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I have a situation: sometimes a people from different offices in our company send emails and include a lot of people including my colleague and ask some questions related to my project.

Usually, I answer them, but sometimes my colleague jumps in an gives strong answers but he is not very qualified to do that properly, actually, it is not his job title to answer that type of questions, but, as he knows something, he tries to answer.

Quite often his answers are wrong and I need to find a polite way to correct them. As he still continues to answer questions he is not qualified for, I need to find a way to talk with him politely to ensure that he will get the message and won't do it again.

How would you recommend to structure a discussion and communicate the issue to him in a nice and professional way?

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    Are you the manager of your colleague? – Philip Kendall Jul 28 '18 at 6:02
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    @Philip - We have IT agile team without people management but I'm his leader – Mark Jul 28 '18 at 14:33
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Talk to the colleague who answers the mails in private. Keep in mind that they probably wanted to be helpful and saw nothing wrong with their behavior. Following the general rules of constructive criticism, you should:

  1. Start with something positive. "Hey Bob, I saw you answered that mail on Monday with all the questions about X. I'm really thankful that you want to help, but..."
  2. State objectively what you observed. "... You answered that we implemented feature ABC for customer XYZ. Unfortunately that information is wrong and caused some confusion. It was decided not to implement this feature in our meeting last month."
  3. State what should be done better and how. "In the future, please don't answer mails addressed to me. I know I'm busy, but I'll try to answer mails in time. When you have the feeling I forgot or overlooked something, feel free to tell me."

You should avoid blaming or attacking your colleague like "You answered with the wrong information and you caused loss of time". Instead, the answer was wrong.

Show them the consequences of their behavior. If you just ask them to stop answering your mails, they might speculate you hate them. If you sum up the consequences, they know it's nothing personal.

If possible, talk to them in private. They will feel attacked if you pick up the topic in the middle of lunch break with all your colleagues listening.

If necessary, repeat this talk with every single mail he answered incorrectly. Hopefully he will think more carefully before answering your mails.

If all that fails, keep a paper trail of mails that you had to correct and escalate the issue.

  • If possible I would avoid the first step, or at least don't start with something positive and then 'BUT', it completely draws away from the problem or is baseless when you want to actually change the behaviour. Positive feedback techniques such as AID and SAID would be more appropriate, in which you purely focus on the facts and actions. – Jonnyboy Aug 9 '18 at 6:44
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It's not really clear why your "users" are sending emails to many people, or if your colleague, although often wrong, is authorized to answer.

If he is not, that's for management to sort out. If he is, you have to suck it up.

However, it is a bad idea to have "users" emailing Dan@company.com; they should email support@company.com, then, when Dan moves on, support can continue uninterrupted, hopefully without users even being aware.

Again, this sounds like a management issue, to establish a Process (and to educate "users").

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    Excellent answer. The OP has an XY problem here. The actual issue is not how to tell the coworker to not answer emails, but why customers are sending emails to so many team members in the first place. If a customer sends an email to 10 people and there's no clear direction from management, then either they will assume that someone else should address it (Bystander Apathy) or assume that it is fair game for anyone to answer it. – Masked Man Jul 28 '18 at 9:40
  • Could be something like "support@mycompany.com". – gnasher729 Jul 28 '18 at 14:22
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    I appreciate this feedback about processes, but I can act only in my zone of influence and also I can't solve all problems in a company. People who email, they are not external customers, they are internal employees. It is just culture in a company to include many people to discuss with everyone. While I appreciate the input of my colleague, I have difficulty with this as I need to find a right way to correct it. – Mark Jul 28 '18 at 14:35
  • You do not correct it; your mutual manager does. If, indeed, he feels that there is anything to correct. – Mawg Jul 28 '18 at 15:35
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    @Dan There is not much difference between an internal and an external customer from your perspective. Nonetheless, if they put lots of people in the email "to have a discussion", then they are getting what they asked for. It is up to your manager to figure out how to handle it. It is not your problem, tell your manager and stay out of it. – Masked Man Jul 29 '18 at 10:14
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Be direct, blunt and honest.

Simply talk to him and tell him he's not qualified. It's blunt, honest and truthful. You may wish to let him down easy with a compliment about his own work, which he does know about (I assume), but being direct never hurt anyone.

Telling him you do not want him answering questions about your project, or those implicitly directed at you, leaves no room for ambiguity. Which is important, as people have a tendency to read between the lines and hear that which they want to hear.

If afterwards it continues, do it in writing, such as an email, and include you guys' manager/boss. Lay out the situation, stick to the facts, but escalate it nonetheless.


Questions implicitly directed at you, but including others, might also have as a reason that others may answer in your absence. You may wish to clear up internally that project specific questions should be answered by those working on those projects. If no-one is present, it should not be a problem to have an answer wait a day. It's not a text message, it's an email, a few days of turn-over for an answer is perfectly acceptable.

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If the e-mail is directed to you and anyone else in CC and it is your project then there is nothing wrong asking your colleague to let you answer the question since it is asked to you and you are more familiar with the details.

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