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Sometimes I’m unsure if I should point out another person’s mistake. For example, someone recently accused me of not confirming I will do what they had asked me to do in an email.

I checked my sent folder and I indeed had replied to them. Should I bother pointing this out?

Their message was along the lines of "you didn’t confirm last time and please make sure you do so next time". This is the first time this has happened with this person.

What other factors should I consider when deciding whether to bother to reply? I also want to have a positive image but I guess human mistakes like this don't happen frequently enough to affect it.

The end result I want is productivity, not some mock jury and court room.

A more general form of this question is "when should you defend yourself and when should you let an well-meaning accusation role off your shoulder".

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    Are you assigning blame or trying to find a solution? – Lilienthal Jul 5 '18 at 8:16
  • @Lilienthal I'm talking about mistakes that are almost certainly attributed to human error (for example if you send 20 emails a day and only once some said they didn't receive one, it's probably not an IT problem). I guess since human error doesn't have a solution, your saying it's better just to ignore this when it happens? – JTC Jul 5 '18 at 8:32
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    My point is that it's not normally useful to point fingers in the workplace (dysfunctional workplaces are an exception here) but that you should be approaching things like this from a constructive angle (i.e. solving the communication problem). But that's mostly for the general question that you seem to be asking about and much less applicable to your actual scenario where you'd do both with something like: "Hey, I had look at my past emails and found that I did confirm X on the #th. If there's a better way to reach you please let me know." – Lilienthal Jul 5 '18 at 10:44
  • @Lilienthal "My point is that it's not normally useful to point fingers in the workplace". So what you're saying is that even though this person had a finger pointed at them, they should not point the finger back? – user70848 Jul 6 '18 at 23:07
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Yes, you can do.

On the rare occasion this happens to me, I look in my emails and simply forward the email back with an FYI at the top. I don't say anything else, just "FYI".

Not saying anything else removes any blame, excuses from it, you're just stating the fact of what happened without leading the conversation into something that might end up being confrontational.

Of course, there are situations where this might not be appropriate.

Obviously, if you don't find that email, then it'll be polite to also admit this:

Sorry, I thought I had confirmed this - I just checked my email and couldn't find the email I thought I'd sent.

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    this is good - but the FYI is too passive aggressive. I would suggest "Hey, I confirmed on date/time" instead (while also forwarding the sent email along underneath). It's not aggressive, and clarifies the fact without (explicitly, anyway) appropriating blame. – bharal Jul 5 '18 at 8:31
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    No, it's not passive agressive. The missed email has already been dicussed, so you're just forwarding this off as confirmation that you sent the confirmation. You can soften this into "Yep, I knew I sent this" if you want to. I usually use FYI as it's quick and the people I work with aren't judgemental in nature. – Snow Jul 5 '18 at 8:37
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    Not passive-aggressive at all. You were accused in error, you point out the error, case closed. – gnasher729 Jul 7 '18 at 22:55
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What you said is not primarily pointing out that someone else has made a mistake (by accusing you of making a mistake), but what you want to do mostly is have it on the record that you didn't make a mistake.

Anyway, in most cases a simple correction is just fine. The correction is needed if without the correction, either the mistake will become costly, or your reputation will be damaged. In this case, it is your reputation.

No correction is needed if that person's reputation is so bad that nobody takes them seriously. More than a correction is needed if you think that someone intentionally accusses you of mistakes in order to damage your reputation. For example, if someone had repeatedly complained to their manager about you not responding, then you wouldn't just correct them.

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In my opinion it is not productive to point it out to them that they were wrong. Personal attacks never lead to good things in an office environment. Though you shouldn't just take it as well.

I would suggest tackling the problem not the person specifically.

My suggestion is to go something in the lines of

"Oh that is wierd, I sent that confirmation on date X at that time. Maybe we have some e-mail issues that we need to investigate. Can you double check your inbox and I will inform the IT department if there is a problem."

Remember everyone makes mistakes so don't get angry if someone missed an e-mail. Tackle the issues and not the people. Pointing fingers and announcing that someone was wrong just creates unhealthy work atmosphere. After all nobody is perfect and you don't want to start the blame game in your office.

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    this is too apologetic and reads really weirdly. Generally nobody actually has email issues so it just sounds off. – bharal Jul 5 '18 at 8:32
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    I don't see how it is apologetic at all. I am not a native speaker so maybe missing something. Seems like it might be passive aggressive. (maybe you swapped your comments between the 2 answers) – Ontamu Jul 5 '18 at 11:13
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    No! A thousand times: No! This "Maybe there's a problem" is what drives IT Support up the wall and out the door. – Wesley Long Jul 6 '18 at 23:59

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