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Recently I was asked by my manager during a meeting to ask a question to another co-worker by e-mail. I mentioned in the e-mail "Mr. X would like to know (question)...", to which Mr. X complained to me by saying: "I didn't asked you to send the meeting minutes, just to send the question.". I didn't send any meeting minutes, just mentioned in the e-mail who was the person interested in the question, so that the other person would be able to follow up any further question.

Is it impolite to cite the original asker of a question in an e-mail? Why?

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There’s nothing wrong with what you did. If my manager asks me to get information from someone within the company, I will one hundred percent mention that he wants it - just because that could give my request a higher priority.

There’s a lot wrong with what your manager did. Lashing out against an employee like that is bad mannered, rude, and bad for business.

Now your problem is that he is your manager and currently in a position of power. What you should do is avoid any actions causing negative consequences for you. You may feel free to decide for yourself if an event like this affects your loyalty to the manager and your loyalty to the company. Keep an eye open if good people are leaving, then it’s time to leave yourself.

  • Yup. I'd say to OP: Unless you think you've a good chance of changing managers soon, find another job. Don't wait. I've worked for a lot of managers, and this is a familiar sort of behavior. It's office politics, and passive-aggressive behavior and probably a whole lot of things that you really don't want to be involved in. Trust me, I've been there. You don't want to work for this guy. People who deceive, and use others to deceive, can't be trusted and if he decides he's peeved at you for something you'll never know about it til the torpedo hits you from behind. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Sep 10 at 15:01
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    Or, maybe the manager had a bad day. – dwizum Sep 10 at 19:21
  • @FrancineDeGroodTaylor Agreed. This person has once been involved in a verbal altercation warranting a apology letter involving the HR. I've know him for many years and he used to be a really good person person until he lost his wife, so I guess that he just can't manage his anger ever since. – Gabriel Diego Sep 10 at 22:43
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There is a difference between being impolite and doing the "wrong" thing.

There are a few different reasons why your boss may not want to be mentioned explicitly, this is in addition to it being needless information. There may be political games at play, given the reaction of the boss, just do what they say (and only what they say).

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    If Mr X failed to say "Don't mention my name" how are you meant to guess? – Solar Mike Sep 10 at 4:40
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    I'm not saying the OP is in the wrong. Which is why I used quotes around "wrong". – Gregory Currie Sep 10 at 4:44
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    The boss isn’t always right but he’s always the boss. – AffableAmbler Sep 10 at 5:42
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    Paraphrasing Picard: It is possible to commit no mistakes and still do the wrong thing. That is not a weakness. That is life. – Borgh Sep 10 at 7:36
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It is not per se impolite to cite the original asker in an email. If he did not tell you to not do so and it was not clearly deducible from the question itself (for instance, an inappropiate question for a boss to ask) then there was no way for you to know.

Clearly in this case it was not what your boss wanted. So now you know that. But I do not think it is a big issue.

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Is it impolite to write an e-mail mentioning who asked the question?

For me, the underlying major problem here has nothing to do with polite/impolite.

  1. There are likely bad motives behind the request, such as a desire to hear what the co-worker really thinks about the question in order to catch him/her up, etc.

  2. It is asking you to be deceitful/underhanded to a co-worker. If the co-worker trusts you and answers honestly - would you then forward that answer to the boss even tho you foresee potential fallout? If you wouldn't forward the email, you'd have to lie to the boss about it in some way (and that digs you further in).

  3. If I received such a request, I'd say, "If you don't have his/her email, I'll get it for you." If they repeat that they want me to ask, then I would politely decline and say something like, "I don't think my co-worker would appreciate being duped like that - I know that I wouldn't - and the work relationship might suffer."

You absolutely did right by including the questioner's name. While you are second-guessing yourself now, because of the boss' reaction, your instincts and common sense led you correctly.

Your boss reacted poorly because his subterfuge was exposed. I'd be surprised if the co-worker didn't ask, "Why didn't he ask me himself?"

Indeed.

Old Adage: What a tangled web we weave; when first we practice to deceive.

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Clearly Mr. X wants to stay X'd so it follows he is not concerned with follow up questions. Do what he says. Simply ask the question without additional clarification. if the person asks who's asking say "Reasonable question but my boss is asking on behalf of someone else and I am not privy to the details underlying the situation."

  • Mr X is the boss I believe. – Gregory Currie Sep 10 at 4:33
  • Yes... and he should pretend he's the boss of the boss. – Randy Zeitman Sep 10 at 5:41
  • Not sure what you mean? The OP should pretend they are the boss of their boss? What does that mean? – Gregory Currie Sep 10 at 6:15
  • The OP should pretend their boss is asking for another boss. – Randy Zeitman Sep 10 at 11:50
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Recently I was asked by my manager during a meeting to ask a question to another co-worker by e-mail.

Ok.

I mentioned in the e-mail "Mr. X would like to know (question)...", ...

Wait! You could just mention the question right away. Example:

"Dear Mr. [co-worker name],

I would like to know about [question your manager want to know]

[salutation]"

... to which Mr. X complained to me by saying: "I didn't ask you to send the meeting minutes, just to send the question.".

Well. You could just forward the reply from the co-worker later on with "FYI [manager]".

I didn't send any meeting minutes, just mentioned in the e-mail who was the person interested in the question, so that the other person would be able to follow up any further question.

If your manager has further question you guys could discuss it later either informally or on meeting later on.

Is it impolite to cite the original asker of a question in an e-mail? Why?

Not really a problem if they don't mind. But you should clarify beforehand if the original asker wants it to be known or not.

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    Yes, he COULD have not mentioned his manager. However, the question is "is it impolite?" to mention his manager. – James Sep 10 at 11:25
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    Hi Shinjo. I'm certainly not biased, I don't know anyone on this thread. I now see your answer in the last paragraph. I'm sorry I missed it before, my bad. I do recommend that next time you put your answer first and then your reasoning below that. See the top answers above for examples. – James Sep 11 at 11:05

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