I sent my boss a long, angry email … but I turned out to be wrong

A reader writes:

I jumped to conclusions after misunderstanding someone else’s statements, and responded quite badly.

I have worked at my current company for six years, under the same manager. The first five years were virtually incident-free, and we had an extremely positive working relationship. Last year, he lost some faith in me after I got into some personnel drama in another department. That drama ended around 10 months ago, after most of the involved parties left the company. Our working relationship was still good, but I could tell that his opinion of my professionalism had been compromised.

Last week, we had an impromptu conversation to discuss a very high-stakes project that we own, which is ~80% complete. He expressed that while other key players were confident in the strategy we were using to tie up the remaining loose ends, he was not so optimistic. In order to get cooperation from others, we had to agree to try their approach. But he still had reservations about it. He emphasized several times that I/we “were getting a bad performance review” if progress was not made.

I went into panic mode after hearing that. Based on what he said, my performance review was going to be all or nothing, and only that one thing would be taken into account. We’d had several conversations four months ago where we discussed multiple items that would heavily influence my review. But now it sounded like the entire thing was going to be decided by one project, and the performance review was only a month away. I started thinking that it was too late to turn things around … that my contributions to other projects earlier in the year had been in vain, since they would have little or no impact on my impending review … and that the things we agreed on four months ago had not been honored.

I wrote him a rather long and aggressive message, explaining how I felt that I had been blindsided about the criteria that was going to be used in my review, and how the criteria had seemingly changed at a time it was too late for me to do things differently. Phrases I used included:
• “The rules were changed halfway through the game”
• “I felt I was misled and deceived by inconsistent messages”
• “Hit a constantly-moving target”
• “Not conducive to building trust and reliability”
• “I was shocked and surprised to learn that only one thing would decide my review”
• “I don’t think it would be fair if work I did in the past (work which was considered important at the time it was done) gets treated as unimportant afterwards, because something else later became a higher priority”

Three days later, my manager reached out to me. He was visibly upset and said he was shocked that I would say these things about him, and that none of the things I wrote was an accurate interpretation of what he said. I explained what had led me to think that way. He was even more surprised that I had interpreted his comments that way. He insisted that he never said my review would only be decided by one thing, or that nothing else would be taken into account. What he meant was that the part of the review related to that specific project would be graded badly, but that the rules had never changed: the overall review was always going to take multiple things into account.

He acknowledges that he did say that I “would get a bad review” if the current approach to this project didn’t work out. But he thought it was wild that I interpreted this to mean the entire review (and not just one part of it) would be decided by a single thing.

The conversation ended with him suggesting that I was lashing out under pressure. It is true that I have been more negative and irritable than usual in the past two months, because we suddenly had a wave of Covid-related absences from other key employees closely involved in these projects. He advised that I take one to two days off and think more about what I wrote, and then we would reconvene to continue this discussion.

In retrospect, I realize this entire situation could have been avoided if I had simply asked him to clarify his comments. But I freaked out after hearing those initial statements, and didn’t think that they could possibly mean anything else. Rather I took them at face value and thought that I was doomed to get a very lopsided and imbalanced review. Then I wrote a very long, inaccurate, and defamatory message based on what I thought he meant, and not what he actually meant.

If this results in my getting a bad review, I am ready to accept that. But I may have done irreparable damage to our working relationship. What can be done?

Oooooh. Yeah, that’s not good.

For future reference, never do stuff like this by email. If you’re upset or angry or feel yourself getting heated, that is a flag to back away from your computer and talk in person. Not just because that will minimize miscommunications or clear them up faster — although it will — but because email just isn’t an appropriate medium for heated conversations. With anyone, but especially with your boss. There are a ton of reasons for that:

* Sending a long, incensed email means you’re essentially just delivering an angry monologue. If you talked in person, you presumably wouldn’t open with a speech; you’d have a back and forth (and in this case you would have realized quickly that your interpretation had been wrong).

* It can be easy to find yourself sounding harsher in an email than you would be willing to sound when talking in person. Talking in person usually (although not always) tends to have a moderating effect on tone and word choice, particularly in work situations.

* Most managers will see it as a worrying sign about your judgment and professionalism that you chose to put this all in an angry email rather than just having a conversation, and will worry about what might be happening in your email communications with others too.

* Committing this all to email means there’s a written record for your boss to see in the future; it won’t fade from memory in the same way that an in-person conversation can.

So I’m less concerned that you jumped to the wrong conclusions (you’re stressed and overworked, it happens) and more concerned that you decided an email was the right move. Combine that with the drama with colleagues from last year (which apparently lasted until the other people left the company) and if I’m your boss, I’m going to be worried about your professional maturity.

I suppose my question for you is: Is that something you’re taking seriously? Do you see a connection between what happened last year and this recent incident, and do you see how they both tie into judgment and professionalism, and is that something you’re committed to working on? Because if not, my worry is that stuff like this will continue to happen and really damage your reputation. (To be clear, without the incident last year, this would be different. If it were a one-time thing, it would be much easier to dismiss as the result of stress and overwork.)

As for what to do about your relationship with your boss: The smartest thing you can do is to own it. As in, “I’m embarrassed that I sent you that message rather than simply talking to you, which as you pointed out would have cleared it up right away. You’re right that I’ve been under a lot of pressure the last few months, and that might have played into this, but I’m still responsible for the choices I make and I was wrong to handle it that way. In the future, if I’m feeling strongly about something like this, I’ll take that as a sign to have a face-to-face conversation to sort out what’s going on rather than sending an emotional email, and also to hold off on assuming anything before talking it through. I wish I had done that here.”

If I were your boss, that would be the most reassuring thing I could hear. It wouldn’t lay my concerns completely to rest, given the stuff from last year, but when you’re worried about someone’s maturity and they respond professionally, own their error, and draw lessons for the future, that’s about as good as it gets … and it will likely buy you some time to demonstrate that you are in fact working on all of this.

Read an update to this letter

{ 357 comments… read them below }

  1. King Friday XIII*

    Ohhhh OP. I can see why you came to that conclusion! I probably would have had the same mental panic in your situation! And in fact I think it was not great communication on your boss’s part either.

    But the only person whose reaction you can control is yours, so Alison’s advice is what you’ve got to do. And then maybe think about whether it’s time to move on. It sounds like your boss’s view of your professionalism may not be the only thing that’s compromised here.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I second the suggestion of looking for a new job. Not because you’ve burnt all bridges here, but because in my experience it really helps one’s professionalism to be able to start with a blank slate. My NewManager has commented on my professionalism, which would have shocked OldManager (who had to let me go due to my drama llama’ing). Don’t get trapped in thinking you have to stay in a stressful situation that isn’t bringing out the best in you.

      1. Smithy*

        I’d second this.

        I had a job where I was unhappy/struggling due to external reasons but also got tarred with the “bad attitude” brush. So whether it was my professionalism, ability to get along with the team, etc – the way I was perceived more broadly speaking had ups and downs from senior leadership.

        At some point, fighting how much of this was a “me thing” that I could fix and how much of it was baked into other problematic parts of the organization became just more energy than it was worth. By having a new job, I got to start fresh on a number of fronts including learning from scenarios that I would acknowledge as “me problems”.

        1. MM*

          It’s also just the fact of having history with people/a place. As much as we can all try to truly put something behind us and move forward, it’s rare that anyone can actually, truly both perceive a situation as though the past doesn’t exist and act that way. When you’ve broken professional boundaries or norms before and survived it, it can be easier–even if you rationally know it’s an even worse idea!–to do it again, because your habits and reflexes have been calibrated to something else.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Big facts. I work with someone who rubbed me the wrong way the very first time we worked together last year, and I still don’t like him to this day because of his poor attitude.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It can be really hard to overcome our environments. They can trigger recall in our brains that causes us to fall into old habits, and they never let us forget the version of us we may be trying to grow away from. I agree, if you REALLY want to start with a blank slate it’s much easier to do that in a new job.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Plus OP could go a long time without any over-reacting incidents, but if it happens again, even a couple years down the road, people who remember will still tie it in with these two recent incidents and attribute it to their overall character. I agree that a fresh start somewhere else could be liberating.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I note that the boss followed Alison’s advice and had a tricky conversation in person – which resulted in them being able to come out on top here, because now the boss can state that OP misunderstood and there’s no way to verify exactly what was said.

      1. Yorick*

        I don’t think there’s any reason to assume the boss is lying about what he said. It does sound like he just worded the part about the review badly.

        1. LB*

          Yes I definitely believe the boss is telling the truth about what they meant; the idea that suddenly the whole review is based in one project seemed like a wild jump to conclusions (albeit one that’s easy to get swept into by stress, fatigue, and frustration).

      2. hbc*

        Boss is only “on top” because they came at it with an even keel and an open mind. I doubt either one of them had the ability to claim what they said/heard was 100% unambiguous, but only one of them reacted to a situation that seemed extreme (having a review based on one project/being accused of deviousness and grudge-holding) by inquiring what was going on.

        Frankly, it sounds like Boss might have conceded that the actual words “we’re getting a bad performance review” were or could have been used, but that the obvious way to take that is less “we’re screwing you over and moving the goalposts, too bad” and more “it will be impossible to have an awesome review if this part goes south” or “I consider Does Not Meet anywhere on the form to be a bad review.” And even if he’s mis-remembering what he said, that’s probably due to 1) the time that’s passed and 2) being put on the defensive.

    3. ElasticPlastic*

      I also think it’s impressive what a clear view op is taking of their actions now. It’s hard and humbling to look back and say you overreacted or acted badly. A lot of people will double down instead.

    4. Anonymity*

      I’d also look for another job. Boss is not going to forget and it’s strike two. Good luck. I’ve learned never to send an angry email.

  2. Retired federal worker*

    Rules to live by: If you want to write an angry email first compose it on your personal laptop as a word doc. Close the doc and go to bed. Sleep on it. Read it again the next morning. Have a deep conversation with yourself about how fair the email is. Remember the salient points. Move doc to trash. Go to work and have a calm rational conversation with whomever.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        But to be clear, not an email draft in your email program! Last thing you want is to accidentally send it when you mean to save it!

        1. Green great dragon*

          I do them in my email program, but the To field contains my own email address until I’m sure I’m ready to send.

          1. Anonym*

            Yes! I leave the To field empty until it’s definitely time to send. (Heck, I do that on low stakes stuff, too, just so I don’t send half an email thanks to a rogue keystroke.)

            1. yala*


              Although that bit me in the behind a couple weeks back because I forgot to add it in and thought it had sent.

              Maybe I’ll do like GGD suggested and put my own email in so I’ll get a notification right away if I forget.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              For low-stakes stuff, I have my entire email account on a two-minute send delay. The number of times I hit send and realize I missed a response or forgot to attach a file makes it worth it.

              Wouldn’t help for angry emails, which usually require a 24-hour send delay.

            3. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Same here. I have my email set to CTR + Enter = Send, and I don’t know what kind of weird key combo I hit when I was typing at top speed, but I had typed the first half of my first name in the signature when my hand slipped. It copied the first half of my name again and sent the email, so that I had signed off as, say, MAlMal and sent the email. There wasn’t anything else wrong with the email, fortunately, and my colleagues laughed when I told them what had happened — and I still have the nickname MalMal at work now Lol

            4. Ally McBeal*

              That was the #1 thing I was taught when I worked at a research company – when we were composing the email blasts with our latest report, which went to hundreds of financial managers (so the stakes were high), the very last thing we did was add their email addresses. We never ever put anything in the To field until that message was completely signed off on by the senior analyst and our compliance department, even if that meant someone had to physically sit in the office twiddling their thumbs until 1am.

            5. just passing through*

              I do the same thing often – I always remember a post I saw once where someone had sent an incomplete email that read, in its entirety:

              Dear [recipient],
              I am afraid

            6. nobadcats*

              I do this too. I also add the attachments, THEN write the body of the email. Something in my head makes me think the email is complete once I’ve added my signature. It’s cut down on a LOT of follow up “Oops, I forgot to add the attachment, sorry!” emails.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes – of it is is, make sure thatyou remove the address you are replying to from the ‘to’ field – put your own address instead. (or leave it blank, which normally stops it going anywhere.)

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            Yes, I pretty much always leave the “to” field blank whenever I write emails to make sure I never send someone something accidentally!

            1. ADidgeridooForYou*

              Same! Even when it’s not an angry email I get paranoid that I’ll accidentally send before finishing or fixing my mistakes.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Absolutely this. You’ll be so grateful that you added some extra steps in between when you don’t end up sending it.

    2. Antilles*

      I agree. Sending emails in anger is always always a bad idea, full stop.
      Personally, I do a lesser version of these even for emails that are pure vanilla, with no emotional charge or anger involved: Draft an email, then set it to the side for a few minutes to do another task, then come back for a final re-read with fresh eyes before clicking send. You’d be amazed how often that re-read identifies something worth tweaking – an unclear phrasing, a typo, the need for a bit of additional information, etc.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Unless it’s a really short reply, I always need to delay my emails to look for typos or missing words (or missing attachments.) Especially if I was interrupted during composition.

      2. MM*

        Yeah, I have a tendency to overexplain (I think I’ve heard this is common with ADHD?) so I always need to come back and look at my first draft to see how much information, qualification, etc. doesn’t need to be there. Of course, every so often I overcorrect, alas.

    3. Just Another Techie*

      So, I understand where this advice comes from. But, for some of us with certain neurodivergences that make us prone to rumination and impulsive behavior, this kind of thing could be ruinous. I know I would be tempted to get up at 3am and copy the word doc to work email and hit send.

      For ADHDers and anyone who has to manage impulsivity, it’s better to get the angry feelings out _on paper_ (so not just a few mouse clicks from sending) and then _throw it away_. Or talk over the angry feelings with a friend (outside the office!)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Maybe hand-write the angry letter; that requires an intermediate step of slowly and deliberately copying everything out, at which point hopefully cooler heads will prevail!

    4. MigraineMonth*

      Good point on using your personal computer. You don’t want the next person to use the company computer to find your angry rants (and putting them in the trash isn’t the same a securely deleting them).

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I heartily recommend this approach. I have a knee-jerk emails file that I reuse for when I need to vent, cool down, review for anything that is actually reasonable/important to address, and then delete. It’s both cathartic and career-saving.

    6. Koalafied*

      I have a rule that I call the “Maybe I’m the idiot?” rule. Which is that whenever I find myself getting annoyed because I think some idiot has made a mistake or oversight that is affecting me downstream because they didn’t bother to loop me in before making said mistake, I pause to ask myself, “Is it possible that I’m the idiot in this scenario?”

      Then instead of going in guns blazing, like, “Your new system has made problems for me! I can no longer export the data I need in the format I need it and it’s going to take me hours of manual work! *ANGERY FACE*” I go to the person with a question, like, “I’m trying to export data from your new system, and I poked around a bit but I didn’t see an obvious way to export in the format I need. Do you have any ideas on the best way for me to get that?”

      If it turns out they really did completely forget to account for my needs and designed a system that causes major problems for me…well, they’re going to realize that without me having to angrily spell it out, and if they’re at all reasonable (which the people I work with generally are), they’re obviously going to work with me to remedy that problem, and probably have a much better attitude about it because I approached by asking for help understanding what they did instead of criticizing what they did.

      And if it turns out that I was wrong, and there is an easy way to get what I need that I was just overlooking, I’m not suddenly looking like a belligerent ass who jumped to angry conclusions.

      1. socks*

        Yeah, this is really the safest approach. You can always escalate later if you need to. Deescalating after you’ve already hopped off the deep end is much harder.

      2. pamela voorhees*

        There’s a wonderful John Mulaney bit where he’s talking about making choices in a hypothetical scenario, and one of his comments is, “I wouldn’t jump to X, because I am often wrong.” It helps in two ways – one, it’s my own little version of the maybe I’m the idiot rule, and two, it’s a comedy bit, so remembering it usually lessens my initial anger because now I’m thinking of something funny. Definitely helps to try and remember something funny if you’re angry.

      3. Quinalla*

        Yes, I use the Brene Brown SFD method (shitty first draft) where I start with “The story I am telling myself is, boss has changed all the rules and made my review about just this ONE THING! ….” etc. Then I reread, sometimes I just practice the conversation while I’m driving out loud instead, and then move through however many versions until I get to one that is fit for a conversation. I either call/video call or in person if possible (I’m fully remote, so in person is rare for me) to have the conversation when I know I am heated about it. If it is something you need written record of, I recommend calling and then following up in email with a summary of the conversation, I write a lot of emails that start “Per our phone conversation this morning, ….”

        I too like to write on paper if I’m writing, but again I will often rehearse out loud, but typing is fine too if you prefer if NOT in your email program.

        And yeah I agree with the above commenters that full stop never send an angry email. You will nearly always regret it, not worth it for the maybe 1 in 100 times it might actually be ok :)

    7. London Calling*

      And don’t add the recipient’s address. That way there’s no danger of rage-sending.

    8. gmg22*

      I actually created a Gmail account specifically to send angry rants to, so no one but me will ever see them. Been using it for over 10 years now.

      1. Tallulah*

        This is amazing. Alison, can we get angryrants @ ask a manager.org established for us to get the satisfaction of pressing sending on our irritation (with the safety of knowing it’s only out into the void)?

        1. linger*

          Already present to some degree! Several of the Friday discussions have included threads on the topic of “Things you want to say at work but can’t”, which serve much the same purpose.

    9. JelloStapler*

      True life hack right here.

      I’ve done the angry email before, and I still cringe and have learned from it.

  3. Justin*

    I’ve done this sort of thing, though I wasn’t actually mistaken, but the result was the same.

    I feel for you OP. Not sure how the previous issue began, but it was hard for me to get out of (what I consider, in my own past) paranoid responses to things that made me deeply anxious. I ended up needing some therapy (not my first time) and eventually needed a new workplace. Not diagnosing you or telling you what to do medically, just saying, see if you can figure something out emotionally, because stress is gonna happen, and especially given the boss wasn’t an actual villain here, for better or worse we have to figure out how to process these strong feelings before pushing them out onto supervisors. Good lucky.

    1. Anonym*

      Therapy is such a great tool for adjusting how you respond to things, especially when there’s a pattern that’s causing you stress. Strong second on this advice!

      1. allathian*

        Thirding. I’ve ranted at a former manager *in person* when we severely underestimated how much work a particular project would entail, and I worked 50+ hour weeks for 3 months straight, when my normal workweek is 37 hours 15 minutes, or 7 hours 15 minutes per day, with lots of flexibility. By the end I had put enough hours in our working hours bank that I could take 2 weeks off on comp hours. My manager practically ordered me to take leave, and I’m grateful for that. I was emotionally in a very bad place, and my org has a system of early intervention in cases like this.

        I apologized to her and owned my bad behavior, but there was no saving that relationship. I was glad when she decided to quit management, and to do that she went to do a project for a sister organization, and returned to do another for us before she retired, but she didn’t return to our team (that would’ve meant being managed by a former direct report, and my org doesn’t do that). I sometimes still feel guilty about being the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m glad she retired during the worst of the pandemic, so there was no retirement party to either go to and feel awkward and risk making her feel awkward as well, or make my excuses…

  4. AllyPally*

    I have to say, I’m not loving the boss saying bringing up performance reviews when work isn’t going well. It’s probably stressful enough for everyone involved without threatening future consequences as well. It just doesn’t seem like a helpful thing to say at all.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Except performance review was tied to the team regarding this specific project. Not OP’s annual performance review.

      1. AllyPally*

        I don’t understand what you mean, he did say it would affect her performance review, just not the entire outcome of the review.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          If I’m understanding correctly – boss used “performance review” originally to mean only the performance review of the project, while OP interpreted it to mean their personal performance review. Boss later clarified what he meant and stated that, yes, it would *also* affect the personal performance review of OP (just like any other project would).

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I still wouldn’t find that helpful coming from a boss even if it was delivered and received as being about the whole team and a single project instead of one member and their entire year’s worth of productivity. It feels very “Don’t do this or you’ll get in trouble!” which you can’t really action in a productive way vs saying “If we don’t complete X to Y standard, we could lose the client” or whatever the case might be.

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          But if Boss had not said anything, and OP had later gotten dinged on their review for this section, they might have gotten upset they never received notice.

          Did Boss and OP have a miscommunication yes, but I think Boss was trying to be transparent and put OP on notice, letting them know what was on the line, letting them know was reasonable.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            But like any other performance issue, you can’t just put them on notice without any other information and expect improvement or anything meaningful to happen; that’s not helpful transparency either.

      3. Books and Cooks*

        The way I read it, it sounds like the boss was commiserating with LW about how neither of them liked this strategy but they had to try it this way: “I know, I agree, but we don’t have a choice–if we don’t make progress, our reviews [whether for this project alone, or overall] will be negatively affected.” Given the importance of the project, that just doesn’t seem to me like something that would be a bolt from the blue. It seems like something of which the LW would already be aware, even if she’s not thinking of it directly at that moment.

        The LW’s writing that the boss said, “I/we ‘were getting a bad performance review’ if progress wasn’t made,” makes it ambiguous as to whether Boss actually said, “YOUR review will be bad,” or “OUR reviews, yours and mine, will be bad.” Either way, I don’t see it as a threat at all; I see it as the boss stating a fact that helps explain why he and LW have to do this thing in a way they don’t think will work, and that he doesn’t like it, either (as he seems to have made clear to LW) but they have to do it. As a manager, if/when I say to my team, “Corporate wants this project finished by noon, and if it’s not done, we’re all gonna be in trouble,” I don’t anticipate them hearing that as, “If this project isn’t finished by noon, Corporate is going to be all over you guys while I escape any criticism.” I anticipate them hearing, “We’re all in this together, me as well as you, so let’s work our hardest as a team, guys.”

        If the boss did say, “‘we’ will be getting a bad performance review,” then I can see even more why LW’s email would have upset him: he thought he was reminding LW that they were in this together and that his review was on the line, too, and LW’s response was to basically accuse him of lying to her, throwing her under the bus, changing rules…I’d be upset, too.

        Frankly, even if Boss did say just LW’s review would be negatively affected if progress wasn’t made, that’s still not a threat–he’s still just saying, “This is why we have to try it their way, because we HAVE to make progress or your review will be negatively impacted.” Again, this is explaining a business decision and why it’s been made, which is the kind of thing people are always wishing their bosses would do? Wouldn’t LW rather know that if she doesn’t do X, progress won’t be made and her review will be affected, instead of being encouraged to keep trying to push back or ignore the plans that LW & Boss think will be ineffective?

        IMO, Boss then *proved* he’s a decent guy by offering LW an excuse for this behavior (“Maybe you’re lashing out because of all the stress you’ve/we’ve been under?”) and having her take a break to decompress and de-stress.

        Sorry, I’m just not seeing where the boss is a villain here, or tried to threaten the LW, or where the LW isn’t out of line here.

        LW, I’m sorry this happened, and I agree with others on having new “email policies” for yourself. Meanwhile, I’d go back to your boss, apologize sincerely, and say that you realize it was unfair of you to view his comment that way, that you think he’s right that stress made you lash out but that doesn’t make it right. Tell him you appreciate his agreement with you on this task and that he is and always has been on your side, and that you especially appreciate his understanding in this situation and being as kind about it as he was. Then tell him the day or two off worked wonders and you are feeling back to your usual positive self, and looking forward to doing some good work together [if appropriate]. If you know he is a fan of a particular bakery or treat of some kind, or likes a particular brand of pens or something, maybe buy him a cupcake or snack or package of pens (i.e. a small, under $10 type of gift), or a brownie from the batch you baked at home to de-stress on your day off, or something–some small gesture of apology and gratitude.

        Then let it go, and try to put it behind you, and just remember, in future, always check before you start getting upset! (I’m also curious if the “personnel drama” from before was related in some way to your temper, or to you previously jumping to the wrong conclusion and running with it? Do you often assume the worst of people or that they’re trying to screw with you or cause problems for you? That’s not a happy way to go through life, if so, and I hope you find a way to see things differently.)

        1. Irish Teacher*

          That makes a lot more sense than how I was reading it, which was “we have to do it this way even though it won’t work and we will get bad performance reviews at the end, because other team are refusing to cooperate with us unless we do it this way.” “Neither of us likes this, but we have to do it to avoid our reviews being negatively affected” is a lot more reasonable than “neither of us likes this but we are stuck doing it this way even though it will inevitably mean us getting negative reviews.”

          The e-mail wouldn’t have been a good idea in either situation, so it doesn’t matter much, but your reading does make more sense.

        2. Lana Kane*

          That’s my read as well. Personally, I find it surprising that someone would immediately jump to “my entire annual review hinges on this one thing and the rest of my work is in vain.” To me it seems like an extremely literal read, to the point of not seeing the larger context. -Even if- the literal explanation was correct, it would seem that Boss was commiserating and that it wasn’t their idea. To me it seems like the kind of communication people say they want so that they know where they stand, but when they get it, they don’t know how to react to it.

          1. MM*

            Maybe it’s just that I’ve never had the sort of job where you get regular performance reviews and discuss them ahead of when they happen, but I don’t even see how OP reached their conclusion from a literal interpretation. I reread that part of the letter a couple of times because I simply do not see how what the boss said shakes out to what OP thought.

          2. linger*

            Maybe not so surprising. A stressful task, especially one requiring narrow focus on details, will reduce processing capacity and lead people towards an overly narrow, literal reading of any other messages received at the same time. (And Boss seems to realise this is a likely source of OP’s misunderstanding.)

    2. J*

      Yes, it seems like there’s a chance boss could also be inflaming situations, keeping a certain level of pressure in play that helps escalate situations like letter writer’s. This is not to dismiss what the letter writer did but I question if this really is a good working relationship between the two. I know letter writer describes the working relationship as good so I wonder if this is out of character for them to bring up performance reviews or if letter writer has dismissed some things that have caused tension to escalate over time. I have a lot of thoughts about letter writer’s behavior but this part just nagged at me in its own way.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, I think the boss (as well as OP) needs to choose their words/approach more carefully in the future.

      If I were the boss in this situation I’d be thinking that OP has spiralled on this as a reaction to stress of completing this project (for the reasons mentioned in the letter, not just speculation). And whether I’d done anything to contribute to that stress, like by not providing enough support, checking in where needed, etc. I wouldn’t automatically link it in my mind to the previous incident although I can see that it’s tempting to do so, it doesn’t actually seem like the same “type” of thing.

      If OP doesn’t normally go off at the deep end and this is out of character for her, the boss ought to be concerned rather than offended. He was “visibly upset” the personal attack, perhaps justifiably, but was also correct in putting it down to lashing out under stress.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah realistically the boss might have anticipated that basically threatening OP with a poor performance review – or part of a review or whatever – is kind of a high-pressure tactic when that’s only a month away and OP is already pretty focused on the success of this project. I don’t think that was the right approach (which does not dismiss OP’s lack of inhibition either).

    4. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, I’m not entirely clear on who was thinking what about the approach, but no-one should be getting a bad mark in a performance review for reasons outside their control. Were LW and Boss disagreeing about the approach, with LW supporting and boss against? If boss is sure it’s wrong then he can overrule, but a performance review should be about whether LW made a reasonable decision at the time and did what they could to make it work, not on how things turned out after a host of unknown factors came into play.

      Doesn’t make LWs email any more appropriate – sorry LW – or change Alison’s advice.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, that confused me as well. “I think it’s a bad idea to do it this way, but we’re going to do it this way anyway, and you’ll suffer any consequences” is a weird way to manage.

        1. Don*

          I think that would actually be a reasonable way to manage compared to this. This isn’t “okay we’ll go this way but if doesn’t work out that’ll be X extra work to cope with failure,” it’s “if this doesn’t work then it’s gonna be a black mark on your record.”

          If I had a boss say that to me then I’d have shrugged and said okay, never mind – let’s go with what you have faith in. Because the first thing is just a given: as a professional I am gonna suffer the consequences of my actions and have to deal with whatever problems I have in an approach. The second is “I’m going to put it in writing that this thing I didn’t want to do didn’t work out and maybe it’ll impact you financially or even your career stability.”

        2. A Person*

          The way I interpreted it is that the boss was trying to say “I understand this approach may not be ideal, but it’s the only way the other teams are willing to do it. If we don’t show some kind of progress soon there will be consequences on our review, so we have to do it this way – we don’t have time to try to persuade people to use a different approach.”

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I’ve reread it and I’m still confused. To me, it sounds as if the boss is saying, “look, I know this isn’t a good idea, but in order to please other team, we have to do it this way and we’d better hope it works because if it doesn’t, as I kinda suspect, both you and I will get bad performance reviews.”

        I’m guessing I’m misreading somewhere because if that is true, it’s incredibly unfair, even if it’s only part of the review.

        Not that that makes the e-mail a wise idea, but it does put a certain amount of context on WHY the LW was so angry that they reacted like this.

        1. Myrin*

          I feel like this is one of those situations which would (or at least could) be pretty clear if we knew what it was actually about (even just a sector) but since we don’t, it all seems very confusing.

          I do think you got the general gist of it, though. What’s more confusing to me is who exactly the different players are and what they can and want to do, honestly.
          “a very high-stakes project that we own, which is ~80% complete” -> Is “we” OP’s company, OP’s team/divison, or just OP and boss?
          “He expressed that while other key players” -> Are these “key players” OP’s coworkers? And if so, are they from her team or do they belong to another part of the company? Or are they people outside of OP’s company entirely?
          “were confident in the strategy we were using to tie up the remaining loose ends” -> Does “we” include the aforementioned “key players” or are they outsiders who see what “we = OP and boss (and team?)” were doing and are confident it will work?
          “In order to get cooperation from others” -> Are “others” the “key players” or yet another subset of people involved?
          Also, boss seemed to have reservations about two different things – “the strategy we were using” AND “their approach”.
          Lastly, it’s possible the review didn’t hinge on successful completion at all but rather on whether they progressed at all – there would be bad performance reviews for OP and boss “if progress was not made”.

          So, yeah. All in all very confusing although, like I said, it’s possible this would be very clear if we actually had to personally deal with it.

        2. nom de plume*

          I read this a little differently — not as “performance review” so much in the 6-monthly work assessment sense, but in the more figurative sense of “overall review of our performance as a team / unit / organisation.” And the way I read it, he was all the way in with her, not threatening her with consequences while he’s A-okay.

          Here’s what I mean: I’m currently leading a high-stakes project for my team, which is part of a sub-unit, which is part of an org that is, in turn, part of a much larger org that reports to government. I’ve been told before to take on approaches I don’t find valuable (which my manager agrees with), because the project needs to please lots of people and levels way above my pay grade. And that project, in turn, will reflect on us, down to the team level.

          It seems to me that this is what the boss was articulating — something like, “okay, this isn’t our favorite approach, but we don’t want to come out looking badly” (id est, the “performance review” part).

          Beyond that, OP, is it possible you reacted so strongly because you’re still smarting from your manager’s change of attitude towards you? It sounds like perhaps your concern had to do with having to prove yourself even more after a rough patch. If so, perhaps acknowledging that you’re trying to move past some less-than-productive past behavior would help?

      3. Anonym*

        Yeah, it seems the boss may have been a bit too unfiltered when sharing his concerns with OP. I can see thinking those things and not realizing quickly enough that my direct report didn’t need to hear them, at least not as-is. Hopefully he took something useful away from that aspect of the situation. Turn on that manager filter, especially when your employee is stressed!

    5. Anon all day*

      I don’t see how this is relevant to the OP’s question. OP did not act the best way they could have, whether or not the boss was also wrong. Comments that are just criticizing the boss’s actions seem to imply that OP still isn’t at fault for their behavior following.

      1. AllyPally*

        Multiple people can act poorly in a situation. I just wanted to talk about an element of the letter that I hadn’t seen discussed yet.

    6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That’s my take. OP writes “I/we” will get a bad review, but still, I think a well, threat is strong, but an implication that OP’s review will be affected badly was made.
      If boss truly wanted to say “we are all going to get stuck holding the bag on this, so you and I need to be flawless in completing our parts,” he could have spelled it out.
      I understand why OP panicked.
      I also think OP would benefit from counseling, because an email rant is not how people who are doing well in their lives respond. Please OP, get to the reason why you’ve had two personnel/personal issues with coworkers in less than two years. Not, “why did you think boss was threatening your job?” but “why did you not ask him straight up?”

    7. kiki*

      Yeah, I’m not condoning LW’s long, angry email at all, but it does seem like manager was saying LW’s performance review would be negatively impacted due to a strategy decision LW couldn’t change. I get that it’s something LW’s boss may have been concerned about, but that is a topic you have to handle delicately as a manager. LW should not have gone off on manager the way they did, but I also think LW’s boss could rethink how they discuss pitfalls in projects with employees.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This was my read as well, and I’d definitely want clarification from my boss on that point. An angry email is not the right way to go, but I can understand OP’s concern.

    8. Littorally*

      Agreed, yeah.

      If it were the boss writing in, I think there would be a lot to say about takeaways for him — the OP blew their stack, but the boss also phrased things in a way that made stack-blowing more likely. There’s a takeaway for him about phrasing bad-but-not-catastrophic news in a way that doesn’t come across as catastrophic.

      However, the boss isn’t here, so the OP’s part is learning not to blow their stack — and how to walk things back when they do — regardless of the social skills of the people they’re interacting with.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I feel like I could have nuanced advice for the boss, for sure. But for OP my advice is mostly just NOOOOOOOOO (which comes from a lot of experience with impulsivity) and parroting what others have said about drafting in a word document. I do that for any medium to high stakes email really.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      With you on this – it was a crappy thing for the manager to do. The OP handled it badly, but so did their manager.

    10. ADidgeridooForYou*

      Yeah, I think the boss definitely misspoke, whether on purpose or accidentally, and made it seem like LW’s entire performance review was riding on this. I can definitely see why someone would say something like that out of stress, though (or who knows, maybe they just have bad judgment). That said, I think Allison’s advice to the OP still stands. All of this could have been avoided with a simple conversation.

    11. Don*

      I also cocked my head at this. Perhaps I have just been lucky, but in my decades of work I’ve never had my performance review brought up like it was some sort of grade report I was going to be handed annually. If my boss and I didn’t agree about a course of action and I needed to bring them around through discussion then we did that and came to a consensus. If there was lingering doubt it was expressed as a “this could blow up in X, Y and Z ways and we’ll have to deal with the added work,” not as “if this course of action we negotiated together works out badly it’s going to go get written down on Your Permanent Record.”

      1. Gumby*

        Agreed. Though, to be fair, I have also not worked anywhere that performance reviews were used in isolation to make salary or other employment decisions. If my current manager said “this is going to be reflected on your performance review” I might actually laugh. Because: so what? It is not that they are not important, but it is also not like getting a ‘meets’ instead of ‘exceeds’ expectations will affect anything really. Not directly and not immediately. A sustained history of being below expectations would, obviously, but it would do so regardless of what is written on some random piece of paper in an HR file.

      2. Very Social*

        Right? I assume everything I do at work is factored into my performance review, and if a boss explicitly pointed out that some project was going to affect it, I’d be confused and nervous. But it does seem that OP and their boss have specific discussions throughout the year on what is going on that review, so if that’s what works for them, I don’t think there’s a problem there.

    12. my 8th name*

      I’d generally agree, but with performance reviews being a month a way I kind of get it. If he waited until the project was over, OP would have no time to pivot and improve things before being graded. This was the appropriate timeline to flag the concern.

    13. Banana*

      I don’t love this either.

      If you’re setting goals and defining expectations clearly, the performance review impact doesn’t need to be stated. Or if it really does to make a point, it shouldn’t be offhand like this was. “I feel like I need to remind you that your goal related to this project was getting to a 90% adoption rate…I think this approach is going to cause you to miss that, and if you miss it I wouldn’t be able to give you a Meets Expectations rating on that section.”

      But in general I think it’s more impactful to talk about the business need to get certain outcomes, not the employee’s need to get a good review. Heck, I’ve deliberately endangered my review scores in some areas before because I thought a different approach was better for the business and I gambled on being able to prove that (example, if I focused on missing as few shipment deadlines as possible instead of focusing on hitting my production deadlines, we shipped on time more often…shipping deadlines are more important but aren’t formally part of my review score because I don’t fully control them.)

  5. CC34*

    Oooh I have definitely been there with firing off emails I then regret. Going to pass along my therapist’s advice: never send communication when you are angry or otherwise emotional. Wait 24 hours and see how you want to address it after that.

    1. Anonymous Manager*

      This is great advice. (Plus, waiting means you can go back and edit for MORE punch if you really still feel the same way after a cooling-off period…just kidding.)

      1. pamela voorhees*

        Honestly though, it can help if you realize you need to go the other way – in a volunteer group, we had a concern about a male member of our team behaving inappropriately with high schoolers, in exactly the way you think he was behaving inappropriately. I put it in a draft to our team leader on whether or not to say something but after twenty four hours, I realized I needed to actually make a bigger deal of it – I needed to make it clear that we were in trouble if this didn’t stop. It can go the other way! (He was volun-fired, btw.)

    2. Glen*

      Difficult when you need to get back to them in the moment. I had an exchange with an engineer who had told me that a model was complete where – for the second time running (!) – the model was not complete. In fact, only the major steel was in – all the bracing was absent. I had committed to a deadline on the basis of him saying yes, everything is there – then had to go back and say wait, I don’t think everything is there, and finding out that around 1/3 the linear length of steel was missing, and the most time consuming to design at that, on a job where I shouldn’t have needed to do any design!

      I emailed back to say, look, you said it was all there but now you’ve confirmed it isn’t – I’ll do what I can but it won’t be ready Wednesday. This clown had the gall to delete the history of the conversation and copy the fucking regional director in on his response to just the one email where I pushed back on the deadline – and to reply “if you don’t want to work there’s plenty of people who do”, too!

      I found a combination of icy politeness, copying the senior person in on the full chain, and being very clear about what had actually happened (“per our earlier email discussion below, you had confirmed the original work was complete, but my later review showed approximately a third of the structure was missing, apologies I didn’t catch it before I quoted”), helped. Later had a similarly stupid run in with the same engineer who took me to task for telling him that if he wanted bolts placed somewhere other than the standard locations he needed to tell me where. “What standard? I don’t know what this standard is you’re talking about!”, clearly trying to imply I was making shit up. Quick photocopy of the relevant Australian Standard (design of bolted steel structures, I wanna say AS4100?) and I never heard back about it again…

  6. Jess*

    Alison’s advice is spot-on, and just what I wish I had heard a few years ago.

    I was offered a promotion that I thought wasn’t what I wanted or deserved, and instead of taking it, I lashed out in a frustrated email on a Sunday night, lambasting my bosses for telling me this out of the blue, rather than giving me forewarning. Unsurprisingly, the promotion was withdrawn, and I don’t think my reputation ever recovered. I was in a really terrible place at the time, and I’ve since made amends to everyone involved, but I hard relate to leaping to conclusions and getting that fight-or-flight instinct that makes you lash out in ways you subsequently regret.

    1. Sloanicota*

      When I think back to the times I blew my stack it was always, *always* about more than the issue I was seemingly upset about, and had more to do with what else was going on in my life at that time. Now I try to listen to that little *why exactly am I getting so upset about this?* alarm bell. Unless it’s hormones.

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        Ugh yes, hormones… The email I most regret sending was when I was starting a new hormonal birth control. Not trying to make an excuse though.

  7. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The best kind of apology: say you were wrong, spell out what you did that was wrong (this shows you fully understand) and say you are going to work to make sure that you never say/do such a thing again.

    Definitely do not try to justify/excuse anything. As learnt from really painful experience (I tried to justify being an outright bully at work with ‘Ihave chronic pain issues and I’m stressed’ once. It did not go well) that’s a horrendous move.

    A staff member who owns up to a mistake, takes the full blame, apologises and takes action to ensure it never happens again is one I’ll keep on my team. One who has a history of conflicts and tries to minimise their fault is one I won’t.

    (I am not saying you’ll be the second option! Just outlining what I’ve learnt both from being the boss AND being the one who made a colossal angry error of judgment a decade previous. It is recoverable, depending on the manager of course, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of humility)

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is a great apology formula – conveys regret, makes it clear you understand where you went wrong, and commits to doing better in the future. Once you clear the emotional air, too, it’s easier to discuss the real problem (which, in this case, seems to be receiving a poor performance review based on the outcome of something OP does not seem to have standing to change).

    2. nekosan*

      Well said! I especially try to remember “do not try to justify or excuse anything”. People don’t want to hear excuses, they just want things to be rectified. If I’m writing an email, I read it over and rip those out before sending, as hard as it can be.

      1. Malarkey01*

        My only caveat to this is that it can be helpful as an explanation if you are communicating it as part of conveying that you understand the cause and are correcting it and to provide some context that might ease the other person’s impression.
        Example of someone on my staff last week: I’m sorry that I was so unprepared for the meeting yesterday and am behind on the Project X. Project Y suffered a major setback last week and I was really frustrated by that and got burnt out doing the fixes and I’m just not on my A game this week. I should have let you know when I was falling behind and I’ll make sure I communicate better on timelines in the future, and am going to ensure I don’t get bogged down by project Y, and don’t expect this will happen again.

        I appreciated the explanation since it told me why this had happened and I wasn’t problem shooting in the dark. It also made me feel better to understand that this wasn’t a larger problem but something that had cropped up and happens to the best of us. I came away feeling comfortable that we’d nailed down the problem and that she had a handle on things. The key was she didn’t try to justify the behavior as okay and was presenting it as part of the problem solving.

  8. Spooky*

    Alison’s response is really interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of how my friends and I operate at work. For me, email is much better because it allows me to type out how I’m feeling, walk away, and return later to view the message with fresh eyes before hitting send. It also allows me to spot logical flaws, re-do or restructure the message as many times as I like to make sure it makes sense, and send a draft to a friend to look over it before I send. My motto for personal issues at work is “you’ll feel better in the morning,” or even just after a 10 minute walk outside in the parking lot to organize my thoughts.

    For me, I need to make sure I’m communicating from a place of logic, not emotion. I’m much more likely to say the wrong thing in the moment, and years of remote work mean that I am now more anxious during in-person meetings and conversations. Doing this in person would be very likely to end badly for me, one way or another.

    To each their own, I guess?

    1. sagc*

      If you can walk away and review it later from a logical place, I’d say you’re not acting quite as hastily as the OP here, who clearly didn’t do the “walk away and reevaluate” part.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This. It’s not that email is inherently a bad idea, it’s that people tend to slam it out and then hit “send” in the heat of the moment.

    2. Raboot*

      But it doesn’t matter how organized and perfect your email might be when your assumptions are simply wrong and a conversation would clear that up immediately.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Right the point is that OP kept going and going on different evidence for this point, seeming unhinged to the boss, who would presumably have cleared up the misunderstanding after the first sentence otherwise.

      2. Allonge*

        In my experience one thing that happens in writing and re-writing like this is that I get to the point where I am like ‘gosh, I am not even sure what boss said any more, I better go and ask what she meant’. So it’s more of a cooling-off tool than anything else. Or it can be.

        At the very least you get to the point where the accusing / agressive language is weeded out. That’s about 60% improvement right there.

    3. Pidgeot*

      I think it’s fair to do this, as long as you’re not coming from a place of accusation but as information-sharing – here’s my point of view and my recommendation, laid out nicely, then let’s have a talk later about salient points when we’re all on the same page. Regardless, writing the email then sleeping on it is probably the best course of action.

      1. Misa*

        As a Supreme protector of my own peace, if I see an email that is more than maybe six sentences, especially one that begins accusatory, I will not read and ask that you call me.
        I’m not allowing you to dump your emotions on me in an email. It increases the likelihood that I’m going to be heated and puts me on the defensive. If you want to be rude or unfair to me you better be prepared to do it “face to face” and risk that I might make you feel as poor as you’re trying to make me.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I like to organize my thoughts in writing, so I get that — and in similar situations I might well write it all out in a word doc or whatever first. BUT… a lot of the time it IS better to have an in-person or live conversation (maybe with some notes handy?) because you can convey tone better, read body language, and as Alison alluded to, give people time to respond and clear things up instead of just ranting at them.

    5. ChemistryChick*

      There’s a big difference between what you’re describing and what OP did, though. You take the time to walk away, detach from the situation, then come back to it and make sure you’re not coming off as hot-headed or angry. What you’re doing makes great sense.

      OP just wrote the email in the heat of the moment and hit send immediately without taking the extra time. That’s where the problem lies.

    6. Green great dragon*

      I agree with the pros of email here, but one disadvantage is you may end up with a long, perfectly phrased email based on a complete misunderstanding. I’ve received one of these, and it definitely made it more of a thing than it needed to be, as well as meaning it wasn’t sorted out for a couple of days, when in conversation it would have taken seconds for me to correct the misunderstanding.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I’ve received emails like that, and it’s hard to even figure out how to respond. I wished I could “interrupt” two sentences in, but the email just kept going on the wrong track based on a misunderstanding.

        In my situation, they CC’d not only my boss but also the department head, and by the end of that chain I ended up having to send a clarification email to half-a-dozen people. Things at my organization seem to get escalated to upper management really quickly.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Cringing through an entire email because you wish you could interrupt is a feeling I know well and it drives me nuts

    7. AsPerElaine*

      While I do try for in-person conversation when that makes sense, I also do email more than Alison is suggesting, because when I get upset (angry/frustrated) I am prone to crying (not, like, sobbing, but I will leak), and it is difficult to be taken seriously as a reasonable and sensible adult with a well-reasoned grievance when you have tears pouring down your face.

      But I do try to let the email “cool off” before sending, and often consult a second person on tone.

    8. Bagpuss*

      I garee that’s it’s ‘each to their own’ but also it’s context dependent.

      Sometimes sending the e-mail makes things clearer, but it can also escalate things if it is based on a misunderstanding, or because you can’t read tone in an email.

      It may be that a middle way is to draft a wrrtten response but then ask for the meeting – the act of drafting can help focus your mind and identify the key points and you can even have bullet point reminders in case you forget what you wanted to say.

    9. Sparkles McFadden*

      Your logic is sound, and a general message would be “Don’t do anything in the heat of the moment.” I, too, write things out and reread them the next day, and I usually end up throwing the whole thing out thinking “Glad I didn’t send that!”

      But… if you started a conversation with the boss, you would be able to change your responses as you went along based on what the boss says. You could realize you misinterpreted something and dial it back and say “Ah, OK” where an email lets you just continue down whatever path you started on, however erroneous it might be. Also, email doesn’t convey tone, which can cause another set of issues. Finally, a sent email is forever, so I never put anything in writing when I don’t have to. When I have to put something in writing, it’s just facts in a bullet point list. Less chance of misinterpretation.

      1. Ruh Roh Raggy*

        OP, plenty of people here have given solid advice. I just want you to know that I feel for you. I’ve sent emails that ranged from mildly cringe to full-on “that’s probably what got me fired.” I’ve gotten a lot better about identifying when I’m upset and taking a deep breath. I’ve worked on myself. But I also want you to know that 20 years after that firing, I’m in a pretty sweet gig now, with a lot of influence and respect. And sometimes I still screw up, but it’s less severely and less frequently. So, yes, take the advice and work on your mindset and your habits – but also know that you are not alone.

    10. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I also like to keep my “I disagree and let me tell you why” to emails (with a calm down break and some “does this sound professional?” advice). That being said, I do like to check for a misunderstanding casually and face to face. Something like “Hey Boss, it sounded like you were saying that if this project goes wrong it will tank my whole review? Is that what you meant, because it seems a little odd not to include my previous work.” A sincere “Oh goodness! that’s not what I meant at all” will tell you a lot.

    11. ADidgeridooForYou*

      I think it depends on context. If you’re acting rationally and need to take time to lay out your thoughts in an articulate manner (and there’s little to no negative emotion involved), email can be the way to go. However, this could have been cleared up so quickly with a simple “hey, you said earlier that X, Y, and Z would factor into my performance review – are you saying that that’s changed?” And then continue the conversation from there.

      For me, the biggest risk with email is that you can come off sounding angrier or harsher than you intended. I know I’ve personally picked up on anger in people’s emails that wouldn’t have necessarily existed in an in-person convo.

    12. Polly Hedron*

      If email were OP’s preferred style, that still might have been OK, if OP had written a draft, cooled off, come back, and then sent a much shorter email just asking the manager if he were saying that OP’s entire review would depend on the outcome of this project.

    13. Kella*

      I am this way too BUT Alison makes a really important point that some (if not most) conflicts require a back and forth conversation to actually resolve, and a long email inhibits that process. If it’s absolutely necessary to use email, it would still be important to start with questions and requests for clarification rather than paragraphs about how the situation made you feel.

      1. Bubba*

        I agree. A long email detailing all the great work so-in-so has done for the company, explaining how unfair it is they will be judged soley on project X and how much stress they are feeling because of it, is unlikely to be well recieved no matter how politely worded it it.

        If I were to send any email in this case it would be something like this: Hi Bill, from our discussion earlier I got the impression that my performance review this year would be based soley on the outcome of project X. This seems unbalanced and I am concerned about the impact that shifting so much of my focus to protect X would have on my other projects Y and Z. Can we set up some time to discuss these concerns?

        To the OP I would like to say that unfortunately, I have been in your shoes. I was once let go due to a similar impulsive/angry message sent to a boss. Your career can recover as long as you learn from the situation use it as an opportunity for self reflection/ improvement (which if seems like you are).

  9. CC34*

    Oooh, I have been there with firing off emails I later regretted. Going to pass on the advice my therapist give me: never send communication like this when you’re angry or otherwise emotional. Wait 24 hours for the emotions to come down, then decide how you want to proceed.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes – I work as a famikly lawyer and when I am dealing with someone who has difficulties with communication with their ex I normally recommend that they try to move to e-mail rather than texts / WhatsApp for anything except emergencies, and that they draft, wait, and re-read before sending. (and take out anything they wouldn’t want to be read out in court or to their children)

      It doesn’t always work but it can help a lot if one person is managing not to escalate, ven if the other can’t or won’t.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I try to channel Spock or maybe Sargent Friday “Just the facts.” Only I try to make it sound nice, where I don’t think either of them would be quite as worried about that.

      But yeah, if I’m angry, I don’t send the e-mail right away, even if I think I’m not showing it, it’s a good idea to give it at least 5 minutes.

  10. Kel*

    “I got in involved in personal drama at work” and “I sent a long angry email to my boss less than ten months later”

    …..I feel like this person lacks judgement and professionalism. The personal drama was enough that people left the company?! Yikes.

    1. to varying degrees*

      I know. I do feel like there is probably a lot of hidden backstory with whatever happened before, especially since it sounds like they only way it was resolved is by other people having to leave. That may have been necessary (and deserved possibly) but it does give a side eye to the judgement of the LW right now.

    2. Raboot*

      There’s zero evidence that anyone left the company because of the interpersonal conflict between them and OP.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I interpreted it as the problem ended because those people left, for normal business reasons, and so there was no one to lug around the other side of the drama.

      2. MK*

        Yes, but it sounds as if the issues weren’t resolved, they just became irrelevant because the other people left.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This. It doesn’t sound as though they left because of the drama but it does sound as though the drama “resolved” mostly because the other party left, which means it sort of wasn’t actually resolved and that the LW may or may not have processed their part in it.

        2. Raboot*

          How does that equal “The personal drama was enough that people left the company”? That’s just a really unfair thing to assume.

      3. Clobberin' Time*

        The real problem is that OP apparently has a history of personal drama that brought their professionalism into question.

          1. Kella*

            The fact that it was “personnel drama” and not “personal drama” at work that brought their professionalism into question, doesn’t really change things that much. Either way, there is a pattern of interpersonal drama, meaning conflict involving multiple persons and the OP, at work, and the boss has concerns about their professionalism.

    3. Anonys*

      To be fair, it doesn’t indicate anywhere in the letter that anyone left BECAUSE of drama with the OP and therefore we shouldn’t assume that’s the case. I understood that the people involved in the drama left the company (for reasons unknown to us), and therefore the drama naturally stopped. It still doesn’t reflect great on the OP of course, because they weren’t able to actually resolve things with with the people they had issues with.

    4. Heidi*

      “That drama ended around 10 months ago, after most of the involved parties left the company.” It’s not entirely clear that the departure of the other parties was caused by the drama. It could have been part of it, of course, but the wording leaves it a bit ambiguous.

      1. ferrina*

        The ambiguous wording got a raised eyebrow from me. The LW spent a lot of time detailing the recent event, but glossed over the past pretty hard. It left me wondering what they were leaving out. I don’t have “personnel drama” with my colleagues- that’s odd wording. Makes me wondering how much of an active participant they were.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      This raised my eyebrows, too.

      Maybe it’s really not that big a deal, but the overall picture here is of someone (who is maybe anxious overall, either in general or over the past couple of years due to pandemic job weirdness) and is beginning a pattern of acting impulsively and landing themselves in drama.

      1. Meep*

        A mental breakdown was my first thought, but I have been on the other side of this. Ironically, ten months ago, my now former coworker was involved in drama. She had been involved in personal drama for a long time before, but it finally came too much for me when she kept making snide comments about my reproductive health (I had bronchitis and phenomena from COVID. Somehow it translated into me just ovulating to this woman…) . So I lodged a sexual harassment complaint as one does when they are being sexually harassed. She spun it out for two months and dragged others into it. Two people were wrongfully terminated by her because she couldn’t lash out at me. I left in February after being fed up with her and the way our boss handled it. It was only then he finally handled it and put her on a PIP.

        Also ironically, she was recently fired for having an utter meltdown similar to this two weeks ago. Of course, in this case, she was refusing to do her job.

        I admit I am extremely biased having seen “the other side”, but to my problem coworker’s credit, she was definitely having a mental breakdown and lashed out. Not saying it is right, but I see parallels.

      2. Meep*

        A mental breakdown was my first thought, but I have been on the other side of this.

        Ironically, ten months ago, my now former coworker was involved in drama. She had been involved in personal drama for a long time before, but it finally came too much for me when she kept making snide comments about my reproductive health (I had bronchitis and phenomena from COVID. Somehow it translated into me just ovulating to this woman…). So I lodged a complaint as one does. She spun it out for two months and dragged others into it. Two people were wrongfully terminated by her because she couldn’t lash out at me. I left in February after being fed up with her and the way our boss handled it. It was only then he finally handled it and put her on a PIP.

        Also ironically, she was recently fired for having an utter meltdown similar to this two weeks ago. Of course, in this case, she was refusing to do her job.

        I admit I am extremely biased, but I definitely see similar parallels of mental breakdown and lashing out between OP and my problem coworker.

      1. KRM*

        I would agree except if the boss has “lost some faith” in OP (self-reported!), it doesn’t really seem like OP was 100% in the right. It’s a pretty big step to gloss over, IMO, and we could definitely use more information about how this may feed into how the boss then interacted with her.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Eh I don’t know if that’s necessarily a conclusion I would jump to. Sometimes the drama stink just sticks to you regardless of your role in it. But I agree I would like more information on that bit.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Possible, but the fact that the OP also sent out what sounds like a very emotional e-mail to the boss makes me think that the OP might have a pattern.

  11. Hills to Die on*

    So you have a pattern of behavior here, and you have been more irritable lately due to some added work pressures. You may want o consider some counseling or professional coaching to help address the root cause. This really only puts a band-aid on the email issue but doesn’t address WHY you have done this or what you can do to keep yourself from ‘freaking out’ (even if you don’t act on it).
    It’s good that you’re looking at this and want to fix it, but you need to pull out the roots too.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Yep. Especially if this is out of character. If your company has an EAP I’d start there. And I say this as someone who strongly feels all employees could benefit from utilizing it at least once or twice a year.

    2. Mid*

      Yeah–I’m wondering if there is some burnout or other issue at play. It feels like OP might be too emotionally invested at work, and is taking personal stress out on their workplace, or is letting work stress impact their personal life. Both of those are normal human things, but not to this extent. The last few years have been traumatic and stressful, and it sounds like this project might just be the back breaking straw.

      OP, if you see this, can you take a good vacation? A solid two weeks of disconnecting, not thinking about work at all? Spending time with family and friends, doing hobbies or spending time in nature, really anything that will get you away from your job for a while? I know that it’s not realistic for everyone to disconnect like that, but it sounds like you might really need it.

      1. Tango*

        I agree with this.
        I’ve learned that I start reacting more strongly and wanting to write similar emails (one of which was sent) when I’m burned out and really it’s time for me to move on.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        I send so many fewer snippy emails on my current job than my previous one. Partly it’s being in a different working environment, but mostly it’s due to the most stressful 4 years of my life having now concluded. Stress in your personal life and your work life simultaneously can be almost unbearable, so if that’s what is happening in your case, OP, my sympathies and I hope you can find some strategies to make the stress more manageable.

      3. Cold and Tired*

        This. My tolerance for things at work is like a cup. Each annoyance adds water to the cup until I hit my limit aka it overflows. Normally the annoyances alone don’t cause it to overflow, but stresses both in and out of work, annoyances in my personal life, etc all add water to the cup themselves, making the likelihood of it overflowing and me losing control of my emotions and getting snippy much higher.

        I’ve learned over time to be more aware of my personal moods, and to essentially ban myself from writing emails/teams messages when I’ve passed my limit until I’ve had a chance to take a break and cool down. I let my anger and annoyance get the best of me when I was younger and newer in my job and it always went poorly and led to negative feedback, so I’ve learned how to give myself that space and avoid sending things until I regain emotional control.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I want to add as a general note to the readers, not the OP specifically, that my course of depression didn’t follow the most common pattern. It took me a really long time to realize it was depression because I didn’t feel much sadness but I felt very *angry* especially about situations that I had no control over so I felt helpless. Major changes are usually worth looking into with a therapist even if you don’t what is behind it.

  12. ThatGirl*

    On Friday in the open thread I mentioned that my husband had vented to me a bit about a work situation, and that I was irritated on his behalf that his new boss at his new job had scolded him for doing something wrong instead of walking him through the right way to do it.

    Now, that was just between me and him — he didn’t write any angry emails or do anything rash. And I encouraged him to talk to her about what went wrong and how he could do better next time.

    And you know, turns out his anxiety had gotten the better of him to an extent, and he jumped to some conclusions. And maybe she could have handled it better, but the good news is that he *talked* to her instead of just spewing forth in an email, and they got back on the same page.

  13. Falling Diphthong*

    Last year, he lost some faith in me after I got into some personnel drama in another department.
    Pulling that out OP because it’s followed by:
    That drama ended around 10 months ago, after most of the involved parties left the company.

    Did something happen last year that really loosened your grip on professional norms? (Like dealing with a stressful thing outside work.) In last year’s round your reputation took a bad hit, and the problem ended because other people involved eventually left, rather than because of any action you took to lower the drama. And now you seem to have repeated the cycle, ramped up higher–as you say, you could have avoided the whole thing. But for some reason you didn’t.

    I would advise looking deep to find the reason. Because this seems to be a (new? or not?) pattern for you, and a pattern that is very hurtful to you. Try to figure out what makes you repeat this pattern.

    For what you can do with your boss: A profuse apology, in which you acknowledge what you did wrong and how it affected him. Do not use the word “but.” Promise to do better going forward, with examples of what that will look like such as Alison gives. The advice above about determining what’s behind this pattern is how you have that last promise mean something.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. OP had five trouble-free years with the same company and the same manager. Then suddenly they’re having “personnel drama” in another department, then firing off an email tirade about something that could and should have been cleared up on the spot.

      Something clearly has changed for the OP, and I’d sincerely advise them to take some time to look at what else might be going on. A change in health, troubles at home, or whatever. There’s a pattern forming here that isn’t going to work to the OP’s advantage.

    2. J.B.*

      The phrasing is very passive. I’m not sure how one “becomes involved with” personnel drama in another unless it’s part of the job. There may be problems throughout the whole workplace (probably are with this much stress over a project) and this might also be an example of how a bad job can warp your norms.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        “There may be problems throughout the whole workplace (probably are with this much stress over a project) and this might also be an example of how a bad job can warp your norms.”

        You actually said in these two lines exactly what I was trying to get at in a three paragraph post! That was basically what I meant, that there may be problems in the workplace that are leading to the LW being stressed and overreacting.

  14. Nick*

    Really disappointed Alison did not address the culpability of the manager. “He acknowledges that he did say that I “would get a bad review” if the current approach to this project didn’t work out.” How else would a reasonable person interpret that statement? I mean, the manager’s excuse is basically, “Yeah, I said that, but I obviously didn’t mean that.” That absolutely deserves to be called out and and OP deserves a clear, written performance expectation. All the bullet points OP made were valid.

    While I concur that e-mail was the poor choice, I can see why OP went that route. We have been conditioned to tackle tough issues indirectly whether that be through softening the message or communicating indirectly through a letter , text, or e-mail. That’s the same reason managers often are not direct with negative feedback and constantly try to “soften the message”. The manager should take responsibility for this situation as well as OP. That was very poorly communicated.

      1. Avril Ludgateaux*

        I didn’t want to say the “g” word since people misuse it so frequently, but I definitely read it that way as well. i.e. The OP maybe read the situation quite correctly (even if their response was uncouth), but when they took the manager to task, it read to me like the manager was scrambling to rewrite the initial conversation. Which, in turn, has made OP question their interpretation of events.

        At any rate, I can’t help but think it is never the right choice to tell somebody that “this will affect your performance review” during a crisis. I don’t think it has ever been helpful advice – similar to the way telling somebody to ‘calm down’ or ‘cheer up!’ is almost never effective. You either offer constructive solutions, or you focus on reminding the person of the expected outcomes, but “this will affect your performance review” – even if in part – is putting somebody in a position where their focus is on avoiding punishment rather than aiming for success. And if they’re already feeling backed into a corner, or on the verge of failure, being reminded that their manager isn’t coming to bat for them is only going to push the panic button.

    1. MK*

      I disagree. To me the OP’s interpretation of the manager’s statement isn’t one a reasonable person would make, and at the very least her accusing him of deceiving and misleading her was completely unwarranted.

      1. ElasticPlastic*

        I also disagree. Basing a review on one project or task when there have been many other projects would be such a strange thing to do that I would either interpret it as the manager intended (which is what I did when reading the letter) or try to clarify.

      2. Nick*

        I disagree with you. I consider myself a reasonable person and interpret it exactly as OP did. If the project plan fails, you will get a bad review. Pretty cut and dry.

        1. KRM*

          I would interpret as “you will get a bad review *on the project*”, thus impacting your whole review. However, this disagreement shows that the managers words were open to interpretation, and the OP should have ASKED before sending an angry tirade. The lesson here is that if something seems outrageous to you, it likely will help to first ask for clarification. And it doesn’t have to be right then! If you think it seems unfair, you can write an email or say to your boss “Hey, when we talked about this project last week, I felt like you were saying that my whole review would be bad because of just that project. That seems unfair because I have a larger body of work for the year than just that. Can you help me understand?”. Nobody is perfect, and the boss said something unclear, and didn’t get a chance to clear it up before OP flew off the handle at him. We all make mistakes, and we all deserve a chance to make things clear–it would have been better for OP if the boss had that chance, but the email can’t be unsent, so I think Alison’s script is the best path forward.

        2. Kella*

          It’s hard to tell how clear the manager actually was because we’re getting OP’s impression of what he said, not a verbatim account. That’s not to say the OP is an unreliable narrator at all, or that we shouldn’t’t trust their account. It just means that memories are imperfect and we remember what we understood more than we remember what specific words were said. So it’s perfectly logical that based on OP’s memory, you’d come to a similar understanding that OP did.

          Regardless, OP was perfectly within their rights to ask for *clarification,* either because the manager was unclear or because misunderstandings happen as a feature of being human. But even if what the manager said did sound like he was saying exactly what OP understood, it would still be a jump to react the way OP did instead of acting for clarification *because* it directly contradicts a number of other things that manager has said in the past. The manager wasn’t saying “I said this, but you should’ve understood what I actually meant, not what I said. They were likely saying, “I said this, but within the context of everything else I’ve said, I’m surprised that’s what you took it to mean, and that you jumped to the conclusion that I’m going back on everything else I’ve said thus far, given I don’t have a history of doing that.”

        3. biobotb*

          Except to interpret it that way, you have to assume that the normal review procedure (more than one project will be assessed) has been completely upended. That would be a huge change that probably would not be dropped on employees without warning. Instead of saying, “Wait, would they really make such a big change without notifying us?” OP just decided that that’s what had happened, and ran with it. The apparently large change in procedure should have given her a “Wait, what?” moment that then triggered her to ask for clarification, but it didn’t.

    2. Ell*

      It kind of sounds like the manager DID take responsibility and could’ve clarified immediately had OP asked in person.
      I imagine if the manager had written in they would’ve gotten a breakdown of how to have handled the situation better, but that doesn’t really help OP. Especially given the pattern of decision-making that they need to address to relieve some concerns about the situation.

      1. Nick*

        I does not sound to me like the manager has taken any responsibility to me. It sounds like he basically said, “yeah, I said that, but I didn’t mean that. You, employee, were totally wrong and I can’t believe you took what I said at face value. You should know I don’t mean what I say. Go take a couple of days to think about how you screwed up and I did nothing wrong.” More or less…

        1. Anon all day*

          Doesn’t matter to OP’s question. OP has no power to punish the manager, OP can only control their behavior and their image going forward.

          1. Nick*

            I think at least acknowledging that OP was not completely off base for interpreting the message the way they did falls in line with contents of the letter. I am in no way saying that a long and aggressive e-mail was in any way ok, just that OP should know they started from a rational position and took a completely irrational approach. They took several leaps when jumping to conclusions and started where most people finish (if the conflict is not resolved and they feel justified). You always start by simply asking questions and having a conversation, never start by making aggressive accusations.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Exactly. The OP can only control the OP’s actions. The issue to address is how to best repair the working relationship with the boss.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d be glad to talk about why! That did strike me as strange too, but I don’t think I have enough information to really know what was going on there. It sounds like the OP misunderstood what the boss meant and I don’t know if that’s because any reasonable person in the OP’s shoes would have or if it was because of something on her end. But given that there’s already misunderstanding there, it’s possible that the boss was simply being clear about how the project would be assessed (for both of them, not just the OP — he said it would affect his performance review too). Depending on how it’s done, it can be a good thing to be really clear about how something will be evaluated. It really depends on how it’s done though (obviously it shouldn’t be in a threatening/punitive way), and I have zero sense of that from what the OP wrote. Combined with the fact that there was already a big misunderstanding here, I decided it wasn’t the main point of what I wanted to tell the OP. It is an open question for me though.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        The only thing i’d really knock the manager for was waiting three days to reply… If someone on my team had sent an email like that I would want to talk it out ASAP.

        1. Mid*

          I’m wondering if the email was sent on a Friday, and manager reached out to talk about it on Monday. Three business days might be a little strange, but I’m guessing the manger wanted time to calm down because they were hurt and feeling emotional about the email. (Which also seems a little over the top, and it seems like both OP and the manager might need some PTO to step back from work for a bit.)

        2. Lifelong student*

          Perhaps the manager was actually doing what has been suggested. Compose a response- but delay in sending it until calmer. If I got that email- my immediate response probably would not have been constructive for anyone!

        3. Laney Boggs*

          I think it was actually the smartest thing to do. The last thing they needed to do was have LW send an emotionally charged email… Mgr send an emotionally charged message back/call while baffled… LW to get more frustrated… Etc.

          Mgr effectively ended the cycle by letting both himself and LW sit on their feelings for a few days.

        4. Bagpuss*

          It may be that he thought it was best to give OP time to cool down and take stock fiorst. And it’s also possible that he was doing things like talking to HR about what the options were – for isntnace if he’d had tat conversation and OP had doubled down with accurations or had another outburst.

          I’ve definitely had situations where there has been a delay responding to someone becaue I needed to get some advice or a second opinion before doing anything.

          1. Anonym*

            I would need a day or two to ensure my head was clear after receiving something like that. Even if I wasn’t upset on an emotional level, I’d need time to parse the issue and come up with a well thought out approach for discussing with the OP. Would not want to wing that!

          2. Qwerty*

            It also gives OP time to cool down and mitigate their own actions. Had they gone to their boss the day after sending the email but with a cooler head, it would have been a very different conversation.

            As a manager, I’d also want to see how the OP was interacting with their colleagues during those couple of days, especially given the previous personnel incident.

        5. Hiring Mgr*

          I get the replies… my thought is if I’d been working with this person for six years, we should be able to have a reasonable conversation about what appears to be a misunderstanding. No need to reply emotionally or whatever, just like what’s going on? Letting it stew for a few days doesn’t make sense to me, (unless it’s on a weekend, then i’d probably let it lie ’til Monday)

          1. kiki*

            Yeah, because they’re a manager, I feel like there’s more responsibility to respond to something like this relatively quickly? For sure take a few hours or the rest of the day to collect your thoughts, but waiting longer than that seems strange. Especially since the LW’s letter indicated to me that they were in a pretty distressed state– trying to clear that up or encourage them to take a few days of leave ideally should have been done more quickly.

      2. Nick*

        Yeah, I can see the how the LW’s account may not be fully trustworthy, but I am not sure there really was a misunderstanding. It sounds like it was a miscommunication on the managers part. If he confirmed that he said what he said, and that differed from previous performance discussions, then he needs to own that. Maybe he did and LW is minimizing it, who knows. I suspect LW may be a drama lama, but that phrasing stands out to me. If you have to go back and say, “I didn’t mean what I said” then something went wrong in communicating the message.

        I have definitely made that mistake though, I said something to an employee that was badly misinterpreted and sent them down a panicked spiral of what ifs. But I owned that. My slightly clumsy word choice started the whole thing, so my employee got a lot of slack. I addressed professionalism, asked that they come to me sooner with concerns of that magnitude, and then I apologized. I know we have a lot on our minds as managers, and often a clearer picture of the totality of what’s actually going, so what we say might come across differently to those who are not in the know. As the managers, the onus is on us to me clear in communications.

    4. Student*

      While I agree, the manager isn’t the one who wrote in for advice. I think it’s reasonable to keep focus on giving advice to the person who’s actually asking for it. If AAM also takes the manager to task here, where the OP also clearly could do some things better, then that risks undercutting the main message by giving the OP an out to just blame the manager.

      I think AAM is generally pretty good about pointing out when other letter writers are doing fine and should, in fact, just blame others, when it’s appropriate. That just doesn’t fit for this letter, and blaming both sides would dilute the actionable advice.

      1. CTT*

        Yeah, I think of what Carolyn Hax will say a lot in her live chats, about how “I would have different advice for your [friend/spouse/child], but they aren’t the ones who wrote in to me.” Alison can’t give advice to people who don’t know that she’s giving it to them!

    5. Gracely*

      The manager isn’t the one writing in, and OP can’t really call out the manager anymore than has already happened. The advice is for OP, not the manager. If the manager had written in, I’m sure Allison would’ve addressed that.

        1. KRM*

          Yes, when they write in. But there’s nothing the OP can do to address what the manager already said. They can only address what happened with them. If the manager wrote in, it’s possible he would have been told “what you said seems really unclear and you need to make sure you work on your messaging before having another meeting like that”, among other advice. But again…the OP can’t unring any bells, and the advice is for the OP.

    6. Thelma Rae*

      And how exactly is the manager going to get that message from Alison writing a blog post? If the manager wrote in I’m sure Alison could advise them on how to do better, but the focus on this site is, strangely enough, on helping those who actually write in seeking advice.

      1. Nick*

        Alison reassures letter writers that they are not wrong or completely wrong all the time. She routinely calls out management mistakes, even if mistakes were made on both sides.

    7. Ray Gillette*

      Sure, but the manager isn’t the one who wrote in for advice. The LW can only control her side of the interaction and relationship. And sure, while the manager didn’t handle the situation well, the LW acknowledges that she could have talked to the manager instead of sending a long, angry email. It would have been very different if she’d said, in person, “Sorry, did you just say I would get a bad performance review if this project doesn’t go well? That sounds scary and not in line with what we discussed last time performance reviews came up.”

      1. Nick*

        I agree that LW took the wrong approach, totally agree on that. But still, Alison calls out management mistakes regularly no matter who wrote in for advice.

        1. Lana Kane*

          I think it’s very much a case by case thing, because ultimately what we have is the perspective of the letter writer. I’ve seen Alison say something like “if the way you present it is how it went down, then that’s not good management”. Because ultimately it’s not ok to call someone a bad manager when you don’t have full context. Not only is it not fair, but it can embolden behaviors on the LW’s side that may not have been fully explained in the letter.

          I’d liken it to this: I have a friend who has a troubled relationship with his brother. Brother has stolen from their parents, etc, and Friend finally decided to cut contact. Brother went to therapy (which is good) but his description of Friend made him seem like the problem, and the therapist supposedly concluded that Friend is “toxic”. If that’s true, then that therapist made a pretty bold assessment of someone without knowing the full story.

    8. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Totally agree. Given the manager’s statement, I don’t see anything wrong with what OP wrote. Nothing in there was inflammatory and it was focused on OP’s feelings. I’m struggling to see the issue here other than that OP’s manager blew up the situation to begin with and thinks OP is more in the wrong.

      1. Anon all day*

        OP specifically described the letter they wrote as “long and aggressive”. Not sure why you think that’s ever okay.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I understand that, but that’s in direct contrast to all of the quotes they included so I’m quite confused.

          1. Le Sigh*

            I think those quotes might be fine on their own or in different context, but if all of those statements were in one very long email and based on what they described as a misunderstanding … I think it could easily read as an aggressive screed or at least confrontational. And I think this is where the limits of electronic communication really come in — tone, body language, all of that gets lost here.

          2. Books and Cooks*

            You those quotes are all the opposite of “aggressive?” Some think they’re not inflammatory?

            LW accused her boss of lying, blindsiding, moving goal posts, being sneaky, changing policies and procedures in the middle of a project with no notice, being unfair, being unreliable, and dismissing her work. I think that’s pretty aggressive, especially when it’s based on a misunderstanding of something the boss had every right to expect her to understand (i.e. how reviews work at that office, a subject Boss had just covered thoroughly with LW a few months prior, which LW should be aware of already after five years at the company anyway, and LW acknowledges being aware that this big project would be part of that review), and which the boss had no idea LW had not understood.

            LW says that Boss said that “I/we” would have an issue on their reviews if no progress is made on the project. I do not see how, “This will reflect badly on both of us if we don’t make some progress on it,” is some kind of threat against LW alone, especially when it’s said in the context of, “This is why we have to do this thing we don’t think will work, is because we need these people to get on board if we want to make that progress.” People say this kind of thing all the time at work–“It will look bad for us if we don’t get X done”–and again, LW acknowledges knowing that this project would be part of their review, so it’s not even like LW was just at that moment realizing it would be. The fact that Boss actually suggested an excuse for LW’s behavior, and gave her a couple of days off to relax and de-stress, makes me suspect that he is not some malevolent villain.

            At worst, he said something without putting much thought into the possibility that LW would misunderstand it. At best, he said something normal that he had every reason to think LW would understand, and got a long, aggressive email accusing him of being a liar and sneak who didn’t care about any of the previous work she’d done for him/the company.

        2. Chris too*

          The dividing line between “assertive” and “aggressive” seems to vary between people.
          We’re encouraged to be “assertive.”

          I don’t think the LW did anything wrong in questioning this, but it’s more the combative tone that catches my attention.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            The LW was totally justified in wanting clarification, it’s just very unfortunate that they chose this way of requesting it. I do wonder if there is stress on both sides here – the LW jumping to conclusions because they are stressed, but also the manager communicating badly because they are under pressure from their higher-ups to complete a project which has a high rate of staff absence.

            Stress could be causing bad communication on both sides here. The manager’s misinterpreted remark really sounded to me like them pressuring OP to deliver because they are themselves bring pressured.

    9. LB*

      He was saying the project would get a bad review- or at least, that’s such an obvious and more-reasonable interpretation of the remark that OP should have clarified before assuming the wilder option.

    10. Lana Kane*

      I cannot see how the OP went the route of such an angry email, on something that could have been discussed reasonably. Especially since they have a decent relationship with their boss.

      I also don’t understand the extremely literal read of the comment, without considering context or considering that there might have been a miscommunication. In Boss’s shoes I never would have thought that OP would think I meant a bad review of all your work – as if this were a class where the grade hinged on one paper. None of this seems like a reasonable response.

  15. HIPAA-Potamus*

    Sure, OP could have owned it better, but I don’t find their actions reprehensible in the least. It’s a panick-y time, the boss did make an indirect threat about their review in the context of a project discussion and the OP was being human. While tinged with frustration, I do not think any of the wording in OP’s email was inflammatory or indicative of a personal attack against the boss. I mean- how would you feel if you were at the mercy of other teams, looking for support to move a project along and were met with, “Well, it’s on you if it doesn’t go well, I’m going to give you a bad review?”

    They could have both done better, sure, but I feel for OP.

    1. L-squared*

      I disagree. It seems that a lot of her assumptions about what he meant were wrong. So its hard to say that because SHE panicked and heard what she wanted to hear, that she wasn’t wrong. Even if how she misunderstood it was right, the way she went about that, guns blazing, just doesn’t come across as professional

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It wasn’t at all professional I agree, but the boss has their own part here in having said something that does seem at least ambiguous. I expect the performance review is already on her mind since they’ve been having discussions about it (things they discussed 4 months ago about what deliverables would be an input to the review) and then it comes off as: “if you fail, it will tank not only your own performance review but mine [boss’s] as well”.

      1. Anon all day*

        Yeah, a lot of the comments here are concerning, in that they’re telling OP that they were completely in the right to send a “long and aggressive” email to their boss. Like, unless we’re talking about illegal things happening, that’s never good. I’m concerned people are going to take away from the comments that being “right” justifies such a dramatic response, and it’s going to result in lost jobs.

        1. Mid*

          I think that’s a little bit of a leap–some people are saying they understand WHY OP reacted the way they did and that they might have had a similar reaction, but I don’t think a lot of people think that sending a “long and aggressive” email is ever a good idea in the workplace. Understandable, yes. Justified, absolutely not.

          I get why OP was panicked and sent the email, and in their shoes, I can’t say I would have been all that different. (Well, I can a little, I’ve been in a similar situation, I vented to a safe non-work friend about it, and then talked to my boss about it when calmer. But, my annual reviews are always kind of a joke, so that threat doesn’t mean much to me, and I’m not under the pressure of this massive project going sideways and taking the blame for it.) And a lot of people would probably draft up a similar email–but the majority would probably not actually send it.

          1. Anon all day*

            Nah, there are people commenting that OP’s done nothing wrong, that they’re being too hard on themselves, that their actions aren’t reprehensible. There are a lot of excuses for the letter that OP sent.

            1. Books and Cooks*

              And that the email, including the phrases quoted from it, is perfectly fine and acceptable, too. Nothing inappropriate at all in accusing your boss of being deceitful, unreliable, inconsistent, and unfair, dismissing one’s value as an employee, and generally acting in bad faith.

        2. Polly Hedron*

          a lot of the comments here are concerning, in that they’re telling OP that they were completely in the right to send a “long and aggressive” email to their boss. Like, unless we’re talking about illegal things happening, that’s never good.

          Well, even if illegal things were happening, a long and aggressive email would not be the best way of handling that situation.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      You don’t think “misled and deceived” is inflammatory? That’s the OP accusing their boss of *intentionally lying* to them. I think you would be very upset if someone sent you an email like this, because it’s an attack. The whole list is full of big emotions, repeated with synonyms. That’s not just “being human”, that’s being really emotional and unprofessional and over the top. Your own word choice of “threat” is also inflammatory, so maybe you don’t have the clearest perspective here.

      Pretty much anything written in a panic is going to come out badly, but this is very bad. And I have some experience with sending emails I later regretted. I feel for the OP too, but that doesn’t mean we should downplay their choices.

      1. HIPAA-Potamus*

        To be clear, I do not condone what OP did, i.e. the choice to fire off the email. But, no, I do not think the wording was inflammatory or an attack. And if we’re getting into perspective here, the boss’s actions could be interpreted as threatening. Mainly, the timing of the “bad review” comment, the context and the half-hearted explanation after the fact. It put OP into a tailspin. Do I think OP reacted and was projecting whatever happened with the past “personnel” issue? Of course. But boss was no saint.

        1. Nutella and banana on toast*

          We don’t know the wording just key phrases that the OP believes are the most egregious. Those points in what the OP describes as a long and aggressive email I would consider it an attack on the boss.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      Disagree. Using terms like “misled and deceived” and “constantly moving target” in a long email about how they’ve been wronged is pretty personal, and definitely unprofessional. The boss indicated that *both of them* could be looking at poor evaluations due to the project, which is not a threat to scapegoat OP. Clearly OP is stressed and susceptible to overreaction for a variety of reasons, and the boss could have communicated better, but OP definitely flew off the handle here when a few deep breaths and a clarifying conversation could have avoided it.

      1. Kesnit*

        How is it not a “moving target?” OP was told 4 months prior that multiple things would be part of their evaluation. Then they were told this one, current project would be the basis for their eval. That is the definition of a “moving target.”

        1. Critical Rolls*

          OP was told the *part* of their eval involving the project was going to be impacted, and interpreted it as the *whole* review, so OP was making an incorrect accusation. Which, again, means they unnecessarily blew up a situation instead of resolving it.

    4. marvin*

      Based on how the LW framed the question, it sounds like they regret the email and wish they had responded differently. They also say that their manager is a reasonable person and was taken aback, so regardless of the details, it seems safe to say that in the context of this relationship, it was a misstep.

      I’d echo everyone who says that this might be a sign that it’s time to evaluate whether there is some deeper source of anxiety or burnout at play that is causing the LW to act in ways they later regret. It sounds like they’re having outsized emotional reactions and acting out of character, which for me usually happens when I’m really worn down emotionally.

  16. Elle*

    If I were OP, I’d be trying to examine what’s been going on with myself in the past year. It sounds like she had 5 good, smooth years at this job until this past year. Drama with another department is s red flag, but it didn’t happen until she’d been at the job for years. It sounds like a lot of reflection is needed about what’s going on personally and/or with work. Two big incidents like this in a year is worrisome. What’s changed?

    1. Chris too*

      A worldwide pandemic that isn’t over yet, a war in Europe that affects the world’s food supply, scary inflation, and evidence that our climate change chickens are coming home to roost?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I’ve noticed a REAL uptick in “dramatic” behavior from normally level employees in the last year or two. Scare quotes because I’m not sure it’s dramatic so far as a really normal response to the constant stress barrage everyone has experienced. Some people have been more demanding, more emotional, have just left to completely change lifestyle or career, experienced burnout more easily, seemed way more emotionally involved in work than is healthy…I’m not immune from some of these things myself. I’m not just talking about my current company either. People are struggling.

  17. Prospect Gone Bad*

    I think there is room for a pile on to the employee here, so I will add, as a manager, I do not like this manager’s approach. You don’t wait 3 days to respond to an email like this (unless he was out or it was a weekend?). You don’t tell someone to take off a day or two to think about being concerned about their performance review. Is the project important or not? That is sending mixed messages. “Your work is so important that I need you to take off time to stew about something else” is such a dumb message for the manager to send.

    The OP is a tad dramatic but the manager is too rigid and serious. I feel like you need to talk on egg shells around both of them, because they’re psychoanalyzing everything you say under a microscope. How can you get into the productive and creative state of mind, worrying about how every little thing you say is going to be taken?

    I’m also not thrilled that the manager is somewhat dismissive about someone caring about their review. I feel like “I didn’t mean that” doesn’t really address the issue in this case becuase they sort of did say what OP thought. As a manager, I don’t let people run their mouths constantly but I still have good boundaries with people with letting them occasionally rant like this. Is it unreasonable for someone to get touchy about reviews and money during two years of high inflation? Nope

    Also, where is the manager when it comes to the actual work? If big project might fail, what are they doing to help? Are they just sitting bank and judging OP if it fails?

    1. Deschain*

      Agree 100%! The advice given is wildly missing the manager’s responsibility in this situation, as you pointed out. Your advice is spot on all around.

      1. Mid*

        The manager didn’t write in for advice though, and so it wouldn’t really help OP, who was writing about how to fix their relationship with their manager and their work reputation.

        And honestly, going on at length about what the manager did wrong might actually hurt OP, because when someone feels justified in their response, they are likely to ignore the conditional markers on it. If someone says “Your boss was a jerk but also you shouldn’t have keyed his car or signed his email up for spam mailing lists,” people tend to stop listening at “your boss was a jerk” and ignore the other, more important parts of that sentence.

        This OP might not take it to that extreme because they clearly see that they are part of a bad pattern of behavior, but not fully–because it sounds like they let personal drama go on for months and never resolved it, it just went away, and now they’re jumping to conclusions, and it’s sounding like they’re overly emotionally invested in their job and not separating out personal issues from work right now.

        Alison addressed what could be clearly addressed from the information in the letter, without making assumptions or leaps about things that aren’t there.

          1. Mid*

            True, but I guess it seemed more personal than personnel, due to the fact that it only resolved when people left the company.

    2. WellRed*

      He told OP to take a few days off and think things over in general, not the review specifically is how I read it. It’s good advice and if OP had taken a pause in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this predicament now. And it is a predicament. I think if OP wanted any chance of moving up at the company or taking on larger projects, that’s out the window.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        I think that is horrible advice. You do that if there are real problems or the person wants to quit or is having a major life emergency. But having a project not going well? It’s actually counter-productive to be off thinking about it. Too much room to catastrophize or think up new problems or generally be stressed.

        What is the likely outcome? They either surmise that they are correct or come kowtowing back, apologizing for daring to misunderstand contradictory statements and being stressed? Sorry, I hate dramatic emails as much as anyone, but none of this rises to this level of seriousness and coldness. It’s a job, not a funeral or prison

        If I sent people home to think everytime there was a hiccup, they’d be out every month

        1. WellRed*

          I’d say OP already catastrophized when they sent off an aggressive email. They also admit to being stressed and irritable for the past two months. Less than a year ago they got into personal drama with several coworkers. This is not a hiccup. This is a stressed out person developing an unattractive pattern.

          1. AD*


            The manager may have improved some of the ways they approached the first conversation and subsequent interactions with OP but I’m concerned that OP has a pattern of poor judgment now. That email — regardless of intent — was out of line and the really veiled, passive attempts at describing the drama w/colleagues last year paints a picture of concern. What exactly happened last year that your reputation w/your manager took a hit, OP? Not clear if there was any accountability or resolution to that situation, something which may well have exacerbated your poor response here.

        2. metadata minion*

          Especially if this is out of character for the LW, I see the advice to take a day off as being less about the project and more about the email. If you’re so stressed that you’re sending long angry emails to your boss, taking a day off seems like a really reasonable suggestion.

        3. Books and Cooks*

          LW wasn’t sent home over a project not going well. They were sent home specifically to think about whether their stress levels and being under pressure contributed to that email, and/or if they truly felt all of those insults were valid and appropriate. It’s actually pretty generous and kind of this manager to respond to an email like that with, “I think you’re under a lot of pressure, and perhaps that’s causing you to lash out like this. Why don’t you take a day or two off, and see if you agree, and we’ll talk about it when you come back,” instead of, “This email is completely unacceptable, and I’m going to formally document it,” or, “This email is completely inappropriate, and reflects so poorly on your professional judgment and behavior that maybe we need to re-think your position here.”

          “Many things, including this project, are part of your review,” and “If this project goes badly, it will negatively impact your review,” are not contradictory statements. They’re actually quite consistent. The only “contradiction” there was the one LW invented, with absolutely no basis.

          And yes, if people were sent home to think every time there was a hiccup, people would be out every month. But I suspect the number of people sent home because they completely misinterpreted a very reasonable comment from their boss, took it to mean that established policy and procedures had been thrown out the window with no notice just to damage them, and responded by writing a long, angry email accusing their boss of being a deliberate liar and saboteur, would be far fewer. And I’d also bet that at least a few of those people wouldn’t be sent home for a day or two to think, they’d be sent home for good (or for a longer, formally documented period of time, i.e. suspended for two weeks without pay).

          1. Yellow Flotsam*

            I have to say my reaction to being sent home from work to think about my behaviour would be taking those days to job hunt.

            My expectation of being sent home from work is that my job is at risk and jumping is better than being pushed – and get out BEFORE the performance review so when I’m job hunting I can honestly say I had great performance reviews.

            Possibly a silly reaction. But I know myself, and in the back of my mind I’d be wondering if I really misunderstood the threat. But then, shifting goal posts and impossible targets are part and parcel of performance reviewers in my experience. Nothing like a target tied to cancelled or doomed project.

            Not that I’d have sent the letter. If my skills were at all in demand I’d figure starting over elsewhere would likely be the best option and the applications would be going out and the resignation in.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Reading between the lines the manager does strike me as quite passive in some ways. He didn’t agree with the other stakeholders’ approach but went along with it in order to maintain harmony — did he actually express any disagreement / alternative approach with them though, or just zip it and then express to the OP that he doesn’t agree with their method but she has to implement it anyway? It sounds to me (and I think there’s enough in the letter to justify me thinking this) that he’s quite hands-off, goes to meetings about these projects but doesn’t actually get involved in any of the detail. Which, as a boss it isn’t typically his place to be up in the minutiae of executing the project, but still ought to have some awareness.

      On the subject of telling her to take a couple of days off to decompress and how that sends mixed messages about the importance of the project… not necessarily. It could be the urgent/important distinction, where the project is important but not (critically) urgent, since they are talking about tying up loose ends which could be just the final stages of a project — documentation and so on.

      Ultimately I get the sense he might take any of the normal “ups and downs” in the OPs performance (which are a standard part of work life) as further evidence of this “pattern” – which they may or may not be – confirmation bias.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Oh yes he’s definitely too hands off. He wants to go through the motions and hope things work out. I don’t see him managing here. Threatening a bad review may have been more common decades ago when bosses were more authoritarian, but it still was bad management.

    4. Meep*

      Considering they had this project due, I could see the manager taking those three days to address the project first and make sure their clearly wire-thin-nerved employee has cover for two days. At the end of the day, the manager misspoke and the employee took the opportunity to pull out a flamethrower in retailation.

  18. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Well. At least you didn’t deliver it in song?

    I think it would not hurt to find a better job with a different boss.

  19. Big Red Gummies*

    Oh man. This is terrible. I can see why you freaked out but the email combined with your personal drama is not good. If I were your boss I’d be documenting ever little thing so I could be free of you.

    Personal drama (at work!!!) plus the email make me wonder. Have you considered yoga or something that is beneficial to a calm mind? Maybe even something like rock climbing! Sometimes it’s nice to have time to think.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      FYI, OP says personnel drama, not personal drama, so your second point is not so bad.

      1. ferrina*

        It’s still bad. Any kind of drama at work is not good (unless you work in a performing arts org). I’ve had people come at me with drama, and I was still professional. Drama is usually active participation.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I agree – and you could argue that personnel drama is worse. But they are different things and they would require entirely different managerial coaching.

          1. AD*

            You are trying to make this distinction several times on this page, but we don’t know enough about the situation to say this.

            OP is vague on details but it appears they had some interpersonal issues with colleagues last year. That is both “personnel” and “personal” drama.

            1. Ditto*

              I am also really confused here. I get that personal and personnel are oft-confused words in general, but I’m honestly not sure how you get to “personnel drama” without the problem also becoming personal.

              Obviously we don’t have nearly enough info on OP’s past problems to meaningfully speculate. But Less Bread More Taxes, can you give an actual example of purely “personnel drama”? And how a manager would coach a report to do better?

            2. Chris too*

              It’s vague, isn’t it? I wonder if it’s one of those “my ex’s new wife now works where I do” – that’s kind of both, and we’ve seen letters like that here.

  20. I'm Done*

    OP, I think you’re being just a bit too hard on yourself. Your email was hardly defamatory unless you left out the worst of it. Secondly, it was reasonable to arrive at the conclusion you arrived at with what your boss told you and thirdly getting dinged on performance issues over which you have no control is not exactly fair either. So all in all you had the right to be upset. However, as you found out, lashing out at the powers that be will rarely rectify the situation. Allyson’s advice is sound but it sounds like you’re getting a bit burned out and frankly after six years it’s probably time to stretch your wings and take flight.

  21. KatEnigma*

    Generally speaking, when you have a conflict with a colleague – and especially with your boss- think about what you are trying to accomplish.

    Because yelling at your boss, even if you hadn’t misunderstood him, was never going to improve your review. Quite the opposite.

    Professionally, you raise concerns, clarify your understanding, and politely object if you think something isn’t right.

    Between that and the previous incident, perhaps you could ask him for some guidance on your soft skills.

    1. Allonge*

      This. Vent to friends and family, or online (anonymously) or to a journal. Message your boss with something constructive.

  22. Be kind, rewind*

    Take this advice, OP, because Alison is right: all it will do is buy you time. Because time is what you need to really have a chance of repairing the relationship. Time not being reactive and being part of drama.

  23. C K*

    I feel your manager is at fault and you’ve done nothing wrong. I would not be apologising.

    Your manager did send you those messages and you received them in the way they gave them, that they’re now backtracking and reinterpreting after the fact does not mean the misinterpretation is on you. Management are literally meant to be good communicators and they failed.

    When they hurt you, you’re allowed to be hurt and angry. I bet you the second you do something wrong your manager will be angry at you too. Professional doesn’t mean emotionless and management (and men) aren’t emotionless either even though they like to say that they are.

    1. C K*

      I’ll also add that personal drama in the workplace is rarely that.
      My wife had contractors hired on who were spreading lies and causing division. Somehow though when she was abused by one of them management decided to call it “personal”.
      Being the target of bullying isn’t personal drama.

      1. Littorally*


        “You are allowed to be hurt and angry” sure, you’re allowed to feel however you feel, but generally speaking it’s better not to act out about it at work. Calm and controlled is the best way to be — for everybody.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Yeah. As a manager of course I sometimes feel negative emotions about things my staff do- but if I’m visibly angry at them (especially “the second they do something wrong”) that would be super inappropriate. I acknowledge my emotions internally and then proceed professionally.

          1. Littorally*


            My job is, quite literally, working with people who are angry. Sometimes justifiably, often not. If I let myself respond to every provocation based on how I feel, I’d be fired so fast I’d break the sound barrier.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I’m not loving the manager either. BUT there’s a big distance between “we’ll get a bad review” and “your entire annual performance review will be bad”, since the word review has a more general meaning as well, so it sounds like a miscommunication not a reinterpretation. And being hurt and angry doesn’t mean you should react by putting that hurt and anger in an email and sending to your boss, or to anyone else. Professionalism means remaining professional even when you are hurt and angry.

      I have indeed been angry when my reports make big mistakes that they really shouldn’t have made. My reports do not know how angry I was. They do now know that I expect better, and the exact way in which I expect better.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > the word review has a more general meaning as well

        It came off quite clearly to OP though- she says “He emphasized several times that I/we “were getting a bad performance review” if progress was not made.” … if that is verbatim by OP I don’t think there is any other type of ‘review’ this can be taken to mean.

        1. KRM*

          Based on how different commenters are interpreting this ‘review’ statement differently, it shows that yes there is indeed room for interpretation, and thus the OP should not have sent an angry email to the boss, but rather should have asked for clarification when she could do so in a calmer fashion.

          1. biobotb*

            And since the manager was discussing reviews in the context of that specific project, he might reasonably assume that the OP would know he only meant a review of that project and had not switched to discussing her performance review in its entirety. At the same time, his phrasing *could* have meant that, and I think the OP’s confusion/worry was also reasonable. Her reaction was not.

    3. L-squared*

      Even if you think the manager is fully at fault, which I totally disagree with (though manager could’ve communicated better), doing this is something you should definitely apologize for if you want to have a good working relationship wtih them. Sometimes you go along to get along. Because, like it or not, OP is already not on great terms because of their own personal drama before, so this is just another reason to say that she isn’t a very professional person.

    4. CTT*

      But no matter how in the right someone is, they still shouldn’t send an email in the heat of the moment. I have been in a similar position to the LW (with a charitable organization, not work) – I misunderstood something that had been poorly presented. I wrote my really upset email, and sat on it for 24 hours because I knew I was really upset and also that the situation was fluid and there could be additional developments. I sent a much more streamlined and less upset email the next day, and so when the person received it, they were in the mindset of “Oh wow, there has been a huge misunderstanding I need to fix” and not “CTT has accused me of [x] and I’m now on the defensive.”

    5. Gerry Keay*

      People are allowed to have emotions, but we live in a society and therefore the ways we act when feeling big emotions can have social consequences. LW can be right, or LW can keep their job. Personally I’d prefer to take the L and keep the roof over my head, but to each their own.

    6. ADidgeridooForYou*

      I’m baffled at all of the responses claiming that the OP was completely in the right. The manager definitely doesn’t sound great, and OP has the right to their feelings, but just because you’re angry doesn’t mean the best option is to go nuclear, especially at work. Professional doesn’t mean emotionless, but it does mean handling your emotions in a mature way. Heck, even in my personal life, if my friend misinterpreted something I said or if I communicated poorly, I would hope that they would express their hurt/anger to me in a way that’s conducive to conversation, rather than, say, fire off an angry text to me.

      Advice like this might feel satisfactory, but it’s very at odds with how people function in the real working world.

    7. Generic Name*

      Uh, of course OP is allowed to be hurt and angry. It’s a bad idea to send a long ranty email to one’s manager, regardless of how hurt and angry one is. I feel all kinds of things at work. Hey, I’m human, but I do my best to manage my outward emotional expression. I’ve gotten blindsided by a review more than once. I chose to ask for specific examples of the behavior they flagged (turns out they couldn’t come up with any). I did not send an angry email that caused my boss to suggest I take some time off to think. There’s a difference between feeling an emotion and acting on it, and that difference is the line between being professional and unprofessional (at least in a white-collar office environment).

    8. J.B.*

      Look, I’m still angry about a draft email a former boss wrote and then printed and left for me (didn’t want a record I guess) which tore into me for not reading her mind. But me lashing out in email would have done nothing to resolve the issue. Far better to move on.

  24. Lab Boss*

    “Never do anything that feels satisfying when you’re angry”- I read that online somewhere and haven’t been able to find it again to cite a source, but oh boy has it saved me so many times from doing things like OP did here.

  25. kiki*

    LW, I strongly encourage you to take that time off. Spend at least one day not thinking at all about work. Then think about your mental health. Is it uncharacteristic of you to get into drama? Have you historically been a panicker or tended towards overreacting? If that all feels like a change, if you feel like the stress of work is changing your personality for the worse, it may be a good time to reach out to your EAP, if you have one. Especially with everything that’s been going on in the world for the last few years, it’s easy to slip into a really bad headspace without noticing.

  26. Really?*

    OP, you sound a lot like my former self. I would get very angry and take things at work very personally. Part of this was because it WAS personal; my job was how I kept food on the table. I was single and on my own.

    Not diagnosing you here – but if it helps, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I now handle this through a combination of therapy and medication. And it’s not a magic cure – but since taking a new job almost 5 years ago, I am perceived by everyone, including my boss, as “always positive”. This takes EFFORT on my part. But I was able to look back at my career and realize that there were so many “big projects” that have now faded from memory, and in the end, did not impact how I live my life. Now when the next “big project“ comes up, I just sort of sigh and know that it is truly the flavor of the month. (I’m in corporate America.) but I can’t let it affect my health anymore. I can’t care about work more than other people. It’s not my company, and they will let me go in a heartbeat if it suits them.

    If you don’t have some hobbies or outside interests, now might be a good time to look into doing something for yourself? Also, mild exercise really helps me a lot. Just walking when I get upset is a super deterrent to getting mad.

    It may seem like exercise and therapy are more items on your to do list, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.

    I wish you lots of luck!!!

    1. kiki*

      Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your growth and healthier outlook!

      I struggle with anxiety and depression as well. It’s been really helpful for me to learn to recognize when anxiety may be clouding my judgment. I’m a very perceptive person, which is often a boon to my work! But that also can mean my anxiety comes into play in unhelpful ways (was that slight delay in answering because they think I’m stupid?? Should I make sure they know I’m smart??).

      A lot of the tips for dealing with work anxiety can sound counterintuitive, but they really help. I know I’m often anxious I’m not doing enough work and will be fired. So naturally I feel like I should then spend 12 hours working, but often that work was done with a panic-addled brain and it’s not good. Most of the time, it’s better to keep healthy routines, hobbies, and interests outside of work. Taking a 30 minute walk in the morning is better for my work than starting 30 minutes early.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In addition to anxiety and depression there are a lot of conditions that can lead to anger, impulsivity, inability to perceive the scale of issues, and some other traits the OP is describing. Some are chronic mental health conditions, some are temporary states like burnout or grief, and maybe it’s just a lack of coping skills or a need for some better emotional distance at work. I think if OP is going to seek professional help, which I agree is good, it’s really important to break out the specifics of what’s going on and what OP wants to see change and not go in with any kind of umbrella already in their pocket.

      (I know you were suggesting that or diagnosing just important to keep in mind!)

  27. KofSharp*

    I want to say I second all the advice of “write a draft, come back tomorrow, figure out the succinct points and then go talk to clear up possible misunderstandings once calm” comments.
    The phrase “My understanding was…” has saved my bacon more than once, because it opens with the assumption that you two are just missing each other’s points, not that there’s anything actually wrong.

    LW, it reads like your behavior changed drastically around year ago. Is there anyone you can talk to about how anxious you are?
    It’s ok to be worried, these are uncertain times.

    1. kiki*

      +1 to “My understanding was”
      – “My concern is ____. Is there something I’m missing?”

    2. Lab Boss*

      I love that phrasing, because by placing it in terms of your own subjective understanding you can disarm so many people’s instincts to be defensive and get them talking about actual solutions.

  28. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, you ought to be really grateful that your boss handled your outburst in about the most professional way possible – including a telling insight into your emotional state!

    You can repair this relationship if you do the work. And if I were you, I’d make a promise to myself to try to be more dispassionate about these things; take some time to cool off, and really consider what you want your communications to accomplish. If all you want to do is vent, then your boss is not the right person to be on the receiving end.

  29. Adereterial*

    I have to say that if my manager said those words to me I’d have interpreted them the exact same way. I don’t think your concerns about that are in any way unreasonable.

    The email was… ill-advised, at best. Whilst saying some of those things would have been OK – I’ve told a manager similar things in the past – tone is important and email doesn’t convey that well in the best of circumstances. I’d echo Alison’s advice to apologise – but I don’t think your interpretation of what your manager said (assuming you reflected it accurately in your post) was off-base at all.

    1. Lab Boss*

      That’s where I’m at- my initial reaction would probably have been the same anger, and I’ve definitely had similar situations where I HAVE had to tell my manager that some new policy was harming me and that we needed to fix it. But your manager has the potential to be your closest ally (especially in this letter where it sounds like the manager ALSO didn’t like the new project), so it pays not to alienate them by venting your anger straight at them.

  30. Meep*

    The comment section does not check the vibe check. :X

    To all those people lambasting the manager: Why does OP get compassion for misspeaking and lashing out in the process while the manager does not for simply mispeaking?

    1. Anon all day*

      Because there will always be a bias against managers/employers in this comment section. There will always be a million explanations for why the employee was justified, but not for the boss.

      1. Delphine*

        Maybe 20% of the comments are discussing the manager’s choice of words and many of them aren’t harsher than “he could have worded this better.”

      2. Gerry Keay*

        It’s almost like there’s a massive power differential where the consequences for bad behavior are 1000x harsher for employees than for employers.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I don’t believe OP mispoke or lashed out. The manager delivered some truly horrible and unfair news.

      1. Someone Online*

        Ok, but the worst news is “You’re fired” and 1) Even in this circumstance you can’t lash out against your former boss; 2) Lashing out brings you closer to the likelihood of being fired.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I agree that lashing out is bad. However, as I said, I don’t believe sending an email that focuses on your own feelings is “lashing out”. “Lashing out” would be sending an email focusing on the manager’s actions and what is wrong with them.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            This should have been a conversation, with the opportunity for discussion and explanation. Not an email. Sending such an email is definitely lashing out. It’s refusing to hear someone’s side. The email is the problem, not the feelings.

            1. Less Bread More Taxes*

              That’s… factually incorrect. Email is a communication service that does invite response. I agree that the conversation should have been conducted face-to-face, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with sending an email outlining how you feel about something that hugely affects you.

      2. Anon all day*

        I find it difficult to believe that if you said something to someone, and they completely misinterpreted it and wrong you a lengthy email about how you lied to them and deceived them, you wouldn’t take any issue with that.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          My first reaction would be “oh my goodness, I sent this person into a tailspin – how can I alleviate their concerns and fix what I said?” It would not be “wow, this person reacted appropriately to what they thought I said, how unprofessional.”

      3. nom de plume*

        But he didn’t, though! That’s the point. The OP herself acknowledges that she over-reacted and misinterpreted, so it’s puzzling that so many commenters are countering with, “No, he actually did mean what it turns out he didn’t mean!”

        Could the manager have been clearer? Sounds like it. But I don’t think it helps to fuel the OP’s outrage here, because no matter what, sending an angry tirade is never a good look (and I say that as someone who’s sent angry emails before, though not at work, AND someone who spent months angry at an ineffectual manager I had).

      4. Books and Cooks*

        The manager didn’t deliver any news, truly horrible and unfair or not. The LW misunderstood what the manager was saying–perhaps justifiably, perhaps not–but even if he worded it poorly, that doesn’t make the LW’s incorrect assumption correct, and it certainly doesn’t make it okay to send long emails to your boss accusing them of being a cheat, a gaslighter, and a deliberate liar.

    3. Vinessa*

      Because those commenters believe that they would most likely be in a position to do what the OP did, not what the manager did, so they’re more inclined to grant compassion to the person whose shoes they see themselves in.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      The impression that I have gotten is that many/most of us understand the OP’s feelings but disagree with their actions. A cooling down period is always wise.

      We also see where the manager was partially at fault. I agree with the readers/commenters who think that his comments about a review would be taken as the OP’s overall review and that it wouldn’t be good.

      And we have been decent about reminding ourselves and others that the manager isn’t here to ask for advice.

    5. ADidgeridooForYou*

      I have noticed a trend over the past couple of years of expecting 100% perfection from managers while justifying the actions of all non-manager LWs. I think a lot of it has to do with our growing frustration at work power imbalance and the resentment caused by COVID protocols. That being said, though, most managers aren’t the power-hungry 1%er CEOs that some commenters seem to think they are – they’re just people, and people mess up sometimes.

      1. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Also, by COVID protocols, I mean a lack thereof, not that COVID protocols were put into place. Because many companies sure didn’t do that.

      2. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah but when you have control over another person’s ability to house and feed themselves, we rightfully hold them to a higher standard. If we didn’t have a society where a single person can decide “actually, you don’t get to afford groceries anymore,” maybe we could all be a bit more generous when managers mess up.

        1. Allonge*

          I think the issue with this attitide is more or less where OP went wrong too: if we think of managers as some kind of Evil Tyrant Monster of Capitalism, then we don’t think of them as a human who sometimes phrases things wrong.

          And because we are mad at them by default, we write them an angry email instead of clarifying WTF they are talking about.

          So maybe this is not that constructive?

          1. Gerry Keay*

            I disagree. OP went wrong in their actions, we actually have no idea if this is their same mindset I shared above. You can understand the power differential in a manager/employee relationship, have feelings about it, and *not* torpedo your relationships by sending emotionally charged emails.

            1. Allonge*

              Sure, I could be wrong about what OP was thinking (or not thinking, as the case may be).

              Still, reminding OP (and each other, time and time again) that managers are rulers of Life and Death, and emphasizing that you get to Rage Against The Man TM – that will not help people with poorer impulse contol to avoid sending such emails.

              Hold managers to a higher standard by all means. But not to a level where you stop considering that they effed up in how they said a sentence.

    6. gmg22*

      I personally don’t see why “well, I was just talking about your review FOR THIS PROJECT” excuses the manager. This strikes me as lousy management whatever was meant. If you’re a manager and you’re concerned about how a project is going to be brought to the finish line, then pull some rank, make some decisions about how to do it better and get your employee on board as a partner in that. Don’t vaguely and passive-aggressively threaten them with “well, everybody ELSE thinks this will work but I don’t, and if I’m right, you’re going to pay the price!”

      OP’s sending that email was a mistake. But what I’m reading here is a description of a dysfunctional workplace, and OP’s best move now IMO is to look to get out and start the work of building healthier professional habits elsewhere.

  31. LadyByTheLake*

    I did something very much like this once. Things I learned:
    1. If someone says something that seems implausibly bad/wrong, have your first instinct be that either you didn’t understand what they said or their information is incorrect.
    2. Calmly try to figure out what the truth is. The issue will be usually be resolved through a calm, low key investigation/clarification. “I heard you say x. Did I hear that right? Did I understand that right?”
    3. If it really is as bad as you heard, take many deep breaths. Think about what you want and how best to get it. If you need to write your bad feelings out, do so, but not in a live email (with any recipients filled in). Walk away — hopefully for a day or two. Reflect again on how best to effect the change you want (pro tip — lashing out is never the answer). Pursue that path.

    Years later, I can be remarkably calm on the outside when I hear something distressing, but that’s because I made such a terrible mistake in the past and it bit me hard (I was never really trusted in that job again). I learned from it and really changed. You can do the same.

    1. TeaFiend*

      Yesssss! The second I notice I’m angry/annoyed/offended I take a beat and seek clarification. First thing. Because as much as I absolutely recommend writing out what you want to say and sleeping on it, you spare yourself so much overthinking if you just go “Wow I’m having a reaction to this, better check this isn’t a misunderstanding.”
      I feel so bad for really reactive people cause if they took literally 30 seconds to reflect they’d save themselves so much drama.

  32. ferrina*

    Reviews are inherently subjective, and can be more of a reflection on the manager than the employee. With that in mind, I never try to influence my review one way or the other. I act in the way that I will be proud of- professional, collaborative, engaged. Whether or not my review reflects this, I will walk away with my self-esteem and reputation (even if my manager lambasts me, there is invariably a senior colleague who will attest to my skills).

    I became really zen about review early on in my career when I had some really crappy managers project their issues/budget needs onto my review. Highlights include not getting any top marks because “we should all be striving for something” (even though I was repeatedly publicly praised for being a shining example of several of the categories) and a manager that held me to the department goals for a 3-person department after laying off the other 2 people (so I was held to 3 people’s goals).

    1. ferrina*

      Oh, and one of these crappy reviews made me ineligible for a bonus that year. When I pointed that out, the manager said “well the bonus would just be a percentage of your salary, and with your salary it wouldn’t be that much anyways.”

  33. Irish Teacher*

    I’m wondering if there might be a bigger picture that is influencing the LW’s reaction here. Just reading through it, a year or so ago, there was a serious personnel drama in the company which involved the LW and members of another department. Within a few months, many of those involved in this had left the company (my assumption was that this was unrelated to the drama and more something like that department being wrapped up? because of how it was phrased). Now the LW has a high stakes project where the boss is not entirely optimistic about the approach being take and it sounds like they had difficulty getting cooperation from another department? And I may be misreading here, but it sounds as if the LW could get the blame if an approach he has no say in and which was largely chosen to appease another department does not work.

    It sounds like there’s a lot going on here. I don’t know if the LW might be taking “normal” events more seriously than usual because they are stressed about something or whether there has been a lot of stress in the company over the last year or so, which is contributing to the LW being stressed or if these are just unrelated events and there have just been a few coincidences.

    I’m not even sure exactly what I’m trying to say here. Just that maybe the LW should think a little about whether there is a growing pattern of dysfunction in their workplace or if they are getting less tolerant of issues (which could either mean they are having difficulties in some other area of their life – heck, most people have had a pretty stressful couple of years – or might mean the job is no longer right for them and they should think about moving on). I just think it seems like there is a lot more going on here than “just” the LW writing an angry e-mail in response to a misunderstanding and while the LW can only deal with their own part of things, it’s possible some of the other issues are contributing to their reaction and it might be worth considering the whole situation and if anything should be and can be changed to prevent similar events happening in the future.

  34. Calamity Janine*

    after the good advice, here’s the bad advice:

    there’s nothing for it LW, you will have to dramatically fake your death, change your name, and move to australia*

    *if you are in australia currently, maybe move to greenland?

  35. Elizabeth West*

    OP, as someone who has an anxiety-related tendency to jump to conclusions, and having been in some very frustrating and similar work situations, I’ve learned a couple of things. One is to ask for clarification, as Alison suggests.

    The other thing: if you really need to process something by banging out a reactionary email, DO NOT DO IT IN THE EMAIL PROGRAM. Do it in Notepad and then delete that sucker. There is no way you can accidentally (or purposefully) send it without going through extra steps, and you can dump all of your feels before going to the person and having an actual conversation.

    Caveat: the Notepad trick doesn’t work for everyone, you should NOT do it by dumping on a coworker, and be careful not to dwell on it, which is why I recommend deleting instead of saving and re-reading it. Also don’t forget to empty your Recycle bin. You don’t want all that hanging out there for someone else to find.

    1. KofSharp*

      I’ve previously done “hand written on legal paper” so I can shred the page and nobody needs to know.
      Granted I also accidentally hit “send” early on things I was supposed to send normally.

      1. Sal*

        have also done longhand “AND ANOTHER THING” strongly-worded letter draft. Colleague referred to it as “your burn book.” It went through several rounds of edits, consideration, and drafting before it was sent (and it was still strong enough to chill relations with the recipient for several months). I can only assume the handwritten version would have been enough to get me sued.

    2. DataSci*

      If someone is logging onto your computer and snooping through your trash, you have worse problems than them finding a cathartic rant!

  36. London Calling*

    LW – during first lockdown I was furloughed and my job handled by someone else. Without going into the details, colleague was supposed to organise a pick up of documents from my house and didn’t. Our manager TORE into me by email, angrily accusing me of not organising the pickup and telling me to get my performance together or else. Essentially she had decided I was at fault before finding out what had actually happened. (FTR my performance up to March 2020 had been ‘exceeds expectations’ and the reason I was furloughed was the stress of trying to WFH with inadequate equipment and no support from her or her manager). It’s safe to say that my view of her was never the same and for me there was no coming back from that; and I left the company nine months later. Her email wasn’t a major factor but it was certainly one of them.

    How you come back from this I don’t know, but it’s very likely that this has materially changed your manager’s opinion of you, however objective they try to be in the future.

    1. London Calling*

      Sorry, meant to add – agree 100% with Alison that email was entirely the wrong way to handle it. Had my manager just picked up a phone we could have straightened it out without the drama.

  37. RC Rascal*

    Based on my professional experience with multiple household name Fortune 500 companies my read on this situation is different.

    Boss fears being in the BBQ for a project he disagrees with and is unwilling or unable to push back on. He is lining up a scapegoat.

    OP is emotionally immature and hopefully in a very early career stage. The email was incredibly unwise and combined with the earlier drama points to issues.

    The 3 day delay in talking to her after the email was likely because he was consulting in someone internally about how to handle it. HR, a mentor or his boss.

    Asking her to take a couple days after the conversation was because they are considering firing her. The only time I’ve ever seen a boss tell an employee to take a few days off after a CLM is because they want her out of the building while they craft a Plan B.

    OP needs to find another job. Best case scenario she gets laid off the next time it’s convenient. Worst case she gets scapegoated on the project , PIPed and fired. Or simply reassigned to a lesser role.

    Junior employees usually only get one second chance after a political error. She’s already had hers after the drama last year.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Maybe, and I get where you’re coming from, but this seems to be jumping to a pretty nefarious conclusion that isn’t supported in the text.

  38. three soft tacos*

    Sometimes, when I can feel like I’m getting hot about something, I make a reminder to say nothing until I’m calm about it. When the reminder fires, I kinda take my temperature, and if I’m still upset I push the reminder back a couple hours/next morning etc., and usually after a couple times of doing that, it’ll fire and I’ll be so used to seeing it that I’m not really bothered any more and I can safely say whatever I need to without worrying about coming off angry. Better: about 80% of the time I find that the process helps me reconsider whatever was bugging me, usually surfacing something I hadn’t thought of or realized. IMO, better a strangely slow response than an unexpectedly hostile one.

  39. EmpathyBadger*

    Threatening an employee with a bad performance review instead of solving the problems with the project together is bad management.

    1. Don*

      The most generous interpretation of this I can come up with is that this is a hint garbled in the retelling and it leaned more as a statement of concern that /both/ of them would face a documented negative impact if this went sideways and it could have consequences for them in an organization that uses such reviews to hand out bonuses/increments etc.

      Even there I don’t care for it, though maybe I would just really hate working at such an organization.

  40. A Rusted Fence*

    “He acknowledges that he did say that I “would get a bad review” if the current approach to this project didn’t work out.

    …he thought it was wild that I interpreted this to mean the entire review (and not just one part of it) would be decided by a single thing.”

    I think a reasonable person would have jumped to the conclusion the LW did. Their entire review hinged on the success of this single project.

    Maybe he could have worded it more professionally, but I don’t see a problem with the LW’s assumption.

    1. danmei kid*

      LW is not a reliable narrator in this situation though, so while we all think we would have reacted the same way, we’re only getting told what happened through LW’s already biased lens. We can’t take LW’s recounting at face value, here.

    2. Dawn*

      I have to agree. If my boss told me “you will get a bad review” and the thing that was coming up was my employee review I’d read it EXACTLY that way.

      But I think the answer is still that better communication by both sides would have resolved this; LW could just as easily said in the moment, “Wait, my ENTIRE review?” and had it cleared up right then.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        So many problems would be resolved with this. Unfortunately some people really need to step away and take time to process before they can do this – but even then a short clarifying check-in would have resolved it.

        1. Dawn*

          I totally sympathize with that; there are times I need to just step away before opening my mouth myself. But typically the whole point of my doing that is to NOT go off half-cocked. It’s counterproductive if you say “I need to step away from this for a bit” and spend the time working yourself into a frenzy; you need that mental follow-up of “because this is work and I can’t blow my top.”

    3. Person from the Resume*

      The LW admits they misunderstood at the start of the letter, and they’re paraphrasing from their memory of the conversation still based on what they heard/thought they heard. Given that we cannot be certain how accurate the LW’s memory of what the boss said and how he said it. LW is an unreliable narrator about the exact message; although, not about their own feelings at the time.

      I know Alison asks we take LW’s on their word and assessment of things, but given the way this is relayed to us, I don’t think it’s very helpful to tell the LW that “a reasonable person would have jumped to the conclusion the LW did.”

    4. Salsa Verde*

      Even as I was reading the letter, I assumed the boss was talking about the project, not the overall review. They were discussing the project, not the yearly performance review, so of course the boss was speaking in relation to the project. The conversation was focused on the project, the boss wasn’t even thinking about yearly performance reviews. I also thought it was wild that OP jumped to that conclusion.

      1. DataSci*

        I’ve never worked anywhere where individual projects have reviews! The only review is the annual one. Clearly this is not universal, but it may be why interpretations differ so much.

  41. Dawn*

    And not to downplay any of Alison’s advice here, but please also keep in mind that it’s not just the last two months; few, if any, of us have been functioning at full capacity for the last two and a half years.

    You made a mistake, but I wouldn’t spend too much time dwelling on it. Own it, move on professionally, and maybe seek out your company’s EAP for some additional assistance during a time that continues to be tough for everyone.

  42. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

    I admit that I would have interpreted the comment the same as the LW. I would have responded by email as well, since I have had way too many managers that will tell me one thing face-to-face and would then recant, claim some misunderstanding, or pass the blame as soon as there are any questions or pressures from higher ups. Or they tell me one thing and my coworker something else.

    The LW’s email wasn’t good though. Rants are rarely productive in any situation.
    My email would have been simply, “You said Y. I understand that to mean X, which is different than my previous understanding Z. Is this correct? If not, would you please clarify.”

    1. Sal*

      I agree with all of this. I think the substance was not way off and this is the kind of thing I would like to have in writing so everyone is in agreement (and to make the paper trail). 100% of the problem here is in tone and approach. This is simply way too an aggrieved tone to take with one’s supervisor, pretty much under any circumstances I can think of.

  43. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW, I know it seems like a cop-out when people suggest going to therapy, but the fact that you are currently in a raw enough state to be “reactive” rather than “proactive” or just taking time to think through a reasonable course of action, seems to indicate that you might benefit from some neutral third party guidance around where you are mentally/emotionally right now, why you are where you are, and how in the future you might be able to stop yourself and find a different way to manage this type of surge of anxiety through a collaborative rather than a confrontational approach. Writing in to AAM is a great first step, but, LW: you may benefit from a chance to dig deeper and find a way to adapt, develop some coping skill, that doesn’t include firing off accusatory confrontational emails to someone else when the proverbial hits the fan.

    1. London Calling*

      I saw a good comment recently (can’t recall where, unfortunately) that blowing up like this is often the culmination of a lot of small things that are not, taken individually, very significant. It’s that that one thing is the last straw in what your subconscious is telling you is a whole bonfire.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, I’ve found that quite a lot, that I get annoyed at something stupid because it’s the last straw.

        And given a number of things here, I wouldn’t be surprised – personnel drama, then many people leaving in a short period (could be reasonable reasons for this like a project being wound up but could also indicate dysfunction), the boss saying he isn’t optimistic about the plan for a major project, hints of strife with another team that meant the boss apparently had to compromise on the project in a way he is doubtful about and then this miscommunication between the LW and his boss. Any one of those issues could be nothing, but all together…I suspect there may well be underlying reasons for stress.

  44. Nynaeve*

    “Last week, we had an impromptu conversation to discuss a very high-stakes project that we own, which is ~80% complete. He expressed that while other key players were confident in the strategy we were using to tie up the remaining loose ends, he was not so optimistic. In order to get cooperation from others, we had to agree to try their approach. But he still had reservations about it. He emphasized several times that I/we “were getting a bad performance review” if progress was not made.”

    There are so many mixed messages in this recount of what the boss said, I’m surprised Alison didn’t go back to the LW and ask for clarification. Was the boss the one unhappy with the progress, was it the other key players, or was it outside forces (like the CEO or something) who’s reputation is at stake but has no real knowledge about how the process works.

    Initially, I read this as, Boss calls OP into his office (with no waring, “impromptu”, and didn’t we decide as a commentariat last week that that was BAD?) and starts a detailed conversation about the notty-gritty process behind a project that is 80% done. He then proceeds to tell OP that, despite everyone else involved being happy with the way everything is going, he, and by extension presumably his boss, is not. And, in order to sell it to some unnamed 3rd party (or his boss(es)), OP needs to essentially start over and do it their way from square one, and he doesn’t agree with either approach, but is choosing the other one because reasons. Oh, and by the way, if he CAN’T sell it to those 3rd party people, her annual review will suffer. I’d be mad too.

    But, apparently, no one else has this read. The other commenters all seem to think that the Boss was, if not on OP’s side, at least in the same boat review wise. I would love some clarification, but OP’s not in the comments today so all we can do is speculate.

    Of course, none of that changes Alison’s advice, the e-mail was a bad move and OP is going to need to make amends if she still has a job to return too after her cooling off period.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I have an in-between reading. The narrative jumps around a little but this is my take: They are almost finished with the high stakes project. In order to wrap it up, they previously agreed to follow an approach that other folks wanted. The boss had reservations but went along with it at that time, as he needed their cooperation, but he is still concerned that this approach will not succeed. He’s anxious about what will happen if this project fails. I do believe Boss and OP are in the same boat functionally — they are in charge of this project and if it tanks they both get some heat. Where they diverge is in confidence / approach — OP thought everything was fine and is now hearing that the boss disagrees.

      I don’t see any call to action on the boss’s part — were they asking for solutions? just expressing anxiety? I didn’t see anything that implied starting over, I read “trying their approach” to be what got them where they are now.

    2. Dawn*

      Thing is, though, we’re not advising the boss. I’m certain that Alison would have told them to change an awful lot of how this was communicated if the boss had written in.

      But he didn’t and we’re advising the employee – pardon me for using this term, but the boss’s subordinate, on whether they overreacted (yes, because this was an email sent to your boss, whether in the long run it was justified or not,) and on how to do damage control in the aftermath.

  45. BeingReal*

    Look – I’ve been on the receiving end of one of these lash out work emails and honestly? It permanently damaged my opinion of said person.

    Now it does sound like my email may have been full of more personal attacks then yours, but given your bosses reaction it seems like it felt pretty personal to him so perhaps the phrases you quoted aren’t even the most problematic ones.

    I hope you don’t listen to all the people saying you don’t have an issue here, personal drama and personnel drama are very different, I’d understand in your bosses shoes and yadda yadda. They are wrong.

    If you want to have a good working relationship with your boss moving forward you have a lot of work to do. I know in my case the person felt like we “were good” after they sent me a forced apology and I was cordial and professional to them but we were not “good”. I never trusted them again. If I came across some business info that may be helpful but would require a level head and discretion? I didn’t tell them. If they gave me an opinion for a strategic decision, discussed a personnel concern, etc. I didn’t trust their take and would weigh their opinion less because I couldn’t trust their judgement.

    I’d recommend taking the email to a therapist who can help you parse through the implications. Just off the top of my head from your bosses perspective some of my concerns would be – unable to manage your emotions to such a degree it’s impacted business relations and communication, you think so little of me as your boss/a person that you think I would completely change an agreement as vital as your performance review and pay with no notice, discussion, or even enough time to make improvements, and that when stressed you react and lash out instead of seeking clarification or facts.

    There were things my lasher could have done to begin rebuilding trust, and I think you can too.

    1. MM*

      Yes me as well. In my case, it was a hand written letter handed to me on his last day as my intern. He accused me of doing things that I not only did not do, but I didn’t even have the power or opportunity to do. Basically he accused me of firing another intern, who worked with me. In fact my manager did it without even telling me ahead of time. She was fired because she had a habit of showing up more than an hour late, leaving early and sometimes not even bothering to come in, which was clearly shown on her time cards.

      You would think since it was his last day it wouldn’t matter, but a month or two later another manager had an opening and asked me what I thought of him. I did tell the other manager that if it was up to me, I wouldn’t hire him.

  46. Love to WFH*

    I was just reading a thread in Twitter about the effects of COVID on the brain. You’ve probably heard about brain fog after COVID — people have trouble recalling words, or doing complex things. It’s not just “short term fog”, though. COVID cases can cause brain damage. Medical professionals are seeing various effects in the behavior of their patients. We have to assume that some of the increase in erratic driving that we’re seeing, people exploding angrily on airplanes, and the like is because we’re having a mass disabling event.

    For example, when someone loses their sense of smell, it’s not damage in the nose or sinuses that causes the loss — it’s brain damage. That specific problem can heal in a few days to a week, but for some people it takes 2 years.

    Some strokes are brought on by COVID. I recall an article about a young college student who had a mild case, and then had a stroke a month later. You may think of strokes causing the loss of control of muscles or losing language. They definitely can do that. They can also cause dysregulation of emotions.

    I suggest googling “Covid brain damage”. You’ll see scientific articles on this. We need to think about what this means for looking at our own behavior and coping mechanisms, and those of our family and coworkers. Someone who was always very organized, and is now forgetting things needs to look into the ways that people with ADHD manage their tasks for techniques. Someone who’s always gotten along well at work and is now having drama needs to consider strategies like learning to count to 10 or only send an email after letting the draft sit for awhile.

    1. Nancy*

      No where in the letter does the LW say they were sick from anything. People have always jumped to conclusions, misunderstood others, or acted irrationally. This is not new. And considering people have been more stressed over the past few years and more isolated from others, not unsurprising to see.

  47. voyager1*

    I don’t think you were wrong to interpret the manager initially the way you did. Where you went wrong is how you handled it afterwards. I think a simple email asking what he meant would have been fine.

    That all being said. I hate to use the G-word here, but this really feels like gaslighting by your manager. Him playing the victim and having to come that yes he did say what he said but didn’t mean it that way…

    Yeah that is classic gaslighting.

  48. NervousNellie*

    You know, I have a difference of opinion — it sounds like this workplace has gone from highly functional to not nearly so. Like a crappy relationship, it will make you do weird things, and it will make bad choices seem like the only option. It makes people lash out to work in a dysfunctional place. I would focus on finding a new job, OP. This sounds like tech, and if it is, it’s my experience that every 5 years there’s a shuffle up and it’s usually in your best interests to leave in such a situation.

  49. I'd prefer not to*

    I did something similar to this at work a few months ago. For me it was a real wake up call- I was way more depressed than I realized. I called my doctor that day and a few days later started medication. I fixed things with my boss by the end of the week. I feel so much better now and work is going so much better too. Moments like this are terrible but they can provide a great opportunity to reflect on things that need to change in your life. Good luck untangling it all, you can do it!

  50. WillowSunstar*

    For an emotional email, first take a 5 minute break from your computer. (Or better yet, your full 15-minute break.) Take some deep breaths. When you get back, write it in Word first. Be sure to check for spelling and grammar issues. By that time, you will have cooled down enough not to send it. You can always save the file to revise later.

  51. Kapers*

    All I can think, after many years as a manager and many more as a managee: when has a long email to your boss ever solved ANYTHING? Even a non-aggressive long email?

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