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Today I made a mistake, which was compounded by the software we were using which incorporated my erroneous changes into all of the projects through out the company. I am not an expert in our management software, but the senior member of my team that is very skilled kept shouting and telling me are you insane?

It was a mistake, and it has been corrected now. But I feel that it was unprofessional, and abusive the way my coworker treated me when this happened. How should I address this situation with my coworker, to communicate that this behavior is not acceptable?

  • What country did this happen in? I sense a cultural gap. – Wesley Long Nov 18 '13 at 20:24
  • Austria, and I'm from Egypt, a new migrant – Mahmoud Nov 18 '13 at 20:27
  • I'm really really mad, The problem that I can escalate it, but I really can't because I need money and I'm worried about firing. – Mahmoud Nov 18 '13 at 20:46
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    How do I express in a professional way, that insulting me is unacceptable? his attitude was really unprofessional, how do I really get my rights. My dignity is zero right now – Mahmoud Nov 18 '13 at 20:57
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    Your question is good at the core but I have made some changes that will help it apply to a broader audience and still give you the information you need. Let me know if there is a portion of the question you wanted asked that I have left out. This is how I interpreted your original question from my reading. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 18 '13 at 21:36
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It certainly was wrong of the senior member of your team to over-react in such an offensive way. That kind of behavior, in addition to demoralizing the rest of the team, encourages others to hide mistakes rather than admit to them lest they face the wrath of this person as you did.

You should not expect that this behavior will be "addressed" by the offender or anyone else by any kind of apology or reprimand. You made a technical mistake and he made a mistake by behaving unprofessionally. No good will come out of forcing judgement on which transgression was "worse" and having the loser pay the balance in an apology.

However, keep in mind that his over-reaction most likely has hurt his reputation MORE than it has hurt yours. We all make mistakes, your co-workers make mistakes too and they know that you are not, as he said, "insane". They know you made a mistake like everyone else. His outburst is harder to justify: in the best case scenario it was a forgivable isolated incident but every time it happens again the loss of reputation will get worse and worse for this person.

The best thing to do is to move on from this incident and do not bring up his behavior.

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    Great advice and great point about hurting his reputation more than the OP's – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 19 '13 at 14:47
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Well, you're not going to get what you call your "rights." You made a mistake, and you have to take some heat for it. Your coworker may have been flying off the handle, but he was the one that had to clean things up.

Anything you do now to try to "escalate" the issue is going to come across as you trying to evade responsibility for your mistake. Also, I seriously doubt that you are the first person that got that reaction.

The best thing you can do right now is to go walk around the park, calm down, and come back in tomorrow and do your job well. Admit that you made the mistake, and let the mistake be dealt with separately from this person's reaction. Let things cool down for about a week, and then ask that person why he said that.

From a perspective of the culture I am in (Rocky Mountains in U.S.), the guy lost his cool, but didn't insult you directly. Your best bet for retaining the respect of your colleagues (and no, you haven't lost it), is to admit you made the mistake, show how you've learned from it, and ignore the overreaction of your colleague. Austria is a little hard to judge, as it sits right between Eastern and Western European cultures, but it sounds like this person is just a hothead, and you were just today's subject. There was no personal insult intended, and you are unlikely to ever get an apology if he doesn't feel he insulted you.

As for your dignity, that can't be taken from you. You can lose it yourself, though, if you push this issue.

In the end, your coworkers and managers will respect you more for being reliable and responsible (including admitting your mistakes) than they will for forcing an apology from this person.

  • Austria is most defiantly in the western European block and from the sound of it continued shouting and calling some on an idiot to his face is not acceptable. – Neuromancer Nov 19 '13 at 1:12
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    but he was the one that had to clean things up. - I am not sure where you get that from. I think you assume to much in this answer. That you think that this behavior is deserved and acceptable is even scarier to me. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 19 '13 at 3:39
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    @Chad - I didn't say it was deserved. I certainly don't think it's acceptable, but if the senior management didn't shut the guy down when it happened, then it's being tolerated. Deal with what is, not what should be. Also - my answer was to the original version of the question. The question has since been edited (by you, I see). I invite you to re-read the original version, and my answer may be more germane. – Wesley Long Nov 19 '13 at 3:55
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    The way I read your answer it seems you are condoning the actions of the senior. You do not explain why they should be tolerated well, which leads me to believe that you are saying the actions are acceptable. And you still have not addressed your flawed assumption – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 19 '13 at 4:15
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    @Chad - don't. Just don't. Senior project members are always cleaning up the problems, whatever they are. It's just how things work. Sometimes we need to just accept that water is wet without having to do a light-spectrum analysis on the color of mud. The guy may be a jerk, but it seems that the management is letting him be a jerk. Mahmoud's asking what he can do. I'm giving him a straight answer: Very little. – Wesley Long Nov 19 '13 at 4:21

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