given for difficult men. Something more could be at play here. If everytime she brings up an issue, she is dismissed by things like “that’s just the way that he is” every single slight gets magnified.

          Maybe instead of policing her words, we encourage her to look inward for why she reacted the way that she did. Maybe it’s an overreaction to a normal situation. Maybe it’s a reaction to a normal situation in an unhealthy environment. Only she will know which it is.

          1. Caaan Do!*

            But it wasn’t a big deal. She missed a deadline and therefore her name wasn’t on a report, that’s it. All she had to do was send the new data and say “I missed the initial deadline but here is my completion data, could this be included in this/the next report?” but instead she wildly overreacted, like “cheapass rolls” levels of overreaction.

            Sure, if there are sexist double standards in play at her workplace I can see why she’s frustrated, but there was no gaslighting here. She overreacted to a neutral statement – we pulled this report 2.5 days ago – and was called out for it.

      2. oirishgal*

        I disagree its even mildly unflattering. There’s no moral loading on this. It’s just an email of some morally neutral facts about who still needs to take outstanding training.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well, it may or may not be. It could be that the higher-ups look at completion rates by the deadline as a team performance indicator. Or they track them over time. Or there are regulatory consequences if (too many?) people haven’t completed it. It could be embarrassing.

          But intelligent managers know that these measures are imperfect both by what they capture and what they mean.

          And in any event, a matter-of-fact note of “training completed now, FYI” is all that was appropriate here.

        2. JSPA*

          OP may have felt a brief surge of embarrassment, but

          A. there’s no rule saying that you’re protected from ever feeling a negative emotion or sensation at work,


          B. Plenty of people would not have felt embarrassed, in any case.

          OP, if your emotional response to something this mundane is this intense, that reactiveness may be toxic (for you, not for the workplace) and you may want to look into dealing with reactivity (for your own comfort, not as a condition of employment).

          If your gating ability (feeling the feeling, without making it someone else’s problem) is also lower than average (or, heck, if it’s better than average, but your reactivity is higher than what it can handle) then, yes, you might verge on “toxicity” (or, y’know, you might just be garden-variety difficult). Again, that’s a thing you can learn about and train, if you want to be more congenial (and more promotable).

          As with startle responses, anxiety, etc. people do not start with the same set point, neurologically / biologically. Life experience and the examples set, further diversify people’s internal sense of “normal.” There’s no shame to needing extra work on some of these things, and if it’s even borderine applicable, it’s time well-spent.

      3. Littorally*

        Yeah, that word jumped out at me as a clear sign that the OP is taking this incredibly personally.

      4. Knope Knope Knope*

        Yes, I also thought this about the word “toxic,” which got used two or three times. Like… it’s a list of people who were late to take a training. That’s pretty much as straightforward and as far from toxic as things get.

      5. R*

        I wanted to say this too. Like, not every mistake that someone makes is a “violation”, not every discrepancy is gaslighting, not every dispute is “toxic.” Its so draining to see language like this thrown around about what is at worst a clerical error.

    5. Smithy*

      I immediately wondered about this.

      When there are larger areas of irritation at work that are less quantifiable – maybe gaslighting, but also maybe just softer levels of disrespect and frustration – it can be easy to hold onto a technical issue as the key marker of all the other issues. That there is finally proof to justify all of the other bad feelings.

      Doesn’t make the OP’s response proportional, but may be an opportunity for the OP to think of this as the canary in the coal mine moment. If this was something that was enough to trigger that level of an angry response, then maybe the OP’s bandwidth for their workplace is a lot more frayed than they’d originally thought.

    6. Super Duper Anon*

      Totally agree. I had this problem at my previous job. It was a combination of factors, including working with a micromanager and a super dysfunctional department. I got irritated and frustrated at the smallest of things. After leaving that job, I am able to much better manage my emotional reactions in my current job.

    7. quill*

      Yes, if you’ve gone full BEC on a minor administrative thing… work on figuring out whether it’s the crackers that you’re really upset over. Anger serves a purpose, and it’s purpose is to protect you against what is ACTUALLY going wrong. When it’s misdirected you’re harming your own credibility, not resolving your stress, and allowing whatever feels actually wrong or threatening to you to continue unchecked.

      1. Smithy*

        This is so well put.

        The OP’s workplace may very well be toxic, include gaslighting, unprofessional behavior etc etc etc – but being in those places can also wildly warp your perceptions. And therefore nurturing yourself and recovering to show up to work every day while also possibly having the reserves to apply for a new job can be tough enough. But if it’s getting you to a place where you are that frayed, it’s going to make surviving at work and evaluating what would or would not be a good next job even harder.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, while it’s entirely possible that this workplace is a bad environment, there’s nothing at all in the facts of the letter to indicate that. What we do know is that the OP is wildly overreacting to a small, neutral issue, and that OP is using a lot of internetty, overused pop-psychology terms which sometimes are accurate descriptions of bad behavior and sometimes are hyperbolic descriptions of normal mistakes / mildly irritating things.

          OP, it seems like you might be viewing all areas of your life through a filter of things being toxic, people being out to get you, routine mixups being humiliating, etc. This can all make a person brittle, irrationally thin-skinned, and most importantly, unnecessarily unhappy. It’s like the opposite of rose-tinted glasses. I would take a step back and see what you can do to take those glasses off. As an acting professor once told me, “Everything doesn’t have to be so *fraught*!”

      2. Lilo*

        Although I once had someone go nuclear over a minor issue in their first month. No one had done anything to him at all, there was no reason for his freak out. Fixing the issue took a 2 line email.

        He didn’t work out.

      3. Jean Marie*

        Okay, I just went full John Crichton from Farscape.


        (And there is nothing wrong with my eyes. They’re better than 20/20 and they’re blue!)

        I’ll stop now.

        1. Not Your Sweetheart*

          That’s where I went, too! I frequently use “My side. Your side.” a lot.

    8. The Prettiest Curse*

      Totally agree with this comment. I sent so many more snippy emails in my last job than I do in this one, and that was almost entirely due to my frustration with some toxic team dynamics.
      OP, your frustration may be getting the better of you! It may help to wait a while before pressing send, but if you’re in a toxic situation, the solution may ultimately be to leave.

    9. Tara*

      Yeah, or do you have a lot on outside of work? This kind of reaction screams to me “needs to take two weeks off and sit by a beach with a good book”. The pandemic has been intense for everyone, so it checks out that you may react to things differently than you would normally, but this is definitely not a workplace-friendly reaction to have.

    10. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, this is where I went too – is there something else going on with OP? Either work or personal?

      That kind of note is *totally* normal, the appropriate response is, “I took the training on x date, so I should not be on the list the next time it is run. Please let me know if you still see my name on there.” And if OP’s been in the position for 4 years, they’ve been in the corporate world long enough to know this piece of corporate life. Reporting important training compliance well up the chain is normal – my employer (fortune 500 tech) goes 2 levels for normal training, 3 for legally required.

      It’s not a huge mis-step, since there was no personal attacks, but yeah, it’s time for crow, and maybe some therapy for tools to help manage that temper, and think about why a routine piece of reporting felt like an attack.

    11. Fran Fine*

      I wondered if there were other issues with the person who ran the reports – if that person was regularly sending emails about the OP that weren’t accurate and then copying all the Big Wigs in the office, that would be the only other logical explanation for OP’s outsized reaction this time.

    12. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

      I actually had to re-read this because I was almost positive this was sent by a colleague of mine. They were convinced we were somehow out to get them (we were not), that we were not respecting their work and communication style, and that we were asking a specific thing of them (we were not, and said as much). Feedback was met only with resistance, despite their insistence that they value bluntness. My workplace is not perfect, but we are healthy. This was clearly something deeper going on and it wasn’t about us. The few minor annoyances that WERE on us got built up, compounded with their extracurricular pain, and became a destructive workplace beast. They’re doing better now, BTW.

      I also want to note that blunt or direct communication can still be collegial. I know a few folks who use “I am just a direct speaker” as a shield for what would otherwise be characterized as “being a jerk.”

      Also, lastly, if OP was feeling slighted, why not have a quick meeting? Sometimes face-to-face (or Zoom face-to-face) can help with empathy in communication or a de-escalation of feelings. YMMV based on your brain and individual needs, but it is of great help to me. I

      1. Worldwalker*

        In my experience, self-proclaimed “directness” or “bluntness” very often goes only one way. The people who claim “I’m just being blunt” don’t react well to other people being equally “blunt” with them. Those are the ones who should correctly be characterized, as you sad, as “being a jerk.” They expect to be treated with politeness, or even kid gloves, but feel no obligation to treat others likewise.

        I like Rabbi Hillel’s formulation of the Golden Rule the best: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another.”

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          The few (usually awful) people I’ve know who pull the “I just tell it like it is” card are both a) thin-skinned themselves, and b) convinced that everyone else has as mean/judgmental/ugly thoughts as they do, and is just being “fake”. Their “bluntness” is just revealing the real problem, which is that they have a sh***y worldview.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          I think part of the problem is people use “direct” to mean harsh, antagonistic, or demonstrative, when it’s a separate thing entirely.

          For example, I would characterize myself as having a direct communication style. When I say “direct” I mean I prefer to tell people explicitly what I want, when something is a problem, or how I feel, and that I would prefer if they also explicitly spelled things out. Indirect communication would be hinting at things or referring to things without spelling them out, and expecting people to pick up on the hint. It’s quite possible to be direct and gentle at the same time. Examples:

          1. “I’ve noticed you like to burn incense. It smells lovely, but unfortunately it gives me awful headaches. Would you please stop using it in the office?”

          2. “Yes, I didn’t respond to your email right away because I am off Mondays. I don’t check email outside of scheduled hours. I understand it is frustrating for your team, but a 3-hour delay in the llama grooming schedule is not an emergency. Please don’t call my personal cell again unless one of the llamas needs a veterinarian.”

          3. “Thank you for the invitation, but I prefer to keep my social life separate from work so I’m going to decline. I hope you have a good time though!” (vs indirect: “Thanks for the invitation, but I can’t make it” or “Sorry, another time maybe!”)

          Directness is uncomfortable for many people, but it’s particularly important in cases where people may have trouble picking up on hints due to neurodivergence, different cultural backgrounds, language barriers, etc. And it’s certainly not incompatible with being polite/kind!

          1. flynt*

            Yes! It is completely possible to be direct and polite! And sometimes you need to assess when it is better to be direct versus taking an indirect approach. It is something I have issues with because I’m neurodivergent and I’m not from a warm culture but being polite and acknowledging
            the other person’s point of view like your examples really go a long away in preventing things from escalating like the LW’s issue.

    13. ursula*

      Agreed with this. Also, LW seems in a rush to label one party or the other as “toxic,” which also seems extreme to me. One miscommunication does not make a person or organization fundamentally toxic – AFAIK that term is really for people or organizations that exhibit bad behaviour persistently over long periods such that their actions contaminate and damage everything they touch. So the “Am I toxic?” framing over this one incident suggests maybe LW is a bit inclined to black-and-white thinking, maybe thinking in extremes? Even if LW concludes (as we all more or less have) that their reaction was disproportionate, I would encourage them not to label themselves as toxic! Really it’s just a call to reconsider this one part of your behaviour, not to write anyone here off as unsalvageable. (Unless, as others have said, this is part of a larger pattern or there’s lots of context you haven’t presented here.)

      1. No Ragrets*

        Yes, totally. Nobody being “toxic” is also a possibility! You don’t need to assign a bad guy and a good guy; it’s just a minor misunderstanding at work and can be dealt with accordingly.

    14. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, this all reads to me like OP is really miserable in her job and the frustration is boiling up, causing her to lose perspective.

  2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, one of my wisest mentors used to ask the younger me a question: is this the hill you want to die on? This was not that hill.

    1. Van Wilder*

      On the topic of trite but useful advice for this topic… I also used to react indignantly to relatively minor perceived slights early in my career. After one of my emails backfired on me, one of my Senior Managers told me, “Always take the high road.”

      Sounds too simple to be useful but I have internalized it and made it my goal to be unimpeachable. No matter what others do or say in a situation, my behavior must be by the book, beyond reproach. Imagine the email records being subpoenaed and read in court.

    2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      In my first ever high school job, I was once asked to do a task. I began to explain why I hadn’t done (or maybe finished, I don’t remember at this time, it was 25 years ago) the task, and my floor lead interrupted me.

      “I didn’t ask you to explain. I just asked you to do.” It wasn’t said angrily, it was said very matter-of-factly, and it was actually a really important lesson for me. There are times you DON’T need to explain, you just need to DO. In this case, instead of blowing up the line with an explanation, I would just have replied to say I did the training, here is the certificate (or whatever), and ask to please have them update the record.

      1. bluestreak*

        This would come across as very condescending to me. Sort of like “I don’t need you to think, I need you to do.”

        I could be overly sensitive about these things though.

        1. LizM*

          I think it depends on the context. I’ve definitely had conversations with people where I don’t care why a task wasn’t done, I just need it done. Spending 15 minutes explaining why it’s not their fault, when there is no consequences for it being anyone’s fault, is 15 minutes longer that the task remains undone. It’s important for employees to understand when that is the situation. Certainly, there are times when it is important to understand why a deadline is missed and there are consequences, but having people constantly ducking the blame becomes exhausting to manage.

    3. Teapot supervisor*

      This. Speculation, but I wonder if OP is early on in their career. Speaking for myself and some of the people I’ve managed, there seems to be a temptation to die on all the hills when you’re first in the workforce.

      Younger me would have probably seen an error in a training record as gross incompetence on my company’s behalf, that my manager was definitely out to get me and, while I hope I’d not be as OTT at OP, I think my attitude towards it would be very much along the lines of ‘Um, actually, I’ll think you’ll find that I DID take that training’. Whereas nowadays I’d probably be more likely to assume that there was a simple explanation for this – like the list having being pulled a few days early – and emailed back with more of a ‘I think there’s been a misunderstanding here’ tone.

      1. Skittles*

        I kind of hope the OP is just inexperienced but at my last two jobs I have had a team member I managed who would have reacted like this – one in his 30s and the other in his 40s. Both took everything incredibly personally and would overreact to everything. I was left wondering how either of them functioned outside of work and how either of them still had jobs prior to coming to my team.

    4. AllThingsToAllPeople*

      One of my favorite questions. Another, in the same vein: is the juice worth the squeeze? Always take a few minutes to think through your reaction and what you want the end result to be. You may find that this hill isn’t worth dying on, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, and it’s okay to just move on.

    5. Red 5*

      Yup, this is one of my constant refrains, too the point where my boss expects it to come up when I’m dealing with something frustrating.

      I’ve had similar situations to the OP happen. Most of them I eventually let go. Sometimes I stand up for myself. It depends, but I rarely will go from zero to “violated” after one email.

      We have multiple required yearly training modules. Every year they send out multiple company wide emails with a list of who hasn’t done it yet. I’m not the biggest fan of that, but it’s so common and regular that it’s really nothing but a reminder. There’s a little judgement I guess but nobody pays attention. Other places I’ve worked have done things like this where it would be intentionally encouraging a public shaming because the managers love it. But even at those places this email response would have been like throwing a grenade, it wouldn’t get you anywhere good.

    6. Scrooge McDunk*

      I ask myself this question a lot. The only hill I actually remember being willing to die on was “Garth Brooks’ Chris Gaines album is vastly underrated and undeserving of the scorn it receives!”

      I don’t know if this says something good or bad about me.

    7. iglwif*

      Excellent advice that’s applicable to work, to relationships, to parenting … all kinds of things.

  3. Justme, The OG*

    Totally overreacting. I was actually in a similar situation this year where the training list was out of date. I sent the transcript to my boss, who sent it up the food chain, who then corrected it. And I still feel like I overreacted and all I said was “I took it, here’s the proof.”

    1. Kali*

      Same. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our state-mandated training schedules. I got the email that I was in danger of not completing it in time (in which case, there would be actual consequences), which I totally thought I had. It was sent to my boss, boss’s boss, and boss’s boss’s boss. My response to just the sender was, “Oh shoot! Okay, I’ll do XYZ on [dates before deadline]” and probably that was unnecessary. It was informational so that it could be fixed.

      I feel like there may be deeper issues in OP’s workplace that prompted this reaction.

    2. Anonys*

      Yeah, wanting to correct the record is natural but taking this in any way personal is so strange.

      The only thing that I find weird about OPs company is that OP’s great-grandboss is included in such an email in the first place. That strikes me as truly odd, because is she/he going to care about which specific employer three levels down missed the annual compliance refresher training or whatever this was?

      I (any many others on my team) have missed the deadline for such trainings many times and its never a big deal at all. My manager will get an email saying: these 3 people in your team havent done it and he will then remind us and we do it at some point. The reminder is never like “omg you missed a super important deadline and this is a strike against you” and more like “hey, remember this task!”. I can see how the inclusion of the great-grandboss on the email has made this seem more adverserial to OP. Even if I missed a far more important deadline I don’t think it would go all the way up to my great-grandboss except if consequences were extremely serious. Since I don’t think my great-grandboss hears about me much at all, I wouldn’t be too happy to know he was informed about me missing a (kind of trivial) deadline, esp. if not even true. So I can see some of OPs annoyance but the reaction and feeling of personal slight is still over the top.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        In my experience as someone who works with CE/AML requirements – including the higher-ups is not really for the benefit of the grandbosses, but to make the procrastinators pay attention to the email.

        1. Orange You Glad*

          Yea my company has mandatory AML and similar training and by default the report goes to the highest officer overseeing the department. They usually just forward it down the chain until it reaches the correct manager. These types of trainings glitch all the time so we frequently have to send in our transcripts. It’s not a big deal if someone comes up on the late list – no one above their immediate supervisor is batting an eye at it.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Enh, it depends on the culture / kind of training. I know we go up 3 levels for training required to maintain legal / regulatory approvals, and 2 for normal training.

      3. turquoisecow*

        I can’t imagine a situation in which a boss 3 levels above me would care if I did training, unless it was super important training required to keep doing my job or I was literally the only person who hadn’t done it. And even then, they’d probably assume my direct boss would handle it.

        I can see getting annoyed if Important Exec is copied on an email saying I dropped the ball on a Work Task of some importance. “We’re waiting for the teapots report to deliver this product to the customer, who is very angry it’s been delayed, and [cow] hasn’t gotten it to us yet.” Now I’m freaking out, replying “I sent it to you a week ago, see attached email,” and I’m pissed because I did my job and they’re trying to throw me under the bus.

        But a training session? Nah.

        1. No Name Today*

          In my place, the training sessions are legally required. Even though you run the module yourself when you can. If you do not complete them by the deadline, you cannot do your job.
          And with this said, HR sends the email to my boss’ boss who sends individual emails to the magnets under her, not a blast with everyone in the division

          So yeah, OP , they made of list of who missed the deadline. OP, you were rightly on it.
          But it didn’t need to go to everyone. Not even to you.

          But that’s how they do it. Now you know.

          1. Lyudie*

            Same here. My company is healthcare-adjacent and we have annual HIPAA, anti-kickback, conflict of interest, etc. training every year and it is most certainly tracked at every level. It is a Big Deal if you don’t get your compliance training done on time. I suspect OP’s training was something like this if they are sending reports out about who has missed the deadline.

        2. flynt*

          In my old department any late or upcoming trainings were always escalated 3-4 levels up. It was very basic training for us but because we worked in an area involving anti money laundering the late training participation could be reported to regulators.
          But also when I had a similar situation happen as the LW, I just emailed the person and copied my boss to say I had finished even though it wasn’t showing up in the metrics yet. The people 3-4 levels up are probably just being copied for awareness and to motivate people to finish the training.

      4. Bagpuss*

        I think who gets copied in any why can depend on a lot of factors – it may be that the training is sufficiently important that they need to know and/or people who haven’t done it need to know that their bosses boss will be made aware( we have some forms of compliance related stuff where certain groups of employees absolutely *have* to do particular courses and to keep current – and if they don’t, they basically can’t work until it’s done. Pretty much the only exceptions are you didn’t do it on time because you were dead, seriously ill or on maternity leave and even then, we would have to apply for an extension for you backed up with evidence, so you can bet that if you don’t comply with the internal deadline it goes right up the chain, not least because we have to start planning for how to cover your work if we have to stop you working until your get it done.

        There are also much more benign reasons – maybe the grand boss is looking at training needs and responsiveness, or statistics and patterns about who is overdue, or there are less benign but less personal reasons such as grand boss being a micromanager or suddenly deciding to take an interest.

      5. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

        Perhaps there were other issues at hand? Maybe those who delayed taking the test (or one or two folks in particular on that list) are problematic/on a PIP/otherwise receiving additional scrutiny, and execs needed a paper trail. Another thought is that the org knows folks are missing their testing deadline and are trying to crack down on it. This could be the first step in figuring out how to fix that problem.

        1. Rachel*

          I work in finance and there are serious consequences for us missing our quarterly compliance training. It has to be logged with the regulator in a timely fashion and it is very common that the list of who hasn’t done it gets sent higher and higher up the food chain each time. Still doesn’t mean you are in tons of trouble but actually missing the deadline can be an HR violation.

      6. Lost academic*

        In my now former firms structure that’s the level for most people that noncompliance with deadlines for (globally) required annual training goes to. It’s easier to disseminate the lists that way. No one thinks anything of it because while important it’s not a crisis -it just needs to be solved. And we have the same slightly outdated lists just as Alison says. The emails you get if you’re late usually say “if you’ve done it, ignore this message” to save on the replies saying just that. The OPs company will eventually figure out to do that if it’s large enough.

      7. MsClaw*

        Where I work, it would be unusual for my boss’s boss’s boss to get an email saying ‘MsClaw has not completed training unit X’. But it is pretty standard for boss’s boss’s boss and all the bosses in between to get a roll-up that shows how many people have completed or not completed a training unit by a deadline, organized by division, unit, etc so that great-great-great-boss can get an idea of the percentages and also see if any group is having a serious compliance problem.

    3. mcl*

      Yeah I work in an academic institution that has its own trainings that are required for compliance with federal/state law or just as part of campus protocol. I get a list of people that I manage who haven’t taken XYZ training yet, and it’s super not a big deal if the report is a tiny bit out of date (2 days is basically a current report at my huge and lumbering state university) – they just let me know they did it and I check it off my list, we all move along with our days. I would be really taken aback if one of the people I manage reamed out the person who sent me the training report, and I’d question what might be going on with them.

      OP, hopefully this prompts you to consider carefully how you’re coming across. You don’t have to be fluffy, but being polite is like, bare minimum standard that you absolutely must meet at work. I have written and left unsent many angry emails. It’s just not worth spending that personal capital, especially on this minor stuff; you’re going to be viewed as really difficult to work with. Write the email, don’t send it, give it a few hours, and come back to it with a more level head.

      1. Emma*

        Absolutely! When you read a work email and feel angry, 99% of the time, the best response is to come back to it tomorrow.

      2. Pickled Limes*

        And if there’s somebody in your life that you trust, ask them if they’re willing to read an email before you send it to make sure it’s not too much. I send a lot of emails to my siblings before I send them to their actual recipients, just for a reality check. It can help a lot when a person who’s not involved in the situation at all reads the message and says “The second paragraph seems a little harsh, do you want to reword some things?”

    4. sofar*

      Yes, getting on the “you didn’t take the training” sh*t-list is incredibly common. About three days before the deadline, my company sends out scary sounding, strongly worded emails up the employee’s entire reporting chain, to ensure the employee’s manager nags the hell out them to complete the training.

      If you literally just completed the training, you sometimes get erroneously caught up in these emails because the data pull was old.

      I just reply all with proof, ask if there’s anything else I need to provide, and call it a day.

      I wonder if the OP is reacting mostly to the strongly worded nature of these emails. They do often have You’re Getting Sent to the Principal’s Office vibes. One of my new direct reports cried after reading one.

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker nearly have a melt down after we were assigned a post-dated training (assigned after the due date). She freaked out, *immediately* did the training, only to then discover that because she’d done the training before the training department corrected the due date, it would be permanently marked as late.

        It wasn’t even one of the legally-required training, but it marred her perfect record and she was pretty upset about it. For an afternoon. And she didn’t send any emails up the food chain to anyone. (And she’s a very reactive person, so easily upset by stuff like this.)

        There just seems to be something about mandatory training that really gets some people.

        1. allathian*

          Indeed, especially if the training is mandatory but you really have trouble scheduling any time for it because you’re so busy. It’s also the public shaming aspect of the thing, if the whole department or company gets a list of those who haven’t done the training on time. Avoiding getting called out in public for failing to do something can work as a motivator, but it can also cause strong reactions in those who are particularly sensitive to public shaming if they have in fact completed whatever it was.

          I don’t think public shaming is the way to go. Automated reminders to the people concerned can be set up, with CCs to the manager and higher up the chain if necessary. But there’s no need to announce to the whole organization or department who hasn’t done a training.

    5. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, unless this was a situation like “if you don’t complete this training by X date, you’re fired/getting a pay cut/some other horrible consequence will happen,” it’s not a big deal. Reply with “here, I took it,” and the boss says “ok,” and we’re done. I’m not seeing a violation here.

      1. Yorick*

        Even if that’s the case, OP did complete the training late. She only has herself to blame for that. The sender did not make a mistake. OP’s name wouldn’t have been on the list if she had done the training on time.

        It should be super straightforward to calmly respond to your boss with, “I actually completed the training on June 2. Sorry it was a little late!”

    6. Anon For Today*

      I once reacted disproportionately to a policy that I felt was unfair. Unfortunately, the recipient forwarded it on to my Manager and director and I had to eat the biggest crow I’ve ever seen in my life. At the time, I felt that I wasn’t overreacting, but the email was really sarcastic and snippy and I should have sat on that email for a day (or at least had a mentor look at it first).

      Now, if I feel something is unfair, I stick to the facts or call for a meeting. I’m less likely to wig out if it’s face to face.

  4. CatCat*

    Yikes, you recover from this my letting it go and not digging in any further.

    OP, your reaction is so disproportionate to what happened, I am wondering if there is something else going on that made this relatively minor issue the final straw. Take a step back. Is there something else going on?

    1. londonedit*

      I totally agree. It’s fine to send an email saying ‘I was unfortunately a little late taking the training this year – here’s the transcript from my course, would you mind correcting the list now that I’ve completed the training?’ but it’s not fine to take it any further than that. The person who compiled the list had no idea that OP had taken the training in the 2.5 days between getting the data and sending the email – usually these things are sent out with an ‘if anyone has since completed the training, please ignore this email’ caveat anyway, and it’s not a big deal. OP wasn’t being singled out, there was no ‘gaslighting’ going on. They were just included in a (correct, as far as the person who pulled the data was concerned) list of people who were recorded as having missed a training session.

      1. insertusername*

        I wouldn’t even point out that I had taken it late. I would just respond something like, “I have completed the training” or “I completed the training on x date. Please update your records accordingly” or something neutral and matter of fact like that and cc the bosses if needed or if they get all out of sorts that you are on the delinquent list.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This is the way my mom would have reacted, but she’s infamous for being hypersensitive and rather self-centered about things. And, no, not “because she’s a woman”–because she takes every bloody thing personally and never lets anything go. One of my siblings postponed a visit because their pet was dying and Mom managed to make it about herself; and then she wonders why she has a strained relationship with this sibling.

      This is not a good use of your energy, OP.

    3. Cj*

      So OTT in her reaction. “Violated” is a very strong word, and I cannot understand why somebody would be upset enough about this minor situation to feel that way.

      And like Alison said, she *did* take the training late, and that it totally relevant.

    4. Eden*

      I wonder too. Especially at this quote:

      > Am I toxic and need to eat crow, or am I working in a toxic corporate culture and need to find another job?

      Those are not the only two options! It can be an unfortunate misunderstanding, or a small goof on someone’s parts, or any other less catastrophic options. Might want to see if you can tell why you assume someone must be toxic.

    5. JustaTech*

      I can understand having this reaction in the moment (“I did do the training, are you calling me a liar?!”), but even I, who has a tendency to overreact/over-feel, would not send an email about it. (In the past I might have spent the rest of the day feeling terrible about it, but I still wouldn’t have emailed anyone.)

      OP, you’re allowed to feel what you feel. But for your sake, can you take a step back about taking action on those feelings?

    6. JJ*

      Definitely agree, OP you need to find a way to reframe your thinking about (probably everything at) work, which might be skewed due to other things happening, either at work or in your personal life.

      I’m also a pretty intense person, but not at all at work anymore, because I’ve realized 1. nothing I work on is all that serious in the grand scheme of things, 2. it doesn’t really matter what people I work with think of me personally, and 3. if I do a bit of client whispering (i.e. codeswitching into some version of myself that works the way a particular client likes to work), people will like me more and thus mistakes will be pointed out in a more mutually chill way. Both of these serve to put space between my ego and what happens at work.

      My techniques may or may not work for you, but maybe try sitting down and really considering why you are so intense about this (because you ARE intense about it, it’s not just that you’re “direct”…a non-intense direct response would be “FYI I took that class on [date], transcript attached.”)

      OP you REALLY need a lot more space between you and your work. You are not your work! The quality of your work is no reflection on the quality of person you are. A list mentioning you missed a training deadline doesn’t mean you’re a screwup, nor does it likely have any bearing on what coworkers think of you.

    7. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I’m going to second this. OP – it’s not just that the reaction was disproportionate – it’s that people noticed, and that they noticed hard enough to call you out on it. You do understand that you need to do some work now to regain your credibility and repair this, right? And it will take time.

      Perhaps it is worth thinking about the language you chose in this letter. You write that things are toxic, that you may have been gaslit, that you are more direct when you feel angry, that “all hell broke loose,” that you feel furious, that you feel wronged, that you feel that you were treated unfairly. Where are those feelings coming from? Is this a first straw – or is it a last straw, for you?

      I might also ask why right away, in your first sentence, you asked if you need to leave this job. Is that something you want to do? Are you looking for a reason? Could you even – and this may be a reach – be trying to escalate things to create an obvious breaking point? I notice you want to know who is wrong and who is toxic. Do you need one side to be toxic and in the wrong because that would give you a clear reason to go?

      I think it will be easier to build a different style of working and relating if you can get to a sense of why you feel angry and attacked – or possibly even trapped – at your job.

  5. Julia*

    OP, I sympathize. I’ve also had a problem with getting angry over small stuff in the past, and like you I also sometimes have the sinking feeling “wait, am I in the wrong?” while still trying to justify my anger to myself because I’m still angry. It is absolutely a problem that needs fixing; it isn’t okay.

    So good on you for writing in and admitting the possibility that you might be in the wrong. I’m betting now that some time has passed since the incident, you feel sheepish. I hope commenters here don’t pile on.

    This kind of disproportionate reaction in myself often has a lot to do with unresolved stress. If there’s a lot going on that is making you feel anxious that you’re not totally acknowledging, I recommend meditation.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I used to freak out about everything and had to go to the doctor and get in charge of my mental health. Now I only freak out when I’m really not adhering to healthy routines

  6. Lilo*

    OP, this kind of thing happens all the time. Forward the transcript with a polite “Hi, this information must be out of date, here’s my info” and seriously no one ever will care. People make mistakes, this could easily be cleared up with a 1 sentence email.

    Your reaction? Not great here.

    1. Lilo*

      Ugh, also, you WERE late. The forwarder didn’t even make a mistake.

      What you needed to do was eat some serious crow. It’s never ever a bad idea to own up when you’ve made a clear, verifiable mistake and apologize.

      But seriously a polite apology in your first email would have made this a non issue. Now you’ve made a big scene.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Yes, I thought the whole thing was blown completely out of proportion on OP’s part and THEN saw that they had taken the training late. In which case, I agree with Alison that it’s not irrelevant to be put on a notification of late people. My response to the first email would have just been to reply all, say I’d completed the training and attach my certification. I think an apology certainly is the smart path to take here.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          That was my reaction. At first, I thought “Well I can see how it’d be upsetting to be accused of missing a deadline you didn’t miss.” But then I read further and saw that OP DID miss the deadline.

      2. Worldwalker*

        What concerns me is that the OP seems to consider politeness and basic civility “a lot of fluff.”

        Politeness is the lubricant for the social machine. It’s what keeps all of us from grinding together instead of working smoothly. It’s no more just fluff than oil in your gearbox is just goo. It’s not the thing that makes the wheels go, but it is the thing that keeps the wheels from grinding to a stop.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      YES. The OP wasn’t wrong to send the transcript, but after that? Just let it go, you’ve said your piece.

      Go ahead and grumble internally or to a few trusted friends, but be judicious with your email responses to anyone in your company– or elsewhere, for that matter! Not everyone needs to hear every thought in our heads.

  7. Elle by the sea*

    I think OP is overreacting a bit! It happened so many times to me that I took the training on time and I still received emails claiming that I had not taken the training. These emails are often automated and are not working perfectly. And yes, oftentimes the data are pulled at certain times and that doesn’t necessarily reflect the most updated information. So, no need to stress out too much over this – yes, it’s slightly annoying but a simple “Thanks for the reminder. I already finished the training on . “ And OP, if you took the training late, then such a glitch is not all that unexpected.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah the last time my employer was able to offer in person harrassment prevention training someone accidentally skipped over my name when they were logging the names off the sign in sheet. I was extra annoyed because I had rearranged another important work project to be able to make it to the training, but a simple “hey, I think this was a mistake, I definitely was there– can you double check the sign in sheet?” cleared it right up.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    I will admit to having a very direct communication style

    Every AAM reader immediately knew exactly where this was going.

    The thing is, 1) “Direct” is subjective, 2) Sometimes you get better results with a little bit of fluff to cushion the message; fluff is one of those soft skills that a lot of “direct” people don’t seem to think they should need, 3) direct or not is irrelevant once you cross the line into angry.

    But, yeah, this was an overreaction.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        It does, and it may be used as a euphemism for “asshole”, but there is a diversity issue with doing this. Because people from different cultures really *do* come with different levels of expectation for directness of communication. In a mixed office, there needs to be some education about it because otherwise people will not pick up the correct signals.

        For example, I’m German and have been brought up to be what Americans and most Brits consider to be extremely direct – I would not pick up on it that if my English colleague were to be similarly direct, this would mean they’re seriously pissed off with me! I have memories of a funny moments of a HR session with the office I worked in in London, about “how to talk to your co-worker about minor interpersonal problems”- like, they’re doing something minor and low-level annoying. Myself and the other German in the room had a rare moment of camaraderie (we otherwise didn’t like each other that much, but had no work overlap, as he was in sales and I in tech, so it didn’t matter) because our reaction was a confused “you… tell… them?”. For me, there was no issue whatsoever to say “your currywurst smells strongly – can you please have your lunch away from your desk” and then immediately pass on to something else. Our English co-workers were aghast. This is not how *their* parents taught them. Similarly, when my boss asked me how it was going there would be two concrete things that are going badly and two that are going well, for example. While we had co-workers from cultures where it is a huge taboo to ever volunteer to mention a problem. That was important for me as the team lead to know and learn how to deal with! And yeah, I started with “whenever I ask G whether there are any problems with his tickets he says ‘no’ and then I discover he’s fighting to get [other team] to respond and fix the issue he has identified, and customer X is being incredibly rude to him; why is he lying to me?” I had to learn to ask G to communicate to me in a way he would be inclined to find very rude, because I really needed to know these things.

        Of course expectations of what constitutes “asshole” vary too by culture (and industry/job somewhat – salespeople and traders tend to be much more in competition than in collaboration), and I’m fine with applying a really low threshold. (German directness *can* mean higher asshole-factor, and when it does, feel free to clobber it.)

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          PS: The good old “ask culture vs. guess culture” is also an axis that is sometimes confused with levels of asshole behavior when it is not helpful.

        2. Observer*

          For me, there was no issue whatsoever to say “your currywurst smells strongly – can you please have your lunch away from your desk” and then immediately pass on to something else. Our English co-workers were aghast

          You can be direct without being a jerk, though. What you describe is “direct” not “jerk”. Even your English coworkers would probably have come to see your directness as “Just Tamarack being Tamarack” with time, and not seen you as a jerk. But if instead you went with something like “your currywurst stinksyou need to have your lunch away from your desk” (I bolded the changes), you would be a jerk. And a lot of Jerks using this kind of language claim that they are “just being direct.” But, you can see the difference here.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            “You can be direct without being a jerk, though. What you describe is “direct” not “jerk”. ” Yeah, that’s what I was trying to convey. Apparently not clearly enough!

            I think though that being stuck at “just X being X” isn’t a great situation at a workplace. Either X is out of line, and someone is being harassed or bullied. Or X’s approach can be verbalized as something that is absolutely fine in the workplace, maybe with advantages and trade-offs – more direct than average, and it may be a culture or personality thing, but free of condescension or put-downs, and the good thing is that you’ll get an honest assessment without cajoling, while the downside is that if you are in need of being let down particularly softly, X may not be the most skilled at that.

            1. Observer*

              It’s true that sometimes “X being X” is code for “this person is a problem and we’re not going to do anything about that.” In a reasonably functional workplace, though it’s more shorthand for “X does things a bit differently than most of us. It’s not objectively bad, it just has a different set of trade offs.” And I think that that’s OK.

        3. I take tea*

          This is fantastic. And still there are things that Are Not Discussed in German culture as well. I am accustomed to a very blunt culture and ran into cultural differences when working in a restaurant in Germany. Apparently to discuss my salary with my peers was a big no no. I was just bewildered, as discussing salary is quite normal – to me. (And as we’ve seen on this site, to keep salaries secret benefits only the bosses and the priviliged.) But at least then it was something that was just Not. Done. (It might have changed now, this was ages ago.)

    1. Lilo*

      You can be direct while being extremely polite. But if that’s the first adjective you go for, yeah you’re probably rubbing people the wrong way.

      It never, ever hurts to be polite. It’s always best, particularly in emails, to take the highest ground possible

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        In some organizations (including the one where I am employed), manners, compassion for someone you know is between a rock and a hard place, and the occasional smile are like superpowers. Direct is great, don’t get me wrong, but the velvet glove has its places and times.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I apologize if I implied that; I merely wanted to echo and agree with Lilo’s observation.

      2. Alexis Rosay*

        Exactly. I always start off by addressing a situation pleasantly. I can always escalate my reaction be more stern if needed, but if I start off stern, it’s hard to dial it back later.

        Years ago I burned myself by firing off angry emails. My displeasure was warranted, but my emails were not, and the resulting damage to my relationships was absolutely not worth it. So yeah, it is always worth it to be polite, *especially* when you are angry.

      3. CheeryO*

        THIS, yes, thank you! Direct is not a synonym for brusque or rude. A direct but polite response would have been something like, “Hi, I did get the training done. My transcript is attached. I apologize for missing the deadline!”

        1. Worldwalker*

          Exactly. And in particular, it does not include references to your mental state, feelings, etc. “Just the facts, ma’am” to quote a great man.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes! Real directness means clarity, maybe brevity, and addressing the issue head-on instead of in a roundabout way. None of those things are affected by adding on politeness / a hint of softening language / respect and friendliness in the tone. “Direct” in sarcastic quotes is what jerks call themselves to justify being rude, aggressive, or condescending.

          Direct is not the opposite of polite, it’s the opposite of circumspect, confrontation-avoidant, or passive-aggressive.

      4. Amethystmoon*

        I will agree with that. Part of my job is we have to respond to a group e-mail box, and there is no way I would have been even allowed to send a similar e-mail from that address. So I don’t have a choice but to be polite, even if I have to grit my teeth and do it.

    2. beanie*


      There’s a lot of room for women to be more direct…..without going overboard into what sounds like anger/aggression.

      If it was a make-or-break training, like something you need to maintain a license you need in order to do you job, I can get being pissed off at being included on a list of people who haven’t done it, if it’s the kind of thing that might severely impact your reputation…but if the training was that critical, it’s not a good look it be completing it late in the first place.

    3. serenity*

      I’d argue that “direct” is also way off base here considering how OP misuses terms like “gaslighted” “toxic” and “violated”.

      There’s a larger picture of how these words are being completely overused and misinterpreted all over the place, but worth mentioning considering how OP is throwing them around here.

      1. WellRed*

        You forgot maligned. Honestly there’s so much anger and bristling even in the retelling.

      2. Tomalak*

        Agreed. This is someone who overreacts because she sees all kinds of malign motivation in perfectly innocent situations.

    4. rachel in nyc*

      Direct doesn’t have to mean a-hole. My boss who responds to emails with “yes” or “okay” is direct. But that response tells us that he knows we can handle the issue. He isn’t asking any questions? That means we have it handled.

      No fluff required.

      But when direct is an excuse for not taking a breath to let you email percolate before you send it? yeah, that’s gonna mean a-hole every time.

    5. Moose*

      To me, this doesn’t even show a “direct” style so much as a brusque one. Not the same thing. My org tends to favor a very direct style in emails, which would have been something like: “As of Date, I have completed the training. See attached for transcript/certificate. Let me know if there are any further issues.” Not a screed about issuing corrections or feeling violated or anything like that.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        Yes! One could argue that OP IS using “fluff” – as in, using more words than necessary while not adding extra information.

        I’ve always considered conversation “fluff” to be the more emotive parts designed to make the recipient feel better about themselves. OP has not removed the emotive parts, she just changed them to evoke negative emotions. She has done the equivalent of substituting cotton wool fluff and grease for steel wool and gum, and, well… results won’t be pretty.

        1. allathian*

          You nailed it. I really like this: “She has done the equivalent of substituting cotton wool fluff and grease for steel wool and gum, and, well… results won’t be pretty.”

    6. Bagpuss*

      Also, whoever sent the original mail was also being direct. They forwarded the information which stated who had or hadn’t completed the training!

      1. Worldwalker*

        It seems common for people who excuse their actions as “direct” to object to directness addressed to *them*. It’s a one-way street.

    7. Greg*

      Once put someone on a PIP for what ultimately boiled down to being disrespectful to everyone around them. When I cited one of the examples he responded, “I always get in trouble for being honest.” I responded, “No, you get in trouble because you’re a jerk about it.” Dude’s head snapped like I had punched him. Complete 180, now he’s one of the most effective communicators in the company (and for what it’s worth, his personal life got a lot better as well).

      1. Anonym*

        That’s amazing! It’s great to hear of someone both getting and taking the feedback they need. Good on you both!!

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I also am an example of that. It never came close to a PIP but my manager DID have to talk to me about “snapping at co-workers” and “being unfriendly”. What happened is that I had work piled up higher and higher (so I worked long hours and was tired out) and repeatedly did intense long troubleshooting that solved particularly hard technical problems that were business-critical (so I needed to be able to focus). Our software had a lot of problems, so account reps came to me personally to check up on their customers’ issues, or pass on pressure they got from their customers, bypassing our normal ticketing / reporting cycle. From my perspective, they were intruding into the space I really *needed* to do the job I was trying to do, and my “unfriendly” reaction was sometimes started by my startling out of my concentration when I noticed someone standing 50 cm (2 feet) from me and addressing me. I didn’t *mean* to be unpleasant, and didn’t have any grudges. I just thought I was justified….

          But it was totally right – overdue – for my manager to address it! First of all I learned that there are people who are under just as much pressure as I am and still smile and talk with perfect calm and composure – and that the reps who approached me were probably feeling just as stressed as I was. I find that slightly unhealthy, but I sure was wrong to go for the other extreme! I learned to say “I am juggling a lot of things right now” calmly and matter-of-fact instead of aggrieved. I apologized to the account reps and found some technical / physical ways to filter their approaches, which sharply cut down on interruptions. And things were fine from there.

      2. 867-5309*

        OP, Years ago during culture training (I know, I know), I learned the phrase “assume positive intent.” People are not generally trying to malign you or make your job harder… they are a simply doing a thing that is either process or it makes sense to them. This is what we all do as humans.

        The reality is that most people do not think of us as much as we think of ourselves so the outrage over the email was taking something far more personally than warranted.

        If you start with the premise of, “This person is doing their job and NOT trying to throw me under the bus,” it greatly changes how you respond.

    8. Aquawoman*

      All of this. As someone who is known as blunt but generally liked anyway, I will offer this advice: (1) I’m a task-focused person and I’ll write an email and then take 10-30 seconds to add in something relational if needed. (2) Don’t write emails when you’re angry. Walk away until you don’t feel like ranting out your fingertips and then address it professionally.

      It would benefit anyone to try to have a sense of a bigger picture–compliance issues have to have this kind of a process so that the entity does not get in trouble from having people not complete their mandatory training/reports/whatever. This is as impersonal as an email can possibly be, and taking something personally that is so impersonal is what is raising eyebrows. Maybe the LW has been so compliant for so many years that she doesn’t realize this, but taking a breath to think about this is helpful, or asking your boss or someone if this is a big deal rather than assuming it’s a big deal.

    9. Observer*

      “I will admit to having a very direct communication style”

      Every AAM reader immediately knew exactly where this was going.

      Especially when coupled with “that is especially true when I am angry. But I do not believe I should be required to provide a lot of fluff .”

      As for the “ when I let someone know that I feel violated” That really raised my eyebrows. When I read what the “violation” was, I had to re-read it. Because even if being included in the list was both a BIG DEAL *and* maliciously done, that’s a word that simply does not fit the circumstances.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Yeah… this is the same as someone who says “I’m a loud person, especially when I’m angry” to explain that they weren’t yelling at someone.

        If you raise your voice at people when you’re angry… you’re yelling at them. If you’re “very direct” but only when angry…. you’re probably being a jerk. Someone who just has a very direct communication style doesn’t stop being direct when they’re happy with you, nor do they pull it out like a weapon the second they’re upset.

    10. no phone calls, please*

      I’d like to add “brutally honest” to this, please. It just means ahole. Be honest and candid, but if you proudly exclaim that you’re brutally honest then you’re almost certainly a jerk, ahole, and more often than not, a bully.

      1. oranges*

        This is exactly what I meant. If you’re proudly exclaiming to be ““brutally honest” or “very direct”, you’re often an a-hole. People who aren’t don’t need to label themselves to justify their behavior. It’s just a communication style that has caused them no problems because they’re not, ultimately, an a-hole.

      2. Worldwalker*

        It’s like when you hear a sentence that starts off with “I don’t mean to be X” or “I’m not trying to be X”, where “X” is nosy, rude, offensive, racist, sexist, pushy, etc., you absolutely know the next thing out of their mouth is absolutely going to be “X”.

      3. Mily*

        “All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.” -Tennessee Williams

    11. LizM*

      And you can be direct without being a jerk.

      A direct response here would be:

      OP: “Hi X, I completed the training on Monday. I’ve attached the transcript. -LizM”

      List sender: “Hi OP, this list was 2.5 days old, and you took it after I pulled the data. -List sender”

      OP: could say nothing.

      I was going to put something you could say to correct it, but I’m struggling with what could be said because really, nothing is needed. List sender didn’t make a mistake. OP hadn’t taken the training by the deadline. I guess you could say, “Ok, please send a correction to boss’s boss’s boss. I’m worried that the previous email implied that I hadn’t taken it at all.”

      But honestly? Your great grandboss doesn’t actually care that you as an individual haven’t taken the training, unless there is some regulatory requirement or you’re going to get audited. And even then, they probably care that 10% of the trainings are still outstanding. When my boss gets these lists, they don’t read the names, they forward them to me and say “make sure this gets done.” Then I glance at the names, and forward it to their supervisors, but the only time I really notice who’s on the list is if it’s someone who is chronically missing deadlines, or if there is a major consequence (like they’re going to get their computer access shut off, or going to lose their ability to oversee contracts and that will have a major impact on the office. But that usually doesn’t come up until the second or third reminder.)

    12. iglwif*

      YUP. A-holes never think they’re a-holes, they always think they’re “blunt” or “direct” or that they “tell it like it is” or that they don’t believe in wasting time on fluff and filler.

  9. Not So Super-visor*

    Can we request that people stop overusing the term gaslighting/gaslighted/gaslit? It really detracts from a very real situation that happens. That’s not what happened here but rather an overlap in information resulting in a miscommunication

    1. ThatGirl*

      I agree wholeheartedly, and I also think that “toxic” is approaching overuse – things can be bad, frustrating, annoying, etc without diving truly into toxic.

      1. Count me in*

        Agree 100%: “gaslighting” and “toxic” are overused so much that they almost don’t mean anything anymore.

        “Gaslighting” in particular: Just because someone disagrees with you and offers their reasons doesn’t mean they are gaslighting you! Anyone who finds themselves accusing a lot of people of “gaslighting” in a lot of different contexts in order to shut down dissent stands a good chance of being unable to brook disagreement of any kind . . . making them in fact the real gaslighter.

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      The extent to which this is so obviously not gaslighting really makes me think that the OP has been gaslit (or is currently being) somewhere else in their life or career, and is taking that feeling of discomfort it’s causing and assigning it to other things that upsets her. Same with ‘violating’. This is in no respect a violation – it’s barely even an error – but if OP feels violated, she needs to look into where that’s really coming from. It’s very possible that OP is working in a toxic environment, which has caused her to react like this, even though this isn’t an example of it.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Everyone else is being more generous to the OP than I am. I’m seeing her as just an over-dramatic person who has never faced any true hardship in her life, so she’s imagining it everywhere because she thinks it’s supposed to happen. Sort of a placebo effect for drama. I’d think that if someone actually *has* experienced behavior that could accurately be described as toxic, gaslighting, violating, etc., they wouldn’t be applying those highly-charged terms to an utterly trivial situation about a training list.

        I just got a new kitten. At the moment, he’s all worked up about a stuffed fish toy. (he’s a very small kitten, and it’s almost as big as he is!) He’s been all stiff-legged, bristling his tail, crouching in cover (behind a door) and bursting out to pounce on the toy, and so on. He’s treating it as a great deal more of a dramatic situation than a toy fish deserves … it might be alive! it might be coming for him! It’s unspeakably cute when it’s a tiny kitten. An adult human being, not so much.

        1. SweetFancyPancakes*

          Thank you for giving me a few moments of warm, fluffy joy picturing this kitten and his fish-nemesis.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Maybe, but I think it’s also possible that they have just spent a bit too much time on Twitter. Or reddit, or any number of online forums (including this one, tbh!) where there’s been a lot of overspill of therapy-speak into how people talk about pretty mundane negative interactions. It’s like on some portions of the internet it’s no longer enough to say “this made me feel bad” or “this person upset me” and so on, you have to sort of justify your emotions as being part of a larger dynamic of toxicity or abuse. It’s a mode of thought that I’ve been seeing more and more recently and I don’t think it’s terribly helpful, and in this case I think is really escalating the situation in OP’s mind way beyond what the events justify.

    3. Elle by the sea*

      I am really annoyed by the overuse and abuse of this term. And also, the “if I were a man” hypothesis. Granted that many workplaces have different standards for men and women (and apologies to OP if her workplace is like that), but I have seen this argument used so many times, even when there was no evidence that that’s the case. Taking the training late is the most relevant bit of information here. It’s not a big deal, but it can give rise to such incidents.

      1. beanie*

        Also as Alison points out, if a man sent the same email she did, it would have been wrong for him as well (even if the company wouldn’t have penalized him for it).

        We need to hold people of all genders to the same standards of professionalism, which often means loosening standards from groups who have historically been over-scrutinized and tightening standards on groups who have historically been allowed to get away with bad behavior.

        1. Despachito*

          “We need to hold people of all genders to the same standards of professionalism, which often means loosening standards from groups who have historically been over-scrutinized and tightening standards on groups who have historically been allowed to get away with bad behavior.”


      2. Lilo*

        I’ve received similar emails from male coworkers and no, no one’s cool with that either. A chip on your shoulder and a hair trigger isn’t a good thing for anyone, regardless of gender.

        1. Threeve*

          IMO this kind of thing is actually worse from men. What I would call brusqueness may come across differently, and I think men can get away with being self-congratulatory more than women (“assertive” vs. “bragging”) but straight-up aggression is different. People perceive female coworkers as less likely to escalate from angry language to truly threatening behavior.

          1. Worldwalker*

            True. It is rarely women who come back with a gun and kill their former boss and various random co-workers. Although the only person I’ve ever worked with who routinely did violent things (he threw clipboards at staff) got away with it because he owned the company.

            That’s one thing we don’t need to equalize. We need less workplace violence, not more!

        2. Aquawoman*

          Yeah, I have worked with guys who responded in ways like this and they were regarded as A Problem.

      3. GinoGinelli*

        There’s plenty of evidence of men getting away with certain behaviours that women don’t. You could argue that it can occasionally be a ‘card’ that’s played by women trying to avoid accountability, but it’s certainly not a made up dichotomy.

        1. Observer*

          No one said that it’s a made up dichotomy IN GENERAL. But in some cases, it IS a card. In this case, the OP’s reaction is over the top and would be a serious problem had it come from a man. Given what the OP describes and the hyperbole of their language, there is really no reason to think that the reaction to her behavior is especially gendered.

      4. Essess*

        Agreed. I have seen plenty of men called out for inappropriate overreactions and hostility in their emails. I don’t see any sexism in being corrected about the extreme anger pouring from this email about a normal training deadline being missed. The missed deadline WAS relevant. If OP didn’t take the course by the deadline, it is reasonable that reports would show it as missed. That deadline IS a cutoff date. And for many trainings (especially ethics/compliance/security for example), the company could be open to legal liabilities if the trainings were missed so it is standard for it to be reported to upper management. This is not a big scheme to make one employee personally look bad. Using “violated” is really inappropriate in a work email.

    4. GinoGinelli*

      Agreed. Gaslighting is a sustained campaign with the goal of making the victim doubt their perception of reality and ultimately their own sanity. It’s not a term that should be thrown around lightly.

      1. Threeve*

        This! Gaslighting is actual, serious psychological abuse; is isn’t just being told something you don’t want to hear, being told that your opinion isn’t going to be taken into account by a decision-maker, and it isn’t simply being lied to. Those things happen to everyone at some point.

        1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          “Gaslighting is actual, serious psychological abuse; is isn’t just being told something you don’t want to hear” – can we have this embroidered on the Internet?

      2. Sara without an H*

        +1. I’ve seen an unfortunate tendency of late for people to make the accusation of “gaslighting” when faced with any disagreement or attempt at rebuttal. That’s not what the word means!

        1. Que Syrah Syrah*

          Yes. This, 100%.

          I was talking to someone the other day about how there’s been this REALLY unsettling tendency to appropriate/steal/co-opt rhetoric from very important movements that specifically deal with systemic oppression and abusive dynamics and try to apply it to regular, ordinary interpersonal conflict in an attempt to get the upper hand in whatever situation is happening. Right or wrong, due to the shift in culture that’s given this rhetoric more exposure (which is overall a good thing!), use of these buzzwords immediately puts the person saying them in the position of power, as it’s never a good look to push back against someone saying they’ve been gaslit, and if you do, you’ll just be accused of gaslighting as well.

          It’s a really frustrating Catch-22 and I have started to feel that it’s actually quite manipulative. It’s a pretty failsafe way to avoid accountability for your own feelings/perception and a really easy way to shield yourself from any (rightful) criticism or ever having to hear you might be wrong about anything (not that this is what the OP is doing, I just mean generally speaking).

          I’m seeing it EVERYWHERE in a lot of discourse, which is part of the reason I’ve started pulling back from participating in it. It just feels like it’s veered into bad faith territory in a lot of areas.

          1. Ori*

            Mine is people using ‘traumatic’ to describe everyday inconveniences or using ‘traumatised’ as a synonym for ‘sad’.

              1. Ori*

                There’s a MH podcaster I really like who keeps describing her breakup – with a non abusive partner, and which she self admittedly got over in 3 months – as ‘traumatic’. It’s more frustrating because she’s vociferously argued against people pretending they have OCD when they’re a bit tidy. Her exact words were ‘no, you don’t have a severe and debilitating clinical disorder.” So it’s even more upsetting that she keeps mis-using the word ‘trauma’.

                1. scribblingTiresias*

                  disclaimer: I have clinically-diagnosed CPTSD.
                  I think that people use the word ‘trauma’ because we’re missing a space in our language for a concept we really need. I’m borrowing this from a blogger I like, but:
                  Imagine you lived in a world that only had two words for fear: “the BLOOD-CHILLING TERROR of running away from a zombie in a graveyard” and “extremely mild social jitters, like meeting a new boss for the first time”.
                  Say you had social anxiety- debilitating social anxiety! You’d feel afraid every time you tried to talk to someone. It’s not the BLOOD-CHILLING TERROR 0f running fr0m a zombie in a graveyard, and people might think you’re over-reacting if you use that word (and being disrespectful to people who’ve actually had to run from zombies). but it’s also not mild social jitters. It’s debilitating, it makes it difficult (or impossible) to live your life, and you need to be able to get that across to people.
                  Trauma is the same way. There are plenty of events that can leave scars on you even if they’re not ZOMBIE IN A GRAVEYARD traumatic. I can think of plenty of ways that a fairly mild breakup could still mess you up in ways that would have lasting effects- say you lost your entire friend group from a breakup. Even if you got over the person themself pretty quickly, you’d still be isolated, and that can mess you up pretty bad for a while.
                  I don’t think that a breakup like that is TRAUMATIC in the same way that years of physical and mental abuse is TRAUMATIC. But there’s a word that’s missing for the in-between, y’know?

                2. Metadata minion*

                  @scribblingTiresias — I agree! We don’t have a good term for “this is taking up negative brainspace that’s interfering with my life”. In some ways “grief” is almost the right word, but we usually only use it for very specific types of loss.

          2. Tree Hill Grass*

            Wow yes you’ve succinctly described what I’ve been trying to put in to words. I very much agree!

      3. Lilo*

        Also, if you really want to find someone here who was doubting someone else’s reality, uh, that was OP, not the HR person who went two accurate emails.

        I wouldn’t call it gaslighting, though. But what the person did definitely wasn’t and they did NOT deserve abuse.

    5. chewingle*

      Yeah, I noticed that this letter was filled with these buzzwords and it felt like their usage was meant to make the perceived slight against LW feel heavier. Honestly, no one here was necessarily “toxic.” LW overreacted to a small inaccuracy and then proceeded to be an asshole about it. (And fwiw, LW, as a woman who originally thought you were a man, the level of “yikes” I felt reading this did not change.)

      So due the buzzwords, I feel like LW is probably young-ish (under 30). In which case, a valuable lesson to learn while building your career is to never respond to an email while you’re 1) angry, or 2) still waking up. Take a walk, let it marinate, think about the best way to approach the situation, or even ask for advice from your direct manager.

      And if you are finding that it’s difficult to calm down when you receive an email like that, consider finding someone who does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I had very similar anger issues for years and it turns out when my anxiety gets high, I get very angry very easily and then drop into a depressive episode. Therapy has helped me a lot in managing my anxiety to help prevent that, but also to develop coping mechanisms to keep my cool when it can’t be helped. That said, I don’t want to throw “go to therapy” around as an immediate solution because it’s not going to help if you aren’t identifying your own behaviors as issues that need to change. Maybe something to think about, though.

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Another important lesson to take from this is not to react as if things are malicious right off the bat, because honestly, they usually aren’t. When you react like a mistake (and this barely even qualifies as a “mistake” because the OP did miss the deadline) is done at a personal and malicious level, it reflects very badly on you. “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” is a slightly mean way of putting it, but it gets the jist across.

      2. uncivil servant*

        This is an admission of my own bias, but when I first skimmed the post I assumed the OP was a man. It’s honestly the level of aggression and hostility to being questioned that I encounter more often (though rarely at work!) from men. And I still thought the OP needed to calm down and not worry about being disrespected over a corporate training exercise.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Agree with this 1000%. Anyone who uses this term should watch the film. Truly horrifying and part of a long-term pattern. Also a pretty great watch.

      Disagreeing, lying, or having a different take on situations is not automatically “gaslighting”. I say this person is rude, someone says she’s nice, I’m not being gaslit.

    7. Rebecca1*

      I want everyone to watch the movie “Gaslight” before using the term. If they don’t improve their word usage, at least they’ll have seen a really great movie!

      (Note: I’ve only seen the Ingrid Bergman version, but I assume the other is also good.)

      1. Ori*

        It comes with the terms enabling, traumatic, codependent and narcissistic as terms that are almost never used correctly by laypeople.

    8. Nanani*

      Along with “violated” and “toxic”, these words make LW sound like they’re just itching to be the victim for once. It is -not- a good look. It looks like they don’t know what words mean.

    9. nonbinary writer*

      LW seems to be falling into a common habit I see on the internet: leveraging language of abuse to make themselves seem more wronged or maligned than the circumstance warrants. This was a mundane work conflict, not an abusive domestic partner.

      1. Observer*

        This was a mundane work conflict, not an abusive domestic partner.

        I’d go further and leave out “domestic”. There is absolutely no indication of either abuse in general nor of a pattern of misbehavior.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I’d leave out “conflict” too. It’s a routine list of who’s completed certain training and who hasn’t; at most, a fact (OP completed it) needs to be updated. If that’s what the OP thinks of as conflict, heaven help the person who wants to use the microwave in the break room at the same time.

          1. onco fonco*

            Yes, my goodness. It was a bit of information that needed updating. The person who sent the list could have pulled more recent data (but it wasn’t from all that long ago); OP could have done the training on time (but she wasn’t all that late doing it). Unless this workplace has insane expectations and being on the list would cause real, serious repercussions for OP, there just…isn’t a problem here. You correct the information and never think about it again. It’s trivial.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        This kind of language overuse can be really frustrating, too, when people who really were abused try to tell their loved ones about it and the verbiage is so watered down in people’s perception that they have to go into detail to really communicate what they’re trying to say. Rather than saying, “Taylor was abusive”, they have to emphasize, no, not just mean or insulting, actually factually abusive / gaslighting / whatever.

    10. Holly*

      100%. I am so tired of seeing this, especially as someone who HAS been in an emotionally abusive relationship and who HAS actually been gaslit and had my world turned upside down as a result. It has such a specific meaning and I hate seeing it thrown around so casually and for such a ridiculous reason. It’s pretty insulting to people who have lived through actual gaslighting.

      1. NotJane*

        Yes! Thank you. I was going to write something similar before I read your comment. I’ve also been a victim of (actual, legit) gaslighting in a past relationship, and part of what makes it so damaging and so insidious is that when you’re in that situation, you don’t know you’re being gaslit. You just think you’re going crazy (which is the whole point, since if you believe you can’t trust your own memory or perceptions, it makes you more dependent on the gaslighter).

        Also, not that I think any gaslighting is going on here, but I find it interesting that while OP is accusing her company/colleagues of engaging in such manipulative, vindictive behavior, she’s simultaneously reframing the narrative to cast herself as the victim (“then bring up irrelevant wrongdoing on the part of the wronged person”).

        No, not irrelevant. Totally and completely relevant. OP would never have received that email if she had completed the training by the deadline, which she (grudgingly) admits she did not, and yet somehow in her framing of this “incident”, she’s the “wronged person”? That’s a whole lot of mental gymnastics to perform in order to avoid taking responsibility for what seems like a minor, actually irrelevant mistake (which, by that time, she had rectified).

    11. First time listener, long time caller*

      This isn’t gaslighting because OP is wrong. But if it were what she thinks it is, I think gaslighting would be an appropriate description for part of it.

      1. Yorick*

        No. OP didn’t take the training on time. Someone printed up a list of everyone who didn’t take the training on time, and OP’s name was on it. OP sent a message saying they were wrong to have her name on the list, because she did take it. The person who pulled the report explained that it was because the data were pulled before OP took the training.

        Even if the person who pulled the data purposely put OP’s name on the list knowing she had actually taken the training in order to get her in trouble and then lied about it, it would in no way be gaslighting.

      2. Observer*

        No. Even if the report were truly incorrect, this does not come CLOSE to gaslighting. It was a mundane and easily corrected error not abusive, not a pattern and not an attempt to get someone to doubt their sanity / sens of reality.

        As with (legal) “hostile workplace” what you need to qualify as as gaslighting is abuse that is severe and / or pervasive. And that simply doesn’t apply here. At All.

  10. Wants Green Things*

    Well, if nothing else, your boss’s boss’s boss now knows who you are, and it’s not a great impression.

    Whether you were right or not, start job hunting. There’s a lot of bitterness throughout this letter.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I disagree– that’s as extreme a response as OP’s initial over-reaction.
      OP, use this as a chance to get a handle on your temper and practice apologizing.
      There will always be times in our lives where we screw up, and the answer doesn’t have to be to leave.
      Being gracious after an unprofessional moment won’t be easy–but it will be worth it.
      Interviewers sometimes ask you to talk about a time you made a mistake at work. Here is one –how do you want the second half of your answer to go?
      Good luck.
      BTW if your company has formal training programs, do they have a program for managing strong emotions and dealing with difficult people?

      1. Wants Green Things*

        I agree that most people *can* recover from major mistakes, but I’m not so sure this OP and this reaction can. It’ll take a lot of humility and self reflection, and that may not be enough to fix it with *this* company. If she does learn from this episode, it’ll be tremendous help with her next job.

    2. no phone calls, please*

      100% THIS.

      It’s the kind of internal event that defines a person in peoples’ minds. forever. “Ohhhhhh, isn’t that the one who blasted VIP 2 about some training thing?”

      We have a challenging employee who frequently blathers on about how professional SHE is and how everyone should be as drama-free as SHE is and then she gave us the biggest gift in the world: she came to work (in a professional office environment) wearing flip flops. For the day. Because *insert petty reason/minor annoyance here*. And now and forever: “but, flip flops”. Promotion opp? *flip flops* eval? raise? FLIP FLOPS. judgment? long term role in the company? FLIP FREAKING FLOPS.

      1. Tree Hill Grass*

        Flip flops are never the answer, especially if something is wrong with your feet

        1. Wants Green Things*

          Flip flops were the answer for a week when my boss broke her toe, but it was a pretty obvious need.

      2. Ori*

        It’s a shame sometimes. There’s a person who I used to work with who had been with the same company 7 years. She had been quite immature aged 23 but had legitimately grown and improved as a person. Everyone still saw her as that 23 year old. I felt bad for her because she had no idea why she was unable to progress.

      3. Metadata minion*

        But would the flip-flops thing have been that earth-shattering if she were a good employee? From an otherwise excellent employee, I would think that would be the endearingly weird story of That Time Gladys Wore Flip-Flops to Work that you bring out at her retirement party.

        If the LW actually does some soul-searching and turns things around, I don’t think this is a dealbreaking situation. Especially if it’s a larger company, the the VIPs may just go “huh, that was weirdly hostile” and then more or less forget about it.

  11. row row row your boat*

    At one of my old jobs, it was so common for the completion reports on the training portal to be incorrect that my manager asked us to start saving screenshots of completion with the time and date at the bottom and the course name in the window. That way when the monthly compliance training email went out, we could update her directly. I cannot even imagine how much energy went into blowing something so small this far out of proportion because my own experience is that those sorts of completion benchmark reports are never right!

    1. unpleased*

      Yeah, this is a very common problem when tracking completions of trainings across an entity get bound up in the bureaucratic framework. Tis the nature of bureaucracy. It is so not worth this level of aggression in response, especially when the LW was late anyway, and it certainly is not worth framing it in this buzzwordy language.

    2. J!*

      Agreed on those types of reports often being out of date.

      But also… it sounds like it wasn’t wrong? The report was pulled at the deadline date and the LW completed the training after the deadline, so she was among the people who did not complete the training by the deadline. And THEN blew it up anyway even though the report was correct.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      Yea our HR includes taking screenshots in the instructions. It’s incredibly common for our system to not record completion so we frequently are asked to produce our documentation.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’ve got into a LOT of trouble at work in the past for sending an email back to management/others when I was incredibly angry, over things that with the hindsight of the years was actually pretty minor. Saying things like ‘you obviously don’t respect me or my time to imply I’m a liar’ – that’s to give an example.

    Yep, they were mistakes by my manager. But I *should* have just asked for clarification (‘are you aware that I did fix that bit of code yesterday?’) instead of going off on one.

    How to recover? I apologised for my tone and made sure I never sent an email in anger again. However, everyone kinda looked askance at me in that role for a while as ‘wow, she flies off the handle easy’ and I couldn’t do much about that except prove by my future actions that it was a one off.

    (I always, always write emails in draft now. If I’m angry/upset etc. I’ll leave it and come back to it later – a day is usually enough to calm down and realise actually yeah, an innocent mistake was made and I don’t need to hit the roof or yeah, this is a problem but I’m calm enough to write it professionally)

    1. Sara without an H*

      This is good practice. I also made it a habit to not fill in the address box while I was working on the draft, just to save myself from hitting “send” at the wrong moment.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I draft them in Word usually, or something else that I can’t accidentally hit ‘send’ on. Among my many personality faults is a tendency toward holding grudges, getting angry and outright paranoid so my word have I learnt the hard way to not ever send a sudden email!

        (And to leave the room for a bit if I am about to say something angry or rude out loud. Cup of tea time basically)

      2. Cordelia*

        yes I do this too. When I was office-based and in a very frustrating job I had a trusted colleague who was a calmer person than me and would “vet” my angry emails and tell me to tone them down when needed. I have to do this for myself nowadays!
        OP, you sound as if you’ve taken this as a judgement on you as a person, but it really isn’t. You say you didn’t “personally attack” the recipient of your email – but no-one personally attacked you either. Perhaps once you’ve written your email, take a break and then come back to the draft and try and take all the emotion out of it, and just state the facts. And politely – its possible to be both direct and polite. “Sorry, I was late taking the course but I did it yesterday, here’s the transcript”. that’s all that’s needed.

      3. Mizzle*

        For those using Outlook: if you type a name that’s not in any way in your address book (like dontsendthisyet) in any of the address fields, hitting send will first bring up the “this name is not recognized” before it actually gets sent. This way, you can write replies and prepare the entire email (including to, cc and attachments), while still blocking it from being sent accidentally.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Additional: that one major time I really fouled up and implied my boss was deliberately trying to make me look bad I didn’t leave the job, but I got even worse before I got better. Turned out I was angry at a LOT of things (was in pain 24/7) and I just….hated anything else unfair the world dropped on me or that I perceived as unfair.

      It took my manager and my husband both telling me I was getting out of line before I actually got help. I’m a heck of a lot better now. NOT suggesting that this is the issue here – just giving my experience of how I managed after my foul up. I was at that firm another 8 years.

      1. MuseumNerd*

        The pain thing is so relevant. I have fibromyalgia and because I’m in pain most of the time, and I know this sounds absurd but I promise it’s true, I sometimes forget? So if I find myself going “man I feel a lot angrier than I probably rationally should be” I will sometimes stop and think for a minute and realize that I’m in more pain than usual.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Not absurd at all! My pain levels are like a background process running on a PC (sorry, I’m in IT, all my metaphors are computer) so quite often I’m not thinking about them. But when the computer starts to chug, slow down, start farting out errors that’s when I open up task manager and realise that background process is now eating resources all of a sudden.

          Only, instead of blue screen and memory violations I just find myself crying in sheer anger over something that rationally shouldn’t even bother me.

          1. BookishMiss*

            Seriously, pain can TURN you, and your system resources metaphor is Excellent. I have definitely noticed a difference between me on a low pain, tolerable pain, and curl up in a ball and cease existing pain days. The worse the pain, the more system resources it uses, the worse of a person i become. Like you, I’ve begun to use my irritability over little things as a pulse check for my pain levels, because I’m so used to tuning it out.

            Self awareness is hard but worth it, and translates to background processes other than pain, too.

          2. Worldwalker*


            I am so going to steal this to explain why I sometimes don’t have the cycles free to dedicate to pretending to be neurotypical; I’m spending all my resources just to function at all.

        2. Flower*

          This is actually how I define a 5 on the pain scale for myself: personality changes, usually meaning very short-tempered or grumpy when I’m normally a very patient and accommodating person.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I also worked in a toxic department where it was the norm to interpret emails as a personal attack and respond with accusations. Accusations that would roll around in reply-all emails for months! But sometimes the emails were routine and came from other departments, and when I responded like I normally did, the reaction was not the normal reaction.
      The OP’s department is toxic, and maybe most of the company is toxic, but that doesn’t mean that every person sending an email is attacking her. At least save the angry response for the right time.

      1. Simply the best*

        Nothing she described is toxic. She just had a wild over reaction to completely normal interactions.

    4. Anononon*

      Yeah, I tend to, more often than not, immediately respond to emails as I get them. The problems are when I get emails that really piss me off (I’m an attorney, so it’s not uncommon for me to get frustrating and/or aggravating emails from either clients or opposing counsel). I have to fight my initial urge to immediately respond because I know I need a cool down to draft an appropriate and not over-the-top response.

      One of the things I’ve found to be effective is that, sometimes, the shorter I can make my response email, the better. “Thank you for letting me know.” often works wonders, as it acknowledges receipt but doesn’t promise any further action/commit me to anything.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That ‘thank you for letting me know’ bit of yours is rather genius, I really see how it can work and am going to think about using it.

    5. iglwif*

      In the 25-ish years I’ve been in the workforce, I have written MANY angry, snarky, overly long emails with the express intent not to send them. I express myself most easily in writing, and sometimes just the act of writing down all the ways in which my correspondent is wrong calms me right down! And then–not always immediately, but eventually–I can open up an email and write a non-combative email about the same topic, and only then, when I’ve re-read it to make sure I don’t sound pissed off or unhinged, do I add their address and send it.
      SUCH a useful safety valve, the angry-email-draft-that-nobody-else-ever-sees.
      In a previous job I also had the informal job duty of pre-reading all my boss’s angry emails and de-angrifying them.

  13. HR Exec Popping In*

    OP, I am sorry this upset you so much. This is such a normal thing. Companies pull the info as of the due date and then let leaders know who is late. It is not a big deal, but it does the trick and gets people to take the training. Yes, you had taken the training but late so it makes complete sense that your name was still on the list. All you had to do was send your manager a note saying that you have already taken care of it.

    So, what do you do now. I hope you think about this and figure out why this upset you so much. And you should let your manager know that you are sorry that you overreacted and that in the future when you are upset you will send a hostile email. How will you accomplish that? First you need to figure out why you get so angry over something like this. Then, when you feel it happening do not hit sent. Simple as that. Wait until you are no longer “feeling angry” to reply. And limit who you follow up with. In this case, I would hold the email for 24 hours and review it with a clear mind and then only send it to your manager. Even better, call your manager. I find that when you are frustrated it is better to discuss it than to send it in email.

    I hope you are able to learn from this.

  14. pleaset cheap rolls*

    ” It’s not irrelevant that you took the training late. You did take the training late! One consequence of that is that you might be included on a list of people who didn’t take the training on time, even if that list is two days out of date.”

    This. It should not be on the senders to regularly check if someone has finally done something after the deadline has passed. That’s expecting them to do extra work that would be avoided if the OP met the deadline or even proactively sent a note when they took the course.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      This was my thought as well. LW went on about how everybody else did something wrong, but if they had taken the training on time, NONE of this would have happened.

      And LW, if you read this, it doesn’t matter if this is the only time you’ve been late in 4.5 years. If they’re compiling a list of people who didn’t take the training by a certain date, then late is late. What difference that “late once in 4.5 years” would be is that they casually remind you to take the training, instead of getting on your case about it.

      1. JustaTech*

        Every once in a while the VP of my department will send out an email to the whole department reminding us to take our mandatory training. This is annoying because I’m always either totally done my training or waiting on the one bit of in-person training, and I know that he’s really only intending this email for one or two people.

        But the most I’m willing to react is “grr” under my breath. Yes training is annoying, and yes it’s aggravating to be reminded that you were late, but that doesn’t mean that letting other people know you’re upset is useful.

    2. Nella9*

      Yeah I am so confused by the LW saying that that the email was sent by someone who knew the information might be inaccurate. They were checking for people who had missed the deadline, and she had missed the deadline. It was accurate that she hadn’t completed the training when she was supposed to.

      1. Metadata minion*

        And it was only 2.5 days old! I could see being annoyed if they’d pulled a month-old report, but for something like this, 2.5 days absolutely counts as current information.

    3. nonbinary writer*

      I definitely think there’s some defensiveness coming out here from LW — LW knows they messed up by missing the deadline, but instead of just owning up to that mistake, they’re hellbent on making sure the focus is on everyone else’s “mistakes.”

    4. StudentA*

      Knowing me, I would’ve been so busy apologizing for being late to chew someone else out.

    5. Bree*

      My favorite part of this whole letter is where it said “no details have been omitted” but the *very* relevant part that LW took the training late was glossed over/barely mentioned in parentheses. Feels a bit like perfectionist guilt transforming into a hefty amount of unnecessary anger.

      1. ENFP in Texas*

        Let’s try that again.

        As someone who was responsible for sending those emails, the easiest way to avoid getting on the Naughty List is to finish the training before the deadline. If you finish it after the deadline and Senior Management asks for a list of “who did not complete the training by the due date” it won’t matter if you took it the day after the deadline.

        And going off on the person who sent the email? Incredibly uncalled for and a major overreaction because it’s not THEIR fault you missed the deadline. And the fact that you missed the deadline is COMPLETELY relevant. But unfortunately you’re not the first to do it. My response to them – as it is to you – is finish the training before the deadline next time, and you won’t get on the Naughty List.

  15. Lionheart26*

    Its fascinating to me the different ways people can overreact to the same issue. Younger me would have died of shame if I received that email, and would have spent way too long apologising and feeling uncomfortable around everyone involved. Also a not great response.

  16. Detective Amy Santiago*

    You definitely messed up here, OP.

    It sounds like the data was pulled after the deadline that you admittedly missed. That means it wasn’t inaccurate.

    The correct response from you would have been: Hi, sorry, I missed the deadline but have now completed this training. See attached transcript.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yep! this! Correcting the record is all good, but treating it like a capital offense against you is not.

    2. Bluesboy*

      My reading is that OP missed the deadline, and so was included on the list. Then, two days later, with OP having done the training in the meantime, the colleague wrote an email saying ‘OP hasn’t done the training’, and not ‘OP had not done the training by the deadline’.

      So from OP’s perspective, it WAS inaccurate. It said she hadn’t done it when in fact she had.

      To be clear, I’m not saying this to justify her behaviour, which I think is dramatically excessive. Just making the point that when you’re having a horrible day and you see a message that just isn’t true about you, you don’t necessarily think “Ah, but probably it relates to the original deadline”, but go straight to “This is just not true!!”

      1. Simply the best*

        Okay but you still don’t react the way that OP did. You respond and say “hi, looks like there’s been a mistake. Here’s the transcript that shows that I took the training.”

        Mistakes happen (even if this wasn’t one) and OP should react like they know that.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      A lot of the times I showed this kind of behaviour in the past (that wasn’t due to pain levels or schizophrenia or other stuff) was because I was amazingly error intolerant earlier on in my management career – like ‘how dare that person make an error! Nobody should make errors! I’m offended they made an error!’

      So, if I got an email saying I hadn’t done training when I had (even late) my first thought would have been ‘they made a mistake! They must not respect me!’ without even stopping to consider that heck, actually the data was probably pulled just before I completed the training and that’s a normal thing in the world of data feeds.

      It’s taken years of work to get past that error-intolerance thing and even longer to get past my paranoid ‘they’re accusing me! They hate me!’ kind of thoughts. And it was only due to people pointing out, like you did here, what I did wasn’t acceptable and how I should have responded instead.

      1. Despachito*

        Keymaster, I must say I very much admire the work you have done on yourself, and how you own whatever you did/are doing without turning any anger outwards or inwards.

        I can hardly imagine how difficult it had to be, and I find the result truly amazing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          What a lovely thing to say! Thank you :)

          It’s been a long process with a LOT of mistakes, some major, and more than a few tears. Maybe it’s because I’m in my late 40s now but I’m kind of less angry at the world in general and far less concerned over whether people hate me or not ;)

      2. nonethefewer*

        Hello, are you me? I’ve had much the same trajectory as you re error-intolerance and taking things all personal.

  17. Oy with the poodles*

    I wouldn’t take the notification structure personally. It’s *really* common for these kinds of notifications to be cc’ed all the way up the chain because nobody wants to do required trainings and getting compliance is like pulling teeth. I also think it’s ridiculous that when I missed a deadline my great-grandboss was notified, but since I haven’t missed one since, I guess it works.

    1. Flower necklace*

      I’ve gotten similar emails – not for missed training, but a report was pulled showing some mistakes in online records that my department is responsible for. I was copied because my coworker and I head the department. I’m 100% sure my boss’s boss doesn’t care, and that he was only copied so that we knew it was very serious and had to take care of it right away.

    2. Karen Zucconi*

      Meanwhile, these are the types of emails that big bosses often don’t even read. The OP may have gotten bent out of shape over nothing.

  18. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP I am also very direct. There is a difference between being direct and being an a**hole. You are not landing on the good side of that distinction.

    1. You took the training late. You are in the wrong.
    2. You were included on a list of people who didn’t take the training timely. This is correct. You were wrong.
    3. You responded that you took the training on x date and attached proof. This is correct. However, you didn’t stop there and blasted them. This is very wrong.
    4. You think you were in the right. You are not.

    Male/female doesn’t matter. You were wrong, you responded in an aggressive and unprofessional way. Being angry doesn’t excuse you. It means that you needed to not send the email until you’d calmed down and reread it. (And if men “get a pass” officially, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still impact them unofficially. People don’t want to work with jerks in general, regardless of gender.)

    1. Heidi*

      For some reason, I imagined that a man was writing this until I got to the end of the letter where it stated the OP was a woman. Still over the top. Like cheap-ass rolls over the top. It doesn’t even seem like there would have been any negative consequences to the OP for not doing the training; they probably would have just told her to do the training. It doesn’t help that “directness” in email often comes across much harsher than intended. It probably seemed like a real lashing out to the people reading the OP’s response. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for this. The OP has to show that they’re not going to do this habitually and that takes time.

      1. Observer*

        Like cheap-ass rolls over the top

        Yes, that letter came to mind.

        OP, (and anyone else who came to the site since that letter posted), there was a letter from someone who was INCENSED that someone had had the utter gall to bring “cheap ass rolls” to an office pot luck, even though that LW had signed up to bring rolls, and had brought Hawaiian rolls.

        This letter has very similar vibes.

  19. Colette*

    I’m really concerned at how the OP handled this (and how she’s still handling this). Someone getting a minor piece of information wrong should not make you feel violated. And being irate that someone pulled the report before you took the training (and letting them know via email) is way out of line. (I mean, you feel how you feel, but if you feel the need to blast someone who makes a very minor mistake, that’s not OK.)

    And what the OP describes isn’t direct – direct would be “I’m listed as not having completed the training but I actually finished it on Tuesday” – it’s a sign that the OP can’t handle minor mishaps, which is both career limiting and scary for those around her.

    1. Lilo*

      Also “I know this was supposed to be completed in Monday and I sincerely apologize for missing the deadline. It will not happen again.” Done. No one will care or remember in a day.

      1. Julianna*

        Eh, I don’t think this level of apology is necessary. Just a simple update of “I did complete this Tuesday, FYI, here is the transcript.” And even then, only if correcting this information matters.

        1. Lilo*

          I’d say this preempts the second email and explains what happened and why she was on the list. It ends further investigation.

          If you miss a deadline just own up to it. It’s a bigger deal to dispute it.

        2. Esmeralda*

          Nah, if I had missed the deadline, I *would* apologize. Not over the top self-abasement, but a simple acknowledgement that “I apologize for missing the deadline”. That’s just smoothing social relationships. Especially if you ARE direct — I’m very direct and I can get angry over little things (family of origin crap that I’ve been working on for a couple of decades lol), so I make sure to: not send email/call/text when I am angry, leave off the recipient email to prevent oops sending, apologize if there is any possibility whatsoever that I am in the wrong, revise the email when I’m calmed down.

          = everyone knows I’m very direct, some people still dislike that, but no one thinks I’m a powder keg

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I mean, you feel how you feel, but if you feel the need to blast someone who makes a very minor mistake, that’s not OK

      I wouldn’t even call it a mistake though. It sounds like the deadline was on Friday and they pulled the data on Monday morning. OP did the training Monday afternoon or Tuesday. The email was sent on Wednesday. So OP did miss the deadline, even though she had completed the training by the time the email was sent.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Direct = how you’d explain things to a computer, is the way I’ve trained myself to think to avoid angering others (I fully admit to having a bad temper, a tendency to hold grudges and getting paranoid over the slightest mistake sometimes – it’s taken a long time to manage that)

      1. serenity*

        I think OP is misinterpreting lots of terms from what I’m reading in the letter but she’s also making a common mistake of conflating “direct” with “abrasive” or “harsh” and these words are absolutely not interchangeable.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Absolutely. It’s something I’ve seen (and been guilty of) a lot in the technical fields I work in. There’s a kind of ‘direct = saying whatever you want’ atmosphere at times which, as you rightly point out, is NOT supposed to mean ‘harsh’, ‘rude’, ‘abrasive’.

        2. Anonymous Hippo*

          Thank you. Direct is not abrasive, harsh, rude, etc. Direct is clear and unambiguous. Yeah, you can be abrasively direct, but you can 100% be direct while being polite and professional.

        3. fposte*

          And a lot of people who consider themselves direct can only point to examples of when they were direct about *negative* stuff. If you’re never direct about positive stuff, then “direct” isn’t the word.

        4. Wisteria*

          Well, but to be fair, people call women abrasive when they are direct. So, those conflations are understandable.

    4. Observer*

      And what the OP describes isn’t direct – direct would be “I’m listed as not having completed the training but I actually finished it on Tuesday”

      Yes, this is a perfect example of the difference. OP, it’s worth your while to take note.

  20. HigherEdAdminista*

    You are definitely overreacting here. In my work, I often have to pull data from multiple sources; sometimes I can get a report, but sometimes I have to compile the data myself, after checking by hand. It is not unheard of that someone could be left off a list.

    I assume something else is going on here. At this job or in your personal life, do you have a history of someone making you feel like making a mistake means something about your worth? I have dealt with that in my life and I noticed it made me hypervigilant about being seen as making a mistake because I expected it to have huge consequences for me. At the same time, it also made me very unforgiving (mentally, if not out loud) about other people making mistakes because my brain just saw mistakes as some kind of deliberate carelessness. I would be mad at other people for not beating themselves up over it the way I did, because I didn’t understand why I had to suffer with this and they didn’t.

    Now, this might not be true for you, but if it rings true, this is something to work on. It makes traversing the imperfect world a lot easier.

    1. Angrybird*

      This was also me… At the same time, I was working at a job where I was underpaid and had not received any recognition or growth, which compounded my anger and resentment over minor issues. Looking back, I might have received a larger raise or a promotion if I hadn’t been so reactive and hostile. I was always looking for transgressions against me.

      Honestly, I’m still not perfect at this. But I’m much better. I got a fresh start with a new job (that pays 40% more than I was making before) where I feel respected and appreciated. That does wonders for letting the minor things roll off your back. In the instances where I feel annoyed, I try and sit with that feeling before reacting. I go for a walk or get a coffee. I respond after several hours with a cooler head.

      OP see if maybe you are unhappy in general in your job or personal life and if maybe that is bleeding into your daily interactions? Maybe take some measures to change your situation if that applies to you while also working on tolerating your emotions and changing your behaviors.

    2. Anonym*

      Your second paragraph deserves special emphasis. OP may have reacted so strongly from an assumption (conscious or not) that this would lead to major trouble for her. Having one’s entire management chain copied is definitely alarming if you don’t know why! It sounds like from Alison and many of the commenters that it was unlikely to have actually been a sign of danger, but I can sympathize with the worry or uncertainty. It doesn’t make her response a wise or effective one, but perhaps the insight into what drove the reaction will be helpful to her. (I hope so!)

      1. Observer*

        The thing that the OP really needs to recognize is that even if the mistake was a big deal in terms of possible impact, her response was STILL highly inappropriate.

        It’s fine to be direct and make it clear that she did the training. It would even have been ok in my book if she had not apologized, although I would have. But it’s not fine for her to go off like this. Nor is it OK or healthy to frame it in these kinds of extreme terms.

        1. Worldwalker*

          And whatever problem might or might not have resulted from being late on the training, the OP *definitely* has a problem now. Everyone is going to know they’re “that person”. This story might get shared around the water cooler. It might even generate an AAM letter or two. Everything they do in the future, possibly for years, will be viewed through the lens of “the person who blew up like Mt. St. Helens about that training thing.”

    1. M. Albertine*

      I thought it was mine, until she mentioned she was a woman. The guy would blow up at any little thing that went wrong, or wasn’t communicated well, or anything that made him “look bad”. Was NOT a great fit for a start up, but he was our sales guy, so we “had” to put up with it. As defacto HR (please stop making your accountants be HR), I got the brunt of a lot of the unhappiness from the other employees.

  21. LadyByTheLake*

    I am a woman who has been consistently criticized for an email communication style that has been characterized as “brusque,” or “rude,” whereas a man using the same language would be called “direct” or “to the point.” I thought that this letter would be about that. But OP, this was so over the line — “violated,” and “maligned” and “gaslighted” are words that should never come up at work except in the most unusual and extraordinary situations. This was nothing — a perfectly ordinary “these aren’t the people who haven’t taken the training” (the “by the deadline” is understood by all). Which was true. Such a boring run-of-the-mill thing that no one cares about except that your manager is expected to check in with your and make sure it gets done — and you turned it into WWIII. I am not sure how you recover from that — but the next step after the abject “so sorry I overreacted and I deeply apologize” apologies to everyone involved is to think about why there was such a disproportionate overreaction — what else is going on?

    1. Nom*

      Yep, this is me. I’m pretty direct in what is (usually) a polite way and I have been criticized in the past in what has felt like a very gendered way, especially considering how direct and impolite some of my male colleagues were in the same workplace. That’s the letter I expected.

      Without actually reading the second email, it’s hard to say if it was rude or just direct and since I am so familiar with being criticized, I sympathize and would want to read that second email.

      But, what I will say is that the inciting incident was really overblown. People make mistakes, people run reports a few days before. I may have even been pretty annoyed about it to. But this is something that should have been let go.

      One way I have tried to be direct without sounding accusatory is to try to state facts as accurately as possible. Use as few adjectives and adverbs as possible (I usually cut out about 3 verys from every email before sending), try not to use the word “you”. I think these are useful things, but then again I haven’t had the most success with them.

  22. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP, how often are you angry at work? And how often are you communicating angrily at work?

  23. twocents*

    Yikes on bikes.

    At my company, a report is run when the classes are now past due, and that info is sent out. You were late! And instead of going “I have since taken the class, here’s my updated transcript” you turned this into a huge ordeal and are hiding your bad behavior behind labeling the other person as a gaslighter. (Ugh, I hate the misuse of that word.)

    I would bet good money that the original list of people who were a wee late was a blip on the head honcho’s radar, but your overreaction will lodge in his or her brain way more.

  24. Carol*

    OP, do you tend to feel insecure or worried about whether you are seen as a good worker? I could see instinctively reacting this way if you have that fear…but beyond a momentary reaction, this seems really out of proportion with what actually happened.

    People are late with training/paperwork/minor deadlines all the time, and I can’t see upper management really registering things like this except as a logistical task to get the lists clear. Do you feel this could have really impacted your reputation? It’s really something very routine and everyday.

    Words like…maligned and gaslit…really don’t apply here unless there’s something else going on. This is a really defensive reaction and if you have these kinds of reactions a lot, that’s going to impact your professional reputation more than any “4 days late on training” list will.

  25. Forty Years in the Hole*

    It’s so common for this kind of info to be stale-dated. I used to round up business analytics for the grand-boss, on a set timeline; everyone who contributed to the analysis knew my deadlines. And yet, some always missed the date. I simply rolled up what I had to the next level, and let the chips fall. No one got bent out of shape when the grand boss mentioned to his directors that “x” was past due, but amazingly my returns were in by COB. And we’ve all been delinquent a time or two with mandated training; or the system hasn’t picked up the latest trg input by the report date. It gets done, and the list gets updated…everybody happy.
    Air Force maxim to live by: “Cool your jets.”

  26. KaloraKid*

    I manage a team that has to send a lot of “hey, the deadline for x was yesterday and you’ve missed the deadline, please take the needed action.” As a manager, I also receive plenty of emails that are “hey, your direct reports/org reports are behind on xyz”. In my experience, there are largely two types of responses to these emails, the “oh shoot, let me get on that” and the “but but but here are the reasons why it was late, why this isn’t my fault, why the data was wrong, etc”.

    You know who are the ONLY people whose missed deadlines are remembered by my team, by management, by anyone? The arguers. These corporate reminders aren’t detention slips, they aren’t notes home to your parents for misbehavior in home room, they’re “hey, this needs to get done, please get it done” notes. As Alison stated, managers get so many of these emails, they don’t resonate as “oh man, LW is a screw up, let me chastise them”, the emails are just reminders for us to make sure our folks are getting stuff done that need to get done. Oh you already did it? Cool, conversation over. It generally takes LOTS of missing deadlines to be known as a deadline screwer upper, it only takes one or two “but but but!” responses to be known as a “but but but”-er.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Yep. Even if the info had been incorrect, the higher ups are not likely scrutinizing that list and making a note of who screwed up. They may not even have read it! Not the details. It’s just a report. Your manager cares which individuals haven’t done the thing, but above that they’re more concerned about the program / outcomes / compliance, not who did what. The “who” higher-ups care about is your manager not you.

      1. AnonaLlama*

        Absolutely. In my org, I am 2-3 levels above the “line managers” so I literally don’t even open/read these. Typically, it will take me a couple of business days to read then I reply to the line manager with a version of “lmk if you need anything to get us off this list” and assume it’s handled.

        If I received an email like the one you sent it would be a much longer conversation with your direct manager about “what on earth is up with OP and is this part of a pattern of behavior because we absolutely need to nip this in the bud.”

      2. Worldwalker*

        Yeah. It’s unlikely that everyone above the OP’s direct boss said “This is *below* my pay grade. I have a lot more important things to deal with than these reports; the people’s direct managers can handle this” and hit “archive”. Possibly without ever reading more than the subject line. Because it *is* below their pay grade; that’s what the immediate managers of everyone on that list deal with.

  27. The Rat-Catcher*

    As someone who does this type of report at a large org for a living, it may well take 2-3 days from the time the report is pulled to get notifications out like the one you received. It’s generally understood that people might take that training in the meantime and if that’s the case, then updates can be made. Pretty normal at a large org.

  28. TitosandCoffee*

    I manage someone like this. She calls her style ‘direct, sometimes blunt’ many others think of it as dismissive and borderline rude. For a while I tried to take it in stride and thought about the gender implications (I am female myself) and ultimately no. Talking to people like this isn’t ok. OP, you may say it’s fluff, but a lot of it feels like respect and giving colleagues the benefit of the doubt. I assume there are other issues here and maybe this isn’t a great place for you to thrive, but I urge you to course-correct before you are put on a PIP.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, it’s not ‘fluff’ to include some basic politeness in your communications and it’s not ‘fluff’ to write a respectful email instead of flying off the handle. All the OP needed to do was to say ‘Sorry – I was a little late taking the training this year, I’ve now completed it, would you mind updating the record?’ That’s ‘direct’ and it isn’t a fawning apology, but it’s also not rude and needlessly accusatory.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      I wouldn’t even describe the OPs writing as direct or blunt. Direct would be to say “I have completed the training, update your records please” not sending a reply describing how the email made her feel.

      1. TitosandCoffee*

        Agree. I also think that when you constantly have to explain that your communication is direct then maybe it isn’t. Regardless, it may be annoying, but niceties matter.

      2. Observer*

        Direct would be to say “I have completed the training, update your records please” not sending a reply describing how the email made her feel.

        Exactly! The whole feelings bit is totally NOT “direct”.

    3. Jaybeetee*

      I find with many self-described “direct” people, what they consider emotional fluff and not worth the effort is more in the camp of basic civility and lack of rudeness. Like, just saying, “Actually, I completed X course on Y date!” would have probably been less effort than what the LW actually did. It takes more effort to be aggressive and rude.

      Of course I know people who are direct and not rude – but I’ve never heard them describe themselves as “direct” or seem to take particular pride in it the way the rude ones do.

      1. Absurda*

        I think a lot of times “direct” has become the work equivalent of “just being honest.” Being direct does not mean that you can unload on someone, ignore how your message is received or pretend it’s not your problem if the recipient is offended by what you sent.

    4. LKW*

      What struck me was that the OP considers herself to be direct and without fluff – but wanted context and fluff added to the email. Specifically, the email was “this who who didn’t take the training on time.” and the OP wanted the add of “but some people may have completed their assignments after the deadline.”

    5. Florp*

      I find that when someone describes themselves as direct, it almost always turns out that their definition of direct is different from others’. Being able to talk politely or tactfully about a mistake or problem is a basic communication skill. Being direct means being clear, rational and straightforward. It does not mean aggressive. OP–I think you already know this on some level because you “admit” to being direct as if it’s been a problem before. Experienced managers hear “I’m direct” as a red flag for “I haven’t developed a necessary communication skill, people think I’m abrasive, and I can’t or don’t want to change.”

      Maybe you’re toxic, maybe your work place is toxic, maybe both. It sort of doesn’t matter who was toxic first–you can only be responsible for your own actions and reactions and right now you are feeding the toxic cycle. Sure it sucks that someone high up the org chart (accurately) thinks you didn’t complete a task on time. I doubt they would have remembered it in a month, but they sure will remember your scorched earth response. The person who pulled the report is probably required to do it at a specific time, and you just accused them of violating(!) you because they did their job. They might well ask why you should get the special treatment of re-running a report just for you?

      The good news is, you can absolutely recalibrate going forward. Be as angry as you want in your own head, but speak and write politely and respectfully, if not kindly and warmly. For a while, it will be a ‘you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it’ thing. But once you see coworker relationships improving, my guess is you will appreciate the rewards of being a consummate professional. After a while, people will think of this incident as a blip in your otherwise kind and professional demeanor. If you choose the high road, no one can accuse you of living in the gutter.

    6. Worldwalker*

      What the OP dismisses as “fluff” is the social lubricant that keeps us from grinding on each other.

  29. Alex*

    I think you might be confusing a direct communication style with a temper. And yes, it is true that men get away with showing bad tempers more than women do, but that doesn’t make it OK.

    A reply such as “Please note that I took the training on [X date] and so this list can be updated if needed.” is 100% clear and direct. It’s OK and normal to be irritated when you feel you haven’t been shown in the best light (a person who missed a training deadline!) but being direct doesn’t mean conveying every irritation you feel.

  30. PT*

    I worked with someone like this. Every tiny careless mishap that came near her, was done AT her. Someone filed a paper in the wrong file (because they were busy, lazy, and didn’t care,) was done to make more work for her! Someone didn’t send a schedule out on time (because they were lazy and didn’t care), was done deliberately to disrespect her and her time! Someone took a long lunch (because they wanted to shirk work and were a tiny bit selfish) was doing it deliberately to make it so she didn’t get HER lunch on time! Someone turned up late (because I hate this stupid job) was doing it to disrespect her!

    It was a crappy place to work, and people eventually stopped caring about doing their jobs right. They weren’t not caring about their jobs as some sort of organized assault at her, they were doing it because there was no motivation to do their jobs correctly because no one would punish them for doing it wrong or reward them for doing it right. But she was perpetually in a state of emotional meltdown, and she was exhausting to work with. She had a lot of fractured personal relationships, and was blocked from promotion because she was so emotionally unreliable.

    If this is how you normally work, LW, please see a therapist to get to the bottom of it.

    1. serenity*

      I think you hit the nail on the head in observing that OP appears to see this being done *at* her. I imagine there are other issues at play and maybe this workplace simply isn’t a great fit for her. Being this adversarial about something that was either a normal business practice or the result of mild carelessness is a sign that something is seriously off here.

  31. pleaset cheap rolls*

    “Hi – wanted to let everyone know I did take the certification – it was [date/time], so right after the deadline and apparently didn’t make it into the update from [person]; sorry about that”

    That’s the email the OP should have sent.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      Simple, straightforward, elegant — this email would have been the end of it!

      1. Worldwalker*

        In short … direct.

        What the OP claims to be, but isn’t. “Direct” is not a euphemism for “rude”.

  32. Oryx*

    Once, I came home from work and had a notice from my rental company telling me that my rental check was late. I knew it wasn’t, so I called the building manager. He said that they had printed those notices a little early — therefore before they’d seen my payment — and to just ignore it.

    You know what I did? I thanked him, hung up the phone, and threw the late notice away.

    You yourself admit that you were late in taking the training. This is not irrelevant information. But you seem to want to make it seem irrelevant because you know you were late, which means you probably know then that it does make sense that your name would appear on a list of people who had not yet taken the training based on the date the list was generated. You sent them the information that shows you did take it, and that’s all you needed to do.

    Everything else is a very extreme reaction at an incredibly disproportionate level. To the point I wonder if there is something else happening with this job that is causing such an extreme reaction.

    Also, as a woman who can be direct, yes, it can be frustrating to feel as though I have to soften my language to appeal to male egos. Commentary on women’s communication styles is absolutely a thing in the workforce. But there is being direct and then there are people who call themselves direct and they just “tell it like it is” when really they are being a-holes. Direct and polite are not mutually exclusive.

    1. Little Miss Sunshine*

      +10 on this comment. You can be direct and respectful. You must be both to move into leadership positions successfully.

  33. Happier In Jeans*

    Yeah it’s not fun to see your name on a non-compliance report after you took the training, however since you took it late I would have tiptoed around this one. The first email was good, ask to make sure that it’s in the system as having been taken. Once they confirmed that and you knew the data was pulled before you took it, that should be the end of it. You’ll not be on the next report or if someone asks about it you can say it’s done. Unless not having 100% compliance on training jeopardizes some sort of contract or something I doubt anyone at the C-level is even reading the email.

  34. No Sleep Till Hippo*

    While I agree with Alison’s advice, I do want to point out that this doesn’t necessarily preclude a toxic work environment. I remember having similarly outsized reactions to relatively minor things at a previous Toxic Job.

    OP – do you get a sense that mistakes aren’t tolerated at your company? Was there something in this situation that felt threatening for reasons beyond the facts laid out in your letter? Do you trust your manager/colleagues to back you up, generally, or would they throw you to the wolves? Is it common for you to feel this angry at work?

    If yes, it might be time to start job-searching anyway. This letter reads to me like a prime example of how dysfunctional workplaces can really twist one’s perspective and sense of normal. That said: either way, I would really encourage you to take Alison’s advice to heart and work on controlling your reactions to things like this. It will serve you well in preserving yourself against toxic environments as well as getting along better in normal ones. Best of luck to you; I know how hard it can be.

    1. nothing rhymes with purple*

      +1 I was just thinking this, that OP’s reaction may not so much be to the specific incident as to general issues.

    2. JustKnope*

      I completely agree. My first boss, fresh out of college, taught me some very warped professional norms akin to what OP is describing. Taking routine work issues way too personally; lashing out when she felt disrespected; and just generally being someone we had to walk on eggshells around. I was already prone to that kind of over the top thinking so I jumped right in. It took some very kind and helpful mentors (plus not working for that boss anymore!) to show me how professional norms are supposed to work.

    3. Observer*

      I do want to point out that this doesn’t necessarily preclude a toxic work environment.

      That’s true. And Alison doesn’t indicate otherwise.

      The OP massively over-reacted. And the OP should think about why she did that. Step one is to recognize that her basic justification of being “direct” simply does not fly, as you can be direct without being rude and besides her responses here were not particularly direct. Having done that, it certainly would not hurt for the OP to look at her situation and figure out if her overall job situation or life situation is in a bad way. Because the two things are not mutually exclusive.

  35. CheezeWhizzard*

    Do you react like this often? At work and at home? It sounds miserable, and it’s not great for the people around you either. It may also harm your career progression. Anger management training and therapy may be beneficial for you. This kind of outsized reaction isn’t normal or healthy. Once you’re in the driver’s seat, not your emotions, I think you’ll feel a lot more in control of your life.

  36. Project Problem Solver*

    OP, I had “needs to improve tact and diplomacy” on my review for 5 years running. And while some of it was in fact from a male manager that really wanted me to not communicate as strongly as I do…some of it really was that I needed to work on tact and diplomacy.

    For me it’s not anger but frustration that gets me. What I’ve started doing is drafting the email and then sitting on it for awhile. How long “awhile” is depends on how urgent the communication is, but at least a few hours in this case. Sit on it, breathe, get up from your desk and let it go. Then come back and decide if you’ve really used the words you meant to use. It’s completely possible to push back strongly without being rude or exaggerated about it.

    If you have someone impartial who you can run it past, do that. Ask “hey, how pissed off do I actually sound here?” So often what we write sounds perfectly reasonable when we read it over, but in a vacuum it really isn’t. So if you don’t trust your own communication style when you’re angry – and you’re having second thoughts, so it sounds like you don’t in some respects – getting a second opinion might help.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m a lot more chill than I used to be but younger me did this on many occasions and on every single one, when I go back, I was very, very, glad that I had not sent the email when I first wrote it. Most of the time, I didn’t send it at all, and the few times I did it was cut way down and appropriately defanged.

    2. Project Problem Solver*

      Also, OP, I think some reframing might help here. You ask if it’s you or your workplace that’s “toxic.” You’re not necessarily toxic – you made a mistake. Taking that to the level of “I’m the toxic one” also seems like an overreaction to what happened. You screwed up; we all do. Apologize for it, and promise yourself you’ll do something now that you know you’re likely to overreact to particular situations (being seen as being noncompliant; receiving incorrect information; whatever it is).

      1. unpleased*

        I think this is a really interesting point. The toxicity framing is completely misapplied or a red herring. You made me think that LW saying she might be toxic over this one thing feels very much like saying if it’s true she can’t be helped and thus shouldn’t have to work on her responses to things. Normally if someone has a snit about something, I assume it’s a one-off based on some stress or something, but if someone were to throw out “well maybe I am toxic” that would be really weird and frankly a yellow flag about them, and I would be looking for corroborating evidence that they really are toxic.

    3. JustaTech*

      I’m very glad that I learned the “never send an email when you’re angry” lesson by watching someone else in college. A tenured professor was upset that another professor didn’t get tenure so she sent an email to the entire department (including student employees) that basically said “How dare you not give Professor Z tenure? I quit!”

      And then there was no taking it back, not after everyone had seen. (She also wasn’t well liked or a particularly good professor.) And thus we all had an object lesson in “never, ever, send an email when you’re angry”.

  37. bananab*

    When I’ve found myself guilty of little infractions (like completing training late) I usually like the issue to come and go with as little fuss as possible. That way it’s not top of mind for anyone a month later and I won’t be “the guy that does training late.” This is kinda the opposite of that and will make the incident incredibly memorable to all involved.

  38. Cat Lover*


    Do you respond like this to other issues, regardless of how small or large you perceive the problem to be? If so, I would take a step back and really self-evaluate where these feelings of intense anger are coming from. (I used to deal with anger issues, and I sympathize). There are steps you can take to work through your feelings at the moment so you don’t blow up at people.

    Are you unhappy in other areas of your work? With your superiors and/or coworkers?

    You could have just sent the email with the certification attached and that would have been the end of it.

  39. Oh dear*

    Op, you were not wronged. The fact that you took the training late was not irrelevant — it’s a reasonable and common explanation for why you received the training notice.
    You could have easily sent a simple email that contained your transcript, took responsibility for your lateness, and asked for confirmation that records have been updated to reflect you did what you needed to do.
    Instead, you wrote an email that I’m guessing was harshly inappropriate and dug your heels in with your defensiveness. Of course other managers became involved at that point — they were trying to protect your coworker from being subjected to your abuse.
    Eat the crow. Apologize profusely. If this is indicative of how you normally approach even small difficulties at work, seek some professional guidance on managing your reactions. Acknowledge this pattern and actively show your manager that you are working on this and doing better.
    Regardless, polish up your resume and start looking for a new opportunity — there is something toxic in your environment. It might be the company, it might be you. Either way, something needs to change.

  40. Bloopmaster*

    As someone who regularly sends out training reminders and completion reports, this was jarring to read. Tracking training completion is only ever intended to ensure that the organization meets certain goals and fulfills legal requirements. It’s not intended to be punitive in any way or to single out individual workers for any reason other than to get them through the training activity. We regularly encounter errors because the folks who pull the reports are not usually the same people who assess the reports and also the software can be wonky. A polite correction is both appropriate and highly welcome! A response like this….yikes….

  41. Colorado*

    When I hear someone say.. “I will admit to having a very direct communication style”, to me it’s along the same lines as the people who say “I don’t do drama” or “I only have male friends because I don’t get along with women”.. It’s an excuse for your behavior. You can have a direct communication style without being overreactive or rude. In this case, I think you were very over reactive and I would really do a reality check on how this affects other parts of your life too. If something this small (we’ve all been on that non-compliance training list at one time or another), makes you angry, then be aware that your co-workers may feel the need to walk on egg shells around you. I’d check on that.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes – it reminded me of those people who say ‘I speak as I find’ or ‘If you can’t handle me on a good day, you don’t want to see me on a bad day’. It’s an excuse to be rude and it’s not something to be celebrated. Fine, OP doesn’t like ‘fluff’ – but that doesn’t mean they get to be overly rude or aggressive or fly off the handle at the slightest provocation (which it sounds like they did here).

    2. Pants*

      Agree. I work with a direct communicator. We even have a profile doodad where you answer a bunch of questions and it puts you into one of 4 categories, where you are in that category (like you’re direct but also close to Very Helpful Communicator), etc. I work with a Direct Communicator while I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. My direct communicating coworker is an absolute joy to work with.

      Direct doesn’t mean angry. Used in this context, Direct is an excuse for angry.

      1. Simply the best*

        Anytime someone tries to describe their communication style as “brutally honest” I like to ask them why they haven’t chosen to be kindly honest instead.

        (Let’s be real, it’s because they’re more interested in the brutality than the honesty.)

  42. You Are Your Own Manager*

    As I read this, I found myself wondering whether others in your life have ever commented that you have a bit of a temper. A touch of an anger problem. That they feel they need to walk on eggshells around you?

    Because your reaction to a simple notification process that happens in companies all the time is WAY over the top. To the point that if I were your manager, I’d be talking to MY manager about sharing EAP info with you and how I plan to mitigate the risk of having such an explosive personality on the team.

  43. idwtpaun*

    Terms like “gaslight” and “toxic” have entered the popular lexicon and are now so wildly misused they may as well be meaningless.

    OP, you are not being gaslit, no one is lying to you about the sky being blue. Nor does anything you describe indicate a toxic workplace. But you, I’m sorry to say, do come across from this email as a difficult coworker to deal with: you single-handedly decided something you did wrong is not relevant but all perceived slights against you are a big deal.

    1. Tabihabibi*

      Yeah, the dichotomy of asking if OP or the workplace is “toxic” suggests OP might benefit from breaking out if that limited framework and extending some compassion both to herself and others. People do work with processes you may not find ideal, often for reasons you may not see. Likewise, having a bad reaction yourself might come from an unrelated place and is something you can recover from; other commenters have covered that, but it doesn’t mean you’re somehow an inherently bad person. When I am feeling upset by someone at work like a yelling customer, I really benefit by imagining how I would react to someone’s harsh words by thinking of how I would respond if I knew their mom was in the hospital or they blew a tire this morning, etc, and it helps me consider more mundane explanations like, hey, maybe their boss asked them to do it this way and it has nothing to do with me. Extending the benefit of the doubt is a skill you can practice.

  44. Akcipitrokulo*

    Ow, sounds like you were really frustrated.

    You did over-react. A quick email – even replying all (probably not great, but not end of world) saying “Hi – thanks for this email – can I correct my info as I completed this on X date?”

    Message recieved, all done.

    But what stood out for me was being “direct” especially “when angry”.

    Those two concepts don’t actually go together. They contradict each other.

    Direct communication may be blunt, but is also straightforward, informational and free of clouding emotions.

    Anger does not enhance any of those qualities. It makes the communication *LESS* direct. As can be seen here.

    There was a lot of meandering in your reply through when you took the class, when the data was pulled, that there was no disclaimer and how you felt about it. Very indirect.

    The *direct* communication would have been “This data is outdated. Here is correct data.”

    Your anger adversely impacted the directness of your communication.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I do want to emphasise first part – I am sorry you are feeling so frustrated about this, and it can blow over!

  45. Pants*

    OP, I’m in the department that this email would have come from. (Training, Learning, etc.) Those “you haven’t taken the course” emails are usually auto-generated by the LMS (Learning Management System) and sent directly from the system, not by any specific human being. Often (almost always, I’ve found), the LMS and learning/training portals are two different platforms that can take a bit to sync up at times. Thusly, you may have received the email before the systems synced up and your status was corrected. At times, there are also glitches between the two platforms that mean that a specific group didn’t transfer over correctly and the Training/Learning team must go through the back end and manually enter those. In my group, we often aren’t aware that this is the case unless we get an email back stating that the course was completed. Usually they include a screenshot. In my company, they are rarely angry emails.

    1.- You took the training late. That’s on you. That will automatically trigger an email response letting you know the training was due by a specific deadline and you had not completed it. Receiving this email is YOUR FAULT, as you did not complete the training on time.

    2.- Deadlines on certain trainings are there because record of these trainings is required by law. You being out of compliance on your training could cost the company if an audit is done.

    3.- There are human beings on the other end of your email. Humans are fallible. You included, by the tone and method of your communication.

    tl;dr: Yes, you are in the wrong. The very very wrong. And you now have a reputation. Your name will trigger this experience in everyone in the Training/Learning and possibly the Compliance department. And that reputation was very well earned.

    1. LKW*

      I came here to say something similar to item #2. While the learning system may or may not be configured to send notifications all the way up the chain, clearly this particular training was important enough to merit the email that started all of this. While not all training will require such visibility to leadership, the OP should have paused and thought about what this training was and why it was going so many levels above her manager. Clearly something about this training is important and meeting the set deadlines could be a compliance issue or something that if not completed to the satisfaction of a regulator, legal rep or other person could result in the company being penalized. Or it could result in the great-grand-boss not getting a bonus. Doesn’t really matter what the penalty is.

      Regardless of the result, the OP is now visible as the overly-sensitive, not collaborative, reactionary and possibly toxic co-worker that needs to be coached not only on meeting corporate obligations but in maintaining a base level of professionalism.

      OP, you shot yourself in the foot here. You should apologize to all involved and stop using words like “violated” when it comes to sharing normal corporate information like mandatory training completion.

  46. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    Ugh. I used to be like this! And also I’ve been on the receiving end of emails like this, and the big reaction is almost always over nothing things. Sometimes the upset person doesn’t have the context that this is not a huge thing and we’re expecting some errors, sometimes they’re having a bad day, but for me on the other side, it doesn’t matter. It always ruins my day, and since I have a Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria from a related disability, it affects me disproportionately. (I have the tools to address that aspect, but it still requires so much effort and so many spoons.)

    I wonder if, the next time you have such a strong reaction, decide what will get you what you want from the situation. You might find that you want to make someone feel bad for being in the wrong–that’s a good point to take a breather. You might find that you want to be clear that you did complete the task, and then you can write from that perspective too.

    One of the things that really helped me is taking that moment to think about my end goal and what would get me there, and imagine a scenario in which the person was having a bad day or distracted and that’s how they made that decision. Calling up the compassion first (whether it’s real or deserved or whatever) has made a huge difference in my work and ultimately my success. Good luck.

  47. Toucan Flies*

    It sounds like it’s time to do a deep dive on your anger issues if this is not the first time something like this has happened. I’m someone who’s quick to anger, and have had to work with my therapist a lot on it.

    What you did was way out of line. A frumpin corporate training? It’s not like someone accused you of embezzling funds.

  48. MuseumChick*

    OP, first, I agree with Alison that this sounds like an over-reaction on your part. Lists like this are often generated a few days in advance and there is no need to explicitly say that as it is just kind of understood. You did miss the deadline for the training so the email was accurate. Let’s say this did lead to someone in upper management asking you about your training, that appropriate response would have been something along the line of, “Yes, I have been completely swamped with X and Y so I wasn’t able to do the training until (date) but I have complete it.”

    Is there anything else that has happened in your workplace where you feel like you need to defend yourself like this?

  49. Jennifer Juniper*

    The OP needs to acknowledge she took the course late, apologize for that, and acknowledge the harm she caused by overreacting. She then needs to thank her superiors for taking the time to correct her and state how she will improve her conduct going forward.

  50. Aspie_Anything*

    Look for a new job – you’ve lost a lot of credibility here and this incident is so egregious and draws into question your judgement to such an extent that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to advance on this company.

    1. Pants*

      At the very least, it will be difficult for them to get anything done when they need something. There are specific departments you don’t mess with. IT, Admins, and the Receptionists. They can make or break you. And they all share info. OP is now on an unwritten list.

      1. Lilo*

        I will say I tend to get more upset at people who are rude to my admin than people who are rude to me. A good admin is worth their weight in gold, do NOT mess with my admin.

        1. Pants*

          Bosses like you are golden as well!! As admins, we’re used to our (perceived) position at the bottom of the hill catching what rolls down. We also know a lot more than people think, which I’m sure you are aware of. And we never forget. We’re a lot more dangerous than we let on, which is absolutely on purpose.

          Thank you for standing up for your admin! I’m sure they appreciate it more than you’ll ever know!! <3

    2. Mental Lentil*

      I’m not so sure that a new job is going to be the answer here. LW clearly can’t see why they were actually in the wrong (problem #1) and then seriously over-reacted (problem #2) and then still didn’t think that it was their fault (problem #3).

      Unless, LW figures this out, this scenario is likely to repeat at any job they have.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        It is, but at a lot of places behaviour like this would be like slamming the door to advancement in your own face (as it should, quite frankly).

        Even if the LW realises what they’ve done wrong and is perfect going forward, that’s a lot of people who remember you as ‘X who went off the rails after an inocuous training email’

        1. Mental Lentil*

          at a lot of places behaviour like this would be like slamming the door to advancement in your own face

          Yep, this is true. I felt like this is just the first step in a downward career spiral.

  51. CleverGirl*

    This happens to me all the time because I never do my mandatory trainings until the Last. Possible. Day. and sometimes I forget when that day is. The appropriate response would have been to reply and say “Apologies for not finishing the training before the deadline, but I completed it on “. And drop it. As others have mentioned, it might be worth asking yourself why you got so upset over this. It could be a symptom of burnout.

  52. Lucious*

    OP is in the wrong here.

    They were late in completing the certification. The report to upper management was therefore accurate at the time it was prepared. The fact OP completed it shortly afterwards doesn’t change the that the original statement was accurate.

    The OP then dug a deeper hole by claiming umbrage at the leadership chain being told factual information.

    OP should follow Alisons advice on communicating an apology to all parties- and take a vacation at once.

  53. Ann Perkins*

    Part of my job is to enforce continuing education and industry required trainings for our company. The best response to the email you received would have been, “Hi, I apologize for missing the deadline. Attached is the transcript showing I completed it yesterday. If you need anything else from me, please let me know.” and then all would have been fine.

    Honestly, the people cc’ed on that email generally don’t care about when people miss a training deadline by a day or two, but including them is a way to get the procrastinators to pay attention and complete the required course. Now you’ve caught their attention though as someone who would make unfounded accusations after not accepting responsibility for the initial mistake (which was not completing the training on time). A sincere apology would serve well to rebuild trust.

  54. Temi*

    My advice to OP is that when paranoia sets in, its time to leave. There is no coming back from this. Not because of what they did or how they reacted; but anything that can be construed as an attack on their integrity, professionalism, or competence will be taken as such.

    OP has probably been gaslighted, unfairly maligned and made to feel harassed…you can tell because of their hypervigilance. If you’re in a state of hypervigilance, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings. It can make you feel like you’re alert to any hidden dangers, whether from other people or the environment. Often, though, these dangers are not real.

    The correct way to respond to OP’s manager’s email was to acknowledge attending the training after the due date because of reasons (poor connectivity, higher priorities) and proof that the training is actually complete with the original sender (HR/training) CC’d. OPs actual response is so far away from this its indicative of a person who’s no longer able to detach themselves.

    1. unpleased*

      I mean, the simplest answer is that they have a temper issue, honestly. There’s no proof of what you are talking about re: harassment. Sometimes people really are just a*holes and it’s no one’s fault in particular, but they still need to deal with it.

      1. nonbinary writer*

        Yeah my money is LW just spends a bit too much time on Am I the Asshole and other related forums and think anyone lying is gaslighting (and also probably a narcissist).

    2. Simply the best*

      The only information we have is of a non-toxic and non gaslighting incident. Why would you jump to they obviously are doing that in other instances?

      Lots of people are just rude and angry and get offended over things they shouldn’t get offended by.

  55. Indisch blau*

    OP, I have reacted like this and I know others who have similar responses to (perceived) criticism.
    Take some time to consider why you respond so strongly to criticism that’s only partially unjust. Is your workplace so punitive? Or is this a case of holdover from a former job that was problematical (avoiding the t-word here)?
    Or is something else making you feel you need to go through life without anyone finding anything about you to criticize? That’s a hard way to live (ask me how I know!) and people like that are hard to live with (again: ask me how I know!).
    All the best to you!

  56. agnes*

    Whenever someone uses the phrase “I have a direct communication style” my antenna goes up. . Direct communication does not equal a pass for being rude, angry, irritable, short tempered and/or over the top in a response–which is often the behavior that the person is justifying.

    1. Paris Geller*

      +1. For me, it’s often in the same category as people who claim they’re “just brutally honest”. No, you’re just being rude.

      1. allathian*

        People who say they’re brutally honest get more kicks out of the brutality than the honesty.

    2. generic_username*

      Exactly. I have a direct communication style, so I always reread my emails to make sure I still sound nice in writing (since I can’t smile while I say my thing, or react to how they react) and add a little “fluff” (which isn’t always unnecessary!). I particularly do this when I know my email is being sent when I’m annoyed or upset.

      So I would have originally responded with “Hi, I completed this training. Please see attached for [proof]” Then I would have reread and thought on it, realized I had taken my training after the deadline (lol, not irrelevant letter writer) and added “I realize I took the training after the deadline – I apologize for any confusion.” Or something of that nature. The response would have gone to my manager and the person who ran the report. Then I’d have direct messaged/chatted with my boss to ask if I needed to do anything further since higher ups were included in the original email (fully expecting him to say no, lol)

      1. Littorally*

        That would be very good directness. Matter of fact, include the apology to acknowledge that you did miss the deadline, check in before going way up the chain, there you go.

  57. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “…then bring up irrelevant wrongdoing on the part of the wronged person to prove it was all deserved”

    But it was relevant! Completely relevant!

    OP, maybe there’s a lot of back history that we’re missing, and it’s a straw-that-broke-the-camels-back situation. If so, then you’re probably better off somewhere else. But standing in isolation, I think you went overboard.

  58. twocents*

    It is interesting to me how many people assume that the workplace must be in the wrong here because otherwise LW wouldn’t act like that, and maybe it’s certainly possible her job otherwise sucks, but women can have anger management issues just like men can.

    1. Super Duper Anon*

      I agree that women can have anger management issues, but I take it that is not the whole picture because they wrote in asking if they were wrong. People who just have a tendency to react without thinking about it, also usually assume they are right and everyone else around them is wrong. The fact that they are later evaluating the situation and wrote in means they can think critically about their emotions and intent. I hope they take the advice to heart.

      1. Simply the best*

        Reading this letter, OP clearly doesn’t think they are in the wrong. They’re not reevaluating, they came to Alison looking for validation.

  59. AndersonDarling*

    There’s a 50% change the OP’s boss didn’t even read the original training list email, and a 95% chance the boss’ boss’ boss didn’t read it. The saddest part is that the OP could have done nothing and things would be perfectly fine.

  60. NW Mossy*

    I heard a story on the Manager Tools podcast that applies here. I won’t tell it exactly as well as they did, but the premise is two people boarding a crowded elevator. One of them ends up next to someone holding an umbrella, and the umbrella keeps poking him. He’s getting angrier and angrier about being poked and ready to snap at the umbrella holder. Finally, he and his colleague get off the elevator and he vents “Can you believe that guy?! He made me so mad!” His colleague responds, “No, his umbrella just poked you. You got mad all by yourself.”

    This is a case of getting mad all by yourself. I once had an employee with a tendency to fly off the handle when he was flustered, and he really benefited from reframing these situations as “respond, don’t react.” You’re allowed to have any reaction you want in the privacy of your own head, but your response can and should be an independent choice separate from the reaction. There are different strategies for putting that pause/break between the two (lots of good ones from other posters), but step one is realizing that you need a pause when your initial reaction isn’t work-appropriate.

  61. DataGirl*

    Given the timing I am wondering if OP works in healthcare- I’m not sure if it applies to every hospital in the US but the ones I am familiar with (and currently work for) have annual education/training due in June. It is taken VERY seriously and if you don’t finish by the deadline you will be suspended, without pay, until it’s completed. We have had doctors, nurses, and other staff suspended for up to two weeks because they didn’t complete their training on time. I believe there may be other possible consequences up to termination depending on the situation, so IF OP is in a similar type of workplace, that would explain a) why 3 layers up of management was notified that it was incomplete and b) why OP would be so upset about it being pointed out that they hadn’t completed it. It also might explain why tempers are flaring, healthcare is not a great place to be right now- everyone is overworked, understaffed, and stressed beyond our breaking points. But this is all purely speculation, I don’t know where OP works or what their specific situation is, and regardless, they overreacted. An apology for the overreaction might help, although sadly that kind of thing is not something people easy forget and it will likely tarnish OPs reputation at least amongst those involved.

    1. This Space For Rent*

      I was looking for this comment. I had the same thought, it sounds like HC. Every hospital I have worked at, there is a punitive response to failure (or perceived failure) to complete mandatory trainings in time or to getting the flu shot. Safety and Compliance are two areas that immediately spring to mind. I’d bristle at having my livelihood threatened too, but I would limit myself to a nicely worded request to please update their lists.

    2. Observer*

      It is taken VERY seriously and if you don’t finish by the deadline you will be suspended, without pay, until it’s completed

      Even this doesn’t make the OP’s reaction reasonable, though. All she needed to do was respond with an email saying something like “I finished the training on X/x/XXXX.” And preferably attach some proof. That’s probably more brusque than most people would do, but it would not have sparked a furor and it would have gotten the job done.

      When the OP got the response that the report had been run 2 days prior to sending the email and before she had finished the training, she could have gotten away with “Got it. Please make sure your records are up to date.” Again probably more brusque than advisable, but still acceptable. And makes sure to avoid the most serious potential adverse reactions to taking the training late.

      The OP’s reaction is not close to that. It’s extremely personal and just not an accurate description of the interaction.

      1. DataGirl*

        Did you not finish reading my comment? “I don’t know where OP works or what their specific situation is, and regardless, they overreacted. An apology for the overreaction might help, although sadly that kind of thing is not something people easy forget and it will likely tarnish OPs reputation at least amongst those involved.”

        1. Observer*

          Yes? I’m not disagreeing with you.

          I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t really matter if you speculation is correct in terms of the need for an apology and the potential effects on the OP’s career.

  62. micmacker*

    I am the person who sends those emails and reminders about completing required training I am sure every company that has their own system of communicating when people are overdue. This is business as usual, truly. If there is a regulatory compliance requirement and a deadline is missed, that could have more serious consequences. The person who sent the email likely followed internal protocols for the process. And if not, than there are much bigger issues than this one email. If I received a response from someone who felt ‘violated’ by this pretty normal process, my first action would be to laugh out loud (sorry if that sounds snarky, but gosh ‘violated’ is over the top), my next action would be to note the completion (great! done!), and my last action would be to have a word with their manager on coaching the employee and setting context for this process. But I will note that the pandemic has not been…kind – to say the least – to people’s emotional resilience and reserves. So I give some space for that, for at least a while longer.

    1. Els*

      What struck me is that the e- mail was forwarded to the OP. So boss, grand boss and great grand boss are informed that a training has been missed, but the OP her self was not reminded to my understanding. I would not be happy with that as well. Would it not make sense that such and email includes her so she can rectify / clarify the situation?

      1. Cormorannt*

        At my company, training reminders and past-due notices are sent to the manager because not everyone has company email (manufacturing environment). Plus, it’s really seen as the manager’s responsibility to make sure training is completed and that necessary time and resources are provided. My employees do have email, so I could see forwarding it on with a brief “FYI”. Granted, higher-ups are not cc’d, but it’s such a routine thing it would not occur to me to handle it with particular delicacy.

      2. GraceRN*

        Sending the late notice to the managers is pretty common in workplaces I’ve been – the purpose is to hold the managers responsible for making sure their reports complete the training, not punitive. This is pretty typical, especially if there is a regulatory compliance requirement. In these situations, it’s likely that the employee in question already had one or more reminders before the deadline, but it was still not done. The next step is to notify the managers so they can apply their oversight.

      3. Simply the best*

        I think it really depends. Where I work, for things like this a manager would get a list of anybody in their department who has missed the deadline. And then it’s their job to get their employees certified or whatever the issue is.

      4. MCMonkeybean*

        At my company we get several email reminders and then the manager is notified if the deadline has passed and you still haven’t taken the training. The letter writer is only asking about the email that was sent to their managers, but I don’t think there is any reason to think that means they weren’t also sent reminders on their own.

  63. LDN Layabout*

    OP, your office could be Hell itself and your reaction still would have have been wildly inappropriate.

    And the fact that you don’t seem to appreciate that, alongside the diminishing of your own part in this (e.g. causing the whole bloody mess in the first place by finishing something late), makes me think your direct is less direct and more rude as hell.

  64. petulantfrenzy*

    I didn’t even have to read past the headline to know the answer to OP’s question–if what you have to say is remotely emotional, my rule is don’t put it in an email. There is too much opportunity for tone to be misread, tensions to escalate, the message to be forwarded/CC’d/BCC’d beyond the intended recipient, etc. If you feel your blood pressure rising you’re much better off to stop typing and pick up the phone and *call* the person, maybe after taking an hour or day to cool off first.

  65. JillianNicola*

    Lots of good advice and gentle pointers here for you, OP. I also want to touch on the direct communication point. As someone who also tends to be very blunt/direct (I’m on the spectrum), I have had to learn two very important points: 1) your intention is never more important than the receiver’s perception. I don’t intend to hurt someone when I say something without the “fluff” to make the point more respectful, but if someone perceives it as aggressive/hurtful/OTT that’s on me. That is 100% my problem, and just because it wasn’t my intention doesn’t make it better or okay. Related, 2) you can continue to be direct if that’s the communication style you prefer but you absolutely must be willing and able to shoulder the consequences of people’s reactions. Even if that means ending up shunned personally or professionally – and you have to consider if that’s worth it in the long run.

  66. Alexis Rosay*

    I understand the impulse to have an emotional overreaction to something at work that appears very minor from the outside. It happens to me all the time and is always the result of a longstanding, unresolved work issue coming up again and again.

    However, I’ve worked hard to understand that my reaction is just that–MY reaction, and not an objective reflection of events.

    Here’s what has worked for me:

    Write an angry email to vent.
    Delete it without sending.
    Think about what the root of the workplace issue is.
    Let several days pass to calm down.
    See if I can talk about the root issue with my boss and problem-solve for the big picture.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      I see a lot of people saying write email and review/delete. I’d just like to suggest maybe don’t actually write it in the email, especially as a response (ie email address already in the TO field) you absolutely don’t want to accidently send you practice vent email. I try never to put anything in the email program at all unless I’m ok with it going out, just for safety sake.

  67. AvonLady Barksdale*

    This letter makes me… kinda angry. I won’t spend a lot of time or energy being angry over it, mind you. LW, you really, really need to work on giving people– colleagues especially– the benefit of the doubt. No person never makes mistakes, and there are only a handful of mistakes worth getting this worked up about. When you make a mistake, do you think it’s ok for someone to respond to you the way you did? I hope not.

    The person who initially emailed you is not out to get you. She is also a human being, capable of missing something and worthy of your respect. You sent information correcting her that you had indeed taken the course, and that was all you needed to do.

    If you want to be respected as a colleague, you must allow people the same benefit of the doubt that you would want offered to you. That’s how it works.

    Acting like you were “violated” and “gaslit” or whatever, over a simple email… You won’t have a reputation for being direct, you’ll have one for overreacting and making unwarranted accusations over minor “offenses”, and nothing will get you ignored quicker than that.

  68. Fabulous*

    Being “direct” is great – get to the point of your message. But being direct does NOT mean being aggressive, demeaning or argumentative, which it sounds like the tone of your reply may have been.

    I’m sure there are extenuating circumstances that may have led up to this exchange, but I agree with Alison and the rest of the commenters that your reaction here was a bit over the top to a missed training deadline.

  69. Jaybeetee*

    At my job I’ve gotten emails like this for training I did do on time but wasn’t recorded due to some glitch or another. I just reply with the completion certificate/email/whatever and that’s the end of it.

    There are a few things here. How often are you getting angry at work? Not annoyed or irritated, but angry?

    Apart from “violated”, words like “toxic”, “maligned”, “gaslighted”, and accusations of sexism is… a lot for a workplace situation.

    That said, the closest I’ve come to having reactions like this were when I *was* in some kind of toxic situation (work or relationship). I understand acutely how something seemingly routine can be a jab or a provocation when done by a certain person in a certain way (it’s how some abuse works – in Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That?” he describes a specific type of domestic abuser he calls the “Water Torturer” who’s very good at needling their victims into reactions in ways that can be hard for average people to suss out. The abuser looks perfectly chill, the victim comes off as “the one who flies off the handle.”) And yes, gaslighting can work like that.

    Anyway, when it was a work context for me, I sometimes did react severely to minor issues or critiques… because I knew I’d be roasted about it later, or I knew a colleague was trying to subtly undermine me to get ahead, or I knew that director was quick to punish or fire people, etc. All this to say – sometimes it isn’t “just a routine email”, and I don’t want to tell you it is if your gut is telling you something else.

    What I will say is: healthy people in healthy workplaces don’t react the way you did to the situation you described.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      healthy people in healthy workplaces don’t react the way you did to the situation you described.

      This. Your reaction suggests to me that you’re carrying a lot of stress, which is may be coming out in other ways. Or else you’re holding it in and it’s *not* coming out in other ways, which isn’t necessarily better.

    2. Simply the best*

      I mean… Some people are just jerks. It’s nice that you want to give OP the benefit of the doubt, but it’s just as likely there’s no secret trauma that she is holding on to and in fact is just a jerk who needs to learn to treat people better.

  70. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

    I can say with near certainty that the vast majority of people who describe themselves as “direct” would be described in very different terms by their colleagues.

    1. Gretchen Wiener*

      Yes! it’s usually code for “people get mad at what I say because I can’t control my emotions and say inappropriate things”

  71. Red Wheelbarrow*

    OP, I’m sorry you’re finding work such a painful and enraging place right now.

    There’s a lot of good advice in the threads above. It may be tough to take in right now, because criticism is hard, and because there’s so much of it, and because the consensus is that, yes, your response was way out of line. I agree with that consensus, but I hope you won’t jump to thinking that makes you “toxic” or listen to the few commenters who resorted to calling you names. You’re a person who had hurt feelings in this situation and overreacted pretty badly. That’s all.

  72. Ana Gram*

    This is an interesting letter because nearly the exact same thing happened to me a few months ago (the only difference is that I completed the training on time). My supervisor, the training supervisor, and the entire agency’s chief were all cc’d. I was pretty annoyed but sent a polite email with info attached asking that the record be corrected. The person who sent the email did so and explained their error. I’ve never met her but it was a professional exchange and I appreciated her prompt response and explanation. I also hope she’ll rethink the cc bomb in the future but that’s out of my control.

    OP, you sound disproportionately enraged by this. I think that’s the problem, not the email or the error or anything else. Your job shouldn’t be causing you such anger. It might be time for you to leave but, at a minimum, I’d consider where that anger is coming from.

    1. yllis*

      She might be required to cc.

      Ive gotten flack about cc’ing management on reminders when management specifically told me to cc them.

      Luckily the managers have always let the complaining party know that it was their decision, not mine.

      1. Ana Gram*

        That’s true. And it’s why I didn’t tell her that the cc’ing was inappropriate. But I did expect the accurate info to be cc’d as well. And she did and I appreciated it.

  73. Nancy*

    No, you were not violated, gaslighted, or work in a toxic culture. You did not complete the training when the data was pulled because you missed the deadline. The correct response was to apologize for missing the deadline and attached the proof that you completed the training. The end.

    It is common for data to be a few days outdated and mistakes happen. I would be not be happy if I got a response like yours and probably would forward it to your supervisor to deal with. I work in healthcare and training deadlines cannot be missed.

  74. inaudible*

    That was an interesting read… at first, I thought OP was saying someone had erroneously accused her to her boss et al of lying about a major credential on her resume, such as a degree or major professional license/certification. That’s what her level of outrage sounds like. Totally disproportionate when it turns out it’s simply a factual list of who has not completed (what sounds like a one- or two-day training) by a deadline.

  75. learnedthehardway*

    Ooooohh — that was a major over-reaction.

    Honestly, you could have just replied all that you had completed the training, and all the relevant people would have seen it and would have taken note.

    Sounding off at the person who issued the update was really off-side, especially since you WERE late doing the training. Reports get pulled in advance of being issued, and after a certain point, nobody’s going to pull the data again simply to accommodate stragglers.

    Honestly, you need to write an apology to the person you yelled at (over email), explain that you were in the wrong, and that you are VERY SORRY. Don’t try to excuse it. Just apologize. And cc your manager and anyone else who saw the email you originally sent to the poor person you yelled at.

  76. Akcipitrokulo*

    > My question is: *If* I was actually the toxic party, how can I recover from this?


    You over-reacted. You weren’t toxic. You got angry and made a mistake, not (pick your favourite AAM horror story).

    So first steps:

    – recognise you handled it wrongly
    – forgive yourself

    Then dealing with everyone else!

    My guess is you are under a lot of stress. Maybe you’ve had previous experiences of managers being aggressive or blame-seeking? Maybe there are other issues?

    If this is a good place, they will get it. You will need to take responsibility – real responsibility – and apologise.

    Start with your manager. You don’t need to go into details about why this happened. Just say that on reflection, you realised you over-reacted, that you were feeling a lot of pressure which affected your judgement and you would like to apologise.

    Then, if there are any available, ask your manager about development opportunities around communication. Tell them this has made you realise it is an area that needs work. Asking for coaching/other assistance in improving this aspect of your performance (and it is a performance issue) shows that you are growing and owning your mistake, and are willing to put in the work to fix it.

    You can get through this!



    Take concrete steps.

    Have a great “how I messed up when younger!” story for future AAM posts :)

    I hope it works out for you and hope you send us a good update!

  77. Gretchen Wiener*

    I think this is especially over the top because the OP WAS late doing the training and to dismiss this so casually jumped out as a huge red flag. That’s why she was on this list. Yes, she had completed it prior to that but…was still late.

    This kind of thing happens all the time at work – I would just say “hey I have completed it. thanks”

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I’m thinking of this in traffic terms. The OP started drifting out of her lane. The car alongside her gave a quick honk of the horn. Because she’d already started heading back into her lane when she heard the honk, she went road ragey. But she *was* drifting out of the lane! And it was just a horn honk anyway!

  78. Catabodua*

    This hits home for me. I have to send reports out monthly on who is behind in technical training required for our company. I have a specific escalation policy that I must follow on who to cc on the emails sent out, depending on how delinquent the training is.

    Someone freaks out EVERY month. Not usually to this level, but it occasionally happens. You’d be amazed at how crazy the responses can get. So this letter does not surprise me one bit.

    1. Cooper*

      +Many to the policy thing!

      CCing important people on emails like this is, in my experience, not a targeted thing, and half the time, the higher ups don’t even read the emails, much less take any action. They just…like to feel included.

      1. Catabodua*

        Exactly right. I don’t believe for one second the cc’d higher ups even look at these emails. But, we have to show that we are following the established protocol. And, if someone gets really delinquent on a training we also go “offline” and ask their supervisor to call them directly and tell them to get it done before the next email comes out. Even then, I don’t think the supervisors think much of it unless I have to ask them to talk to the same person over and over again.

    2. Ellie*

      Lol, I get a training list like that as well. I’m supposed to get on the case of all my team members who haven’t completed their mandatory courses yet. Instead, I forward the email on, if I remember to, and never mention it again. It’s a priority for the training department, its not a priority for me or my team.

      I can’t believe the OP is so worked up about this, no-one cares if you do your training 2 days late. Maybe you were on holidays or sick, I don’t know. Its so far down on the list of things to worry about.

  79. Empress Matilda*

    Oh, ouch. OP, I hope you can find a way to take a vacation of some sort – whatever else is going on at your work, it sounds like you need a pause and a fresh perspective. Take care of yourself, okay?

  80. Daisy-dog*

    Very good advice so far – haven’t read everything yet and this might have been addressed.

    Why do you think that sending this to your great grandboss will have any impact? Is your great grandboss really “in the weeds” enough to take note of every employee requirement? Would knowing that you didn’t complete a training on time be that detrimental to your work? My experience with senior leadership is that they really don’t pay attention to the little details like if a training was completed on time or not. I feel this notification probably was left unread in their inbox or scanned briefly and then they moved on quickly. If they got tons of emails that reference your name as being out of compliance, then they might raise an eyebrow and question their direct reports as to whether you are being coached/managed/disciplined.

    If you great grandboss is the type to blow their lid over a training being completed 2 days late, then you may just work for a toxic workplace.

  81. Worldwalker*

    Holy mooing cow. Leaving out the fact that the word “violated” is usually reserved for much more NSFW incidents than an email listing someone as not having taken a training course, that is such an over-the-top response to utter trivia that my first thought is the OP must be a real horror to manage. Someone who feels “violated” by such a routine and innocuous thing as a training list, I can imagine complaining to HR that someone said “good morning” to her … or didn’t say it! I’m probably an outlier here, but IMO she needs some anger management work before she torpedoes her own career.

    1. no phone calls, please*

      We recently had an extremely negative, drama magnet of an employee leave for what she believes to be greener pastures and it was extremely cringey that she is so has so little self-awareness that she’s bringing the problems with her. I truly wish her the best, but the entire team let out a big sigh of relief after her last day.

  82. I was saying Boo-urns*

    At Old Job, I was responsible for certain training that all employees had to do. I made a mistake when I took over that role and included a couple of people on a list of those who hadn’t attended training, when they had. When notified with a simple ”Hey, I did this last year, could you please remove me from the list?”, I rectified my mistake immediately, and we all moved on. No big deal.

    However, if I had been on the receiving end of a reaction such as OP’s, I would have 1) been mortified, and 2) not very keen to interact with them. Because if this feels violating, I don’t want to hang around to see the reaction to any other potential mistakes.

    Same place had people who loved to be ”direct”. Some managed to remain kind (even if the fluff was at a minimal level), others were just jerks. Unfortunately the latter were often at the top of the chain. In the end, I knew who I preferred to receive emails from. And I also know who I don’t want to work with, or for, again.

  83. ErinFromAccounting*

    Yeah… the correct response would have been a reply to the original email (including all the people it had been sent to): “I completed the training on X date, apologies for missing the deadline. Best regards, OP.”

    I worked in internal audit where we often looked into the completion and timeliness of training, and it is normal for managers and up to be notified of missed or late trainings. That is part of how completing trainings on time is encouraged… if you’re late, your big boss will know.

  84. blackcatlady*

    You seem to be confusing direct with strident.

    Direct: I do have the skill set to take on Project D but I have evaluated at my workload. If I take on this new project I will have to drop Project A or B. How do you want to proceed?

    Strident: How can you drop this much work on me! You’re violating my time! I feel maligned by being asked to do so much! You’re trying to gaslight me into taking this extra project.

    If this is the latest in a series of emails all in the same harsh tone you may have burned a bridge. Actually you not only burned the bridge, you dynamited the rubble.

  85. Ori*

    I’m going to give you some sympathy LW because a lot of my recent CBT therapy (which I highly recommend) was focused on reacting proportionately and letting things go. There were a string of (obvious in retrospect) reasons, including a very unhealthy workplace where hyper vigilance and mild aggression were a necessary norm.

    If you’re seeing everything as an attack and threat that could easily be a response to historical bad experiences.

  86. Roseclef*

    OP, can I just say as a word of solidarity – you sound EXACTLY like me when I’ve got myself spun up about 20 different things, and then one more thing added onto that pile leads to a spiral into grievance. I’m also a woman, I’m also aware of and touchy about the ways I’m treated differently than men, I also have a direct communication style and what is euphemistically called a “strong personality”… Honestly, I rely on friends to tell me when I’m blowing things out of proportion because I’m already wound up. I have people I trust both at work and outside, including people whose work style is objectively better than mine. I don’t manage it every time, but in general I try to run my reactions past at least one person I trust before I start expressing it publicly. I’ve definitely gotten better over time of both feeling my feelings and standing outside them as an observer at the same time, and seeing when the part of me that feels is probably overreacting. Not always in time to stop myself! But more often as I practice the skill.

    It also helps that I have a job I adore and a generally excellent work environment. I’m willing to work on these things because I don’t want to self-sabotage myself out of a career. If you’re at “bitch eating crackers” phase with your workplace and everyone in it, I think you’re right and you should save your energy for finding a different place to work – and THEN work on yourself.

    1. Observer*

      I think you’re right and you should save your energy for finding a different place to work – and THEN work on yourself

      The only thing I disagree with is waiting to find a new job before working on herself. Getting her reactions under control is something she should start doing NOW. Because it’s going to make her current situation better, and it’s going to make is much easier to get a new job and succeed at it.

    2. Teapot supervisor*

      This is also a good point. I’ve really struggled with my mental health in the past and the game-changing turning point was learning about the concept of the stress container (in a poorly explained nutshell, the idea that you can only take so much stress before you need to either address it with self-care or you won’t be able to cope anymore). I used to do this constant cycle of taking on too much, trying to convince myself it was all absolutely fine. Then something relatively minor would go wrong and I’d either be off the charts sad or angry, which would then fuel more sadness and anger because I’d logically realise that, erm, this was a minor thing, my reaction was really OTT, and what on earth is wrong with me? These days, I’m really strict about looking after myself, putting up boundaries, not letting myself take on too much and so on and I find my reactions to things are much more in proportion.

  87. NYC Taxi*

    As the person (relatively) high up on the corporate food chain, I get these emails on behalf of my team pretty often. I don’t even open them. I send an email to my direct reports to remind them to do their training, and for them to remind their direct reports to do their training. Unless there is a serious compliance issue I stay relatively uninvolved and don’t know who did or didn’t do their training, and don’t care.

    What would catch my eye is an email with such a disproportionate response to a routine and mundane business process. I would discuss with their manager wtf is going on to merit such a response to make sure that if there are issues they are addressed. Based on the facts stated in OP’s letter if she was on my team I would confer with HR, have a serious talk with her about what it means to be direct vs. jerk, and recommend she avails herself of company-provided career coaching and/or EAP services.

  88. Choggy*

    I don’t have this issue when sending emails as I can take my time and re-read what I’ve written. My problem is that my direct communication style when in meetings. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said something only for the response to be dead silence. I’m still here, and see at times that it does actually change things for the better, so I guess my style works. :)

  89. Lacey*

    It might help to figure out what has you so on edge that you would react this strongly to a super routine email.

    I think everyone has those moments, whether they happen at work or somewhere else, where they way over-react to something that’s really just a normal type of nuisance. And it’s not about the thing they’re over-reacting to.

  90. Tofu Pie*

    Kudos to LW for their letter because so many times people are too proud to even ponder the possibility they might be in the wrong.

    I have a coworker who overreacts to minor issues and brings anger into situations that do not warrant it. This has had a lot of sad but unnecessary consequences for her including losing friendships at work with people who genuinely liked and supported her, damaging her credibility, and overshadowing the strong contributions she has made at work. Not to mention she hurt the feelings of a lot of people who didn’t deserve to be treated the way she did.

    OP, please take this as an opportunity to reflect on whether you have experienced similar consequences without even realizing. As someone who had to deal with anger issues and mental health problems I can tell you you absolutely can move on from it, but it takes raw honestly and a willingness to consider how this affects both you and the people around you.

  91. Jennifer Strange*

    OP, I have nothing to add to what has been said, but I really hope you take these comments to heart. I am someone who can get defensive over what I perceive to be a slight, and I know it’s a lot of work, but a few things to remember:

    1. If someone points out a mistake you made (and in this case you did make a mistake by taking the training late) they’re not saying you’re an awful person or coloring it as a character fault; it’s just a statement of fact. And you’re human! Humans make mistakes! And admitting that you made a mistake (both in the late training and your extreme response) does not make you a failure as a person.

    2. In that same vein, if someone else makes a mistake (let’s say you had taken the training on time and this person’s info was out of date) show them grace. They, too, are human.

    3. Emails are great because you don’t have to respond in the moment (as opposed to a face-to-face or phone conversation). You can take the time to let out any frustration you’re feeling (maybe in a word document rather than the email), take a break/breather, and then craft a more level-headed response. Read it a couple of times before you send, and think about how you would feel if that was the response you received from someone else.

    As others have said, it’s possible there are more nuances to all of this than you’ve mentioned (either there have been instances in which your feelings of frustration have been valid at this company, or you’ve had bad experiences elsewhere that have forced you to jump to the defensive on things) so I get that I may not have the clearest picture, but I sincerely hope you’re able to come back from this.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes, I think it’s really striking that LW extends no grace to the person she believes made an error, but wants a lot of grace extended to her for her error.

  92. Tofu Pie*

    Also want to add, a lot of times people confuse direct communication with rude communication. As a manager I communicate pretty directly with people when they are not performing or causing problems within the team. But it needs to be done with respect and compassion. Otherwise people will not remember your actual message no matter how right you are; but only that they felt awful and that you were the cause of it.

  93. Lizy*

    This happens all the time at my job. We get emails from GrandBoss or GreatGrandBoss saying “y’all need to do this” even though this has been done already. It’s really not that big of a deal. Like, it’s REALLY not that big of a deal. Annoying? Sure. But it’s nothing that can’t be solved by saying “yep! We did this last week – see attached.” OP, that’s a very direct sentence, and does not involve a lot of fluff.

    Now, I haven’t read the comments so I’m not sure how much you’re being piled on here, but I’d take a step back. You weren’t violated by the original email. You were barely chastised by the original email. When I realized what the “violation” was I was… side-eyeing the computer hard. When I realized OP is female, I was honestly shocked. This reads like one of those jerk guys who gets all offended because someone points out they’re wrong.

    OP, please re-evaluate how you respond to things. If I had someone who responded this way to something so basic, I’d wonder how they respond to not-basic stuff.

  94. NotSoPerfect Paralegal*

    This definitely sounds like a disproportionate reaction to something so minor. USUSALLY when someone overreacts like this, it’s because of stressors, either work-related or personal. It’s usually wise to self-evaluate and figure out the underlying issue.

    If you find yourself regularly getting angry at small things, it might be worth it to seek mental health care (i.e. therapy). I wholeheartedly believe that most people can benefit from some degree of therapy because life is stressful, and the therapist is there to act as a neutral party to help you navigate those stressors.

  95. Frankie Bergstein*

    Holy wow, this comments section is brimming with compassion. Commentariat, you all are so wonderful and helpful!

  96. marcarol*

    I know every office is different and maybe it’s totally not appropriate in OP’s office to ever email up the chain, but I feel like I would probably have responded to this by emailing CCing the same bosses (since they were on the original email) and just say something along the lines of “Hi Coworker, I just want to clarify that I actually took this training on Tuesday (or whatever day). Let me know if you need to see my transcipt. Thanks!” And then if they replied with the info that the data pull was a few days old, that would be fine because I would know that I had let the bosses know that the training was complete. Personally I feel like that is a much better way of being “direct” since everyone has the info they need, but if you work in an office where you can’t send emails to higher ups then I guess that would not work

  97. Astro*

    OP, I don’t think you’ll find a place of work where things like this don’t happen. It’s happened everywhere I have work. At my current company, it happens so frequently now that no one even considers the list aside from managers of the employees who are on there.

    I would encourage you to reconsider your words. As someone with friends and family who have been seriously violated at work and others who have had really abusive, manipulative, gaslighting bosses, using that kind of language in reference to something routine like this is hurtful.

    Allison, please, please try to give us an update in a few months about how this all panned out

  98. Don't Shoot the Messenger*

    OP, I’d also encourage you to reframe the idea of ‘fluff’. I was where you were, “why should I have to sugarcoat things to make sure something isn’t taken the wrong way”. I’d recommend thinking about it this way, “what’s the best way to get the reader to do what I want them to do or understand what I am saying”.

    When I think about it that way, the fluff isn’t about ‘their feelings’, but making sure my message is loud and clear and I get the outcome that I want out of my communication. Ultimately, this saves time also, as it can cut down on a defensive back-and-forth.

  99. FundraiserNYC*

    OP are you also the LW that felt super disrespected because someone else also brought Hawaiian rolls to the potluck?

    I was racking my brain all morning trying to figure out what this post reminded me of, then it hit me:

    “coworkers say we shouldn’t attend a work party, I feel insulted by my new job, and more” from November 2019

    1. Ori*

      It reminds me of ‘needless to say, I was more than a little insulted by her attitude’ – except that this LW has the self awareness to check whether her attitude is correct and also appears to be in sincere distress.

  100. staceyizme*

    As other commenters have posited, it seems like “the thing” isn’t really “THE” thing. You’ve got a chip on your shoulder. Maybe it’s because of your early years. Maybe it’s because your environment is toxic. Maybe it’s a series of reactions that you’ve had over time that have become your default or “go to”. It’s worthwhile to get to the bottom of what you’re actually being set off by. It’s also worthwhile to figure out how to give yourself a buffer before responding to tricky situations. (Write the email. Sit with it. Then decide. Or write the email. Don’t send. Or whatever works for you.) You have to do your own emotional work when it comes to managing stress and anger. There really is no exception to that. If you lose your cool, it’s fine, as long as you own that choice and understand the possible consequences. Generally, though, people shouldn’t be losing their cool at work or socially. (Because then it becomes about how you said whatever you said and not about the issue that troubled you to begin with.)

  101. no phone calls, please*

    OP: I’ve read your letter twice and there have been many outstanding comments herein (in addition to AAM’s), but I’d suggest going back to an even more basic level – WHY were you so angry in the first place?

    The only reason I can really suss out from your letter is that it must have felt embarrassing to be on a semi-public list of training delinquents that was sent to high levels of the company, but why anger?(??).

    I’m wondering if you’re actually angry (for not completing it on time) and instead of dealing with those feelings, you’re projecting it onto other people – ? Or maybe you felt like you didn’t have enough time to do the training on time and you’re angry about that now that there is a public list? Or angry with yourself for not asking for help/ making it happen on time?

    Whatever it is, the email response is not good at all, but it isn’t the real problem.

    The intensity of the letter / your response suggests that perhaps you’re “hanging on too tight” / anxious? / perfectionistic? – not allowing yourself to be human?

  102. HotSauce*

    I’ve had this exact same situation come up in the past. I just replied all saying “Hi, I completed training, please see attached completion certification”. That’s it. No big deal. I’m also a manager, so when I receive emails like this I just check in with the people who haven’t completed and ask them to send me documentation of completion. Typically all of our leads and managers are CC’d on these types of emails so whoever is tracking compliance is sure to be included, it’s not meant to be a call out or anything.

  103. Kella*

    OP, lots of folks have reflected that you overreacted in this instance. I wanted to reflect to you that if all your reactions *were* completely reasonable, that would imply some really significant things about your workplace norms that *weren’t* mentioned in your letter. I’m curious if any of these things are true:

    –Small mistakes at your company are typically met with disproportionate reactions such as punitive action, hostility, or being continually held over you long after they have been resolved.
    –There is a double standard about how mistakes by authority figures are handled vs. how mistakes by employees are handled and/or employees are often held responsible for the mistakes of their superiors.
    –Employees are frequently not taken at their word and have to work extra hard to prove their “side” of an issue if they are implicated in a mistake they weren’t responsible for
    –The higher-ups are pulled into minor issues for inappropriate reasons (such as to further personal vendettas, ensure punitive action etc)
    –Work conflicts or performance issues are often interpreted through a filter of personal attacks or accusations of malicious intentions
    –Some of the men at your company regularly engage in defensive or hostile reactions and they are not discouraged from doing so

    I’d say that if only a couple of these were true, your reaction would make a lot more sense (though wouldn’t necessarily be the correct course of action regardless).

    Something else I noticed reading back through was this paragraph:

    “First, blame the person who was wronged, then bring up irrelevant wrongdoing on the part of the wronged person to prove it was all deserved, and last — but not least — don’t discuss the email with the person who sent it … get half the executive management of the company (almost literally, in this case) to side with you and have someone else confront her.”

    I found that I couldn’t parse this section as it applied to your story at all. How/when were you blamed for the outdated list? Which email are you referencing that needed to be discussed with the person who sent it and why was that necessary? In what way did executive management “side” with them? Who was the “someone else” who confronted you? It feels like some details are missing here and I’m wondering if they would do a lot to explain where you’re coming from.

  104. Nerdshavemorefun*

    In my industry, for compliance reasons, senior leadership in the c suite is required to be copied on potential missed training follow-ups. And, often, many senior management are also on delinquent lists so I think it’s a stretch to feel violated even if you felt you were flagged to leadership for something you didn’t do. I think your response to an earnest mistake (or simple lag in the process – which is often the case) reflects more poorly on your ability to work effectively as a team and overcome difficult emotions. Perhaps an e-mail stating you acknowledge that your reaction might have been exaggerated and you apologize for any misconstrued feelings might go a long way to salvage this interaction.

  105. MissDisplaced*

    I think you were perfectly fine through this part. “I replied to the original sender that I had taken the course, attached the “transcript” of courses I’d taken, and asked that a correction be sent to my boss’s boss’s boss.”

    After that, even if you don’t agree with the reply or feel the person was being snitty, sometimes you just have to let it go and drop the issue instead of arguing about it to prove you’re right (even if you were right). Sometimes, the person is just doing their job and they are required to notify Boss X and Boss Y about compliance.

    But I wonder if there is more going on with your employer you’re not happy with? It’s a bit of an overreaction to get thrown into over this. If it helps, I also feel this way sometimes, and there are certain people within my company who automatically escalate to other managers without waiting for answers, and people who send condescending emails about trivial things you already know or already answered. Sometimes I’m tempted to reply in kind with my own snarky response, but I have to force myself not to and occasionally actually have to get up and walk around so I don’t. Work is frustrating sometimes.

  106. Coffee Cup*

    This is honestly one of the strangest letters I have seen here, and there is a lot of competition!

  107. Anonosaurus*

    I have not read all the comments but I think there is a lot more going on here for you OP than the training issue. It sounds to me like being accused of missing the training prompted a response from you which tapped into much bigger issues than work. I might be projecting but I used to be the person who took everything personally and went OTT and without going into chapter and verse it was because I was always on a hair trigger of defensiveness and THAT was because of childhood issues relating to shame and criticism. And yeah, I used to tell myself I was ‘just not into soothing other people’s egoes either. In reality I was a jerk.

    It might seem a bit excessive to recommend therapy on the basis of one anecdote but OP, living like this is exhausting, you truly dont have to do it.

  108. AKchic*

    At best, all this took was an email with your completion to the original emailer, with a complete to your manager saying “I completed the training on X day, here’s a copy of my completion certificate in case the system didn’t catch it/fully update on your end yet. Thanks!”

    That’s it. No need for further escalations. No need to clear your name/reputation, so to speak. The emails to higher-ups are just a head’s up, and are done for everyone who is late for mandatory trainings. Some trainings are required for different things that c-suite execs need to keep track of. State certifications, federal certifications, insurance purposes, legal requirements, grant funding, etc. Tracking is a CYA. It’s not necessarily a “we’re punishing you”.

  109. Polecat*

    It sounds like an email was sent out listing the people who didn’t take a course by the required deadline. You were on that list because you fit the bill, you didn’t take the course by the deadline.

    It’s telling that you consider that fact irrelevant. A reply to your manager letting him or her know that you had in fact completed the course, albeit late, would have been fine. Everything you did was not fine. You were 100% in the wrong.

  110. Ellena*

    Every time I read a response by Alison it’s like I’m being present at her painting a word picture – every detail explained, argumented, nuanced, different possibilities and backgrounds flagged… And all in a mature, compassionate and yet perfectly subjective way. Hats off.

  111. ecnaseener*

    LW, apologies if someone already said this and I missed it, but I really encourage you to rethink your binary views. “Am I toxic or is everyone else toxic” is rarely the right question — most people are human and flawed! You messed up here, but that doesn’t make you a toxic person.

    And uh. Please also take a step back and consider that nobody tried to mislead you at any point. Everyone told you the truth. You may feel belittled or manipulated, but you were not gaslit.

  112. Amethystmoon*

    As someone who has a partially direct & partially analytical communication style (according to Toastmasters Pathways L2 anyway), I’ve found as a woman that companies do indeed criticize women for being forthright in e-mails. This is a thing that happens. A trick I use is to insert phrases, even if it means copying and pasting from a cheat sheet, to soften things up.

    I will say if I’d sent that e-mail that OP sent, my boss absolutely would have pulled me into a private chat and lectured me. Allison has a good point that not even men should be sending such e-mails. But I do think that copying the boss’s boss and the boss’s boss’s boss is overkill also, and really should be avoided on e-mails unless it’s a. routine in a company due to the small size or b. a major issue.

    Another trick I use is to write a draft e-mail, save it but not send it, and wait a bit. If you wait a few hours, go to the draft and revise it, perhaps, and see what comes of that. Or maybe not even send it at all. Typing it up in Word also can be cathartic, and safer because you won’t be as tempted to hit the send button right away.

  113. SleepyWolverine*

    There is so much rage loaded into the just OP’s description of the event that it boggles the mind. I’m someone who has a noted short temper, and I cannot imagine reacting like this over the situation.

  114. AnOh*

    I’m just imagining my great grand boss receiving a standard missed training deadline email and then me INSISTING that he be updated that I DID miss the deadline (but only by a few days) only to then have him dragged into an overreaction email dispute sounds insane to me. I work for a decent company but even I know that would rub our executives the wrong way to have their inbox clogged by such a trivial matter.

  115. Jingle all the way*

    OP, I feel you here, because for the first maybe 7 years of my job, I was this angry all the time. I am very smart, and at the time I was convinced I was the smartest person in the room, and I was being held back by these people who couldn’t see how smart I was and man, everything pissed me off. I would have seen this as a slight. It really sucks being that person, and it’s worse when you can’t tell you’re being that person. I was fired from about 4 different jobs before I realized the problem was me. (And honestly, AAM has been a big part of that realization and my personal self-improvement.)

    These days, I have a job I really like that pays well, and yet, I’m going through a lot of personal upheaval. (I feel like I could sell my story for a Lifetime movie script about now). If I got that email, I might be really pissed off too. And what I’d do is just sit for a while. Then I’d write back with a transcript, saying “I did complete that training, do you need anything else from me?” Because writing pissy emails is the first step down the slippery slope to getting fired (or at least that’s been my experience–it’s a long road).

    If I were you, I’d apologize to the person who wrote the note. I’d say, “I’m so sorry, I was having a terrible day and just seeing that pushed all my buttons.” and then I’d keep my head down and try to be pleasant. At one point I found it very very useful to have a private paper notebook on my desk, and when I had rage thoughts, I’d write them in there. If you go back and read them, oh my goodness, they seem so silly and help you put things in perspective.

    I hope things go better for you.

  116. MCMonkeybean*

    I think OP made this a bigger deal than it needed to be from the start–I may be wrong but I am assuming the original email is the type I have seen at my company where we have annual required trainings online around things like Insider Trading, Handling Private Information, Diversity and Inclusion, and various others. Usually we get 1-3 emails letting us know the training is needed with a link to complete it and a due date, and then after that deadline there are automated emails generated and sent out. So for one thing, I think OP is overestimating how much anyone cared about that initial email. If this is a big company, those managers probably received at least a few notifications of people being late on the training and I think it’s likely the only thing that might result is someone saying “hey, make sure you find some time to take this training.” And for another thing I think it’s highly likely the higher-up managers ignored it entirely.

    I will say that I think it is odd they have it set up to go so high up the chain, just because I would think those people wouldn’t want to be receiving those emails. I’m 80% sure the ones in my office just go to your direct manager but maybe not. I have been late once or twice but not in the last few years so I don’t quite recall. But again–it’s really not a big deal at all, and there was no need to do anything other than respond to the initial email with “Hey, I actually have taken that training now–thanks!”

  117. Hosta*

    OP, two guidelines that helped me when I was behaving like a more restrained version of what you described:

    1) Do you want to be right or effective?

    You may be right that the email should have had a disclaimer saying when the data was pulled. But your technique for addressing that has negatively impacted your effectiveness and probably didn’t get the wrong you perceived fixed. So, do you want to be right or effective? Often you can’t be both in the corporate world.

    2) You get to throw one tantrum a year, but you have to plan it at least 24 hours in advance AND you have to tell your boss ahead of time.

    No really. If you think something is worth making a huge fuss about or being kind of a jerk about, make a plan. Who? What? Why? When? Then let your boss know the plan. Then you get to throw your fit/escalate/whatever. I usually come down the other side of anger mountain somewhere in the planning phase. And if I don’t I always do after talking to my boss. This is just a longer version of “take a deep breath and separate the feeling from the action” which is common advice therapists give.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      This is a great point! It’s probably true that it would be better and more correct if the email said “this is a list of people who had not taken the training by date X” rather than “this is a list of people who have still not taken the training” but I suspect everyone else on the email understands the general idea and even if the email isn’t as accurately worded as it could be, that’s just a minor error and not a personal attack or violation.

  118. Anonymous Today*

    If the OP had said that her boss had patted her on the behind so she felt violated and then when she confronted him about it he denied it happened making her feel he was gaslighting her, I would totally agree.

    This situation reminds me too much of people who proclaim that they believe in being honest and proceed to tell someone how bad they look in their outfit.

  119. AB*

    I have PTSD, and I’m not presuming to diagnose anyone else, but the OP’s response makes sense to me through that lens. It’s not proportional to the present situation, but, if you’ve ever been trapped somewhere where minor mistakes were punished really harshly, or having people rat you out meant you were going to get hurt, this kind of thing could trigger you.

    The main thing that helps me is to extend the amount of time I take between when I feel a spike of fear/anger and a VERY PRESSING need to defend myself and the moment I actually decide what I’m going to do. If possible, I extend that time for a few days. (Before people tell me it’s not acceptable to extend the time a few days, because ideally you’d answer simple questions right away… that’s why it’s a disability, guys.)

    The hardest part is honestly learning to sit with the anxiety long enough to figure out what you want to do.

Comments are closed.