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I work at a Fortune 500 Software Company, It's a well-cultured company and respects openness. Recently my supervisor (Manager) pinged in our group chat and asked everyone to send our residential addresses to update his records(I believe just for his reference). Everyone was okay (including me) but I was just curious to know the reason and posted the below two statements in the team group chat.

  • "Will send in a while"
  • "Why is this required John?"

My Manager John got offended with my statement "Why is this required John" and he said this statement is like questioning him.

Can someone tell if my statement is really that offending?

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  • Have you asked him why he feels this question is questioning him? – Jonast92 Feb 8 at 13:51
  • Yes, I have asked and he did not reply, he says its like questioning him and I defend that I was just asking casually – user804401 Feb 8 at 14:08
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    It's rude to answer a question with a question. It's that simple. Dan has explained it perfectly. – Fattie Feb 8 at 15:17
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    @Fattie, And yet, if the original poster has a P.O. Box, or if he's planning to move next month, or if he's going through a divorce, or if his mail keeps on getting lost/stolen/misdelivered/delayed, it may be a very relevant question to ask without giving your entire life's story. In my opinion, it's the boss who is very rude, it would have been infinitely faster to just say "HR wants it. They didn't say why." or "It's for our disaster recovery plan in case of an earthquake or a bridge outage." It's the boss who is attributing a negative intent, to the question, that may not even be there. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 9 at 6:32
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    @Fattie, This wasn't asked in person. This wasn't asked over email. This was asked over group chat. People are usually far more direct on chat. "It's something you would do to an inferior or perhaps a child." If that's truly the hyperbole you tell yourself when someone asks you a possibly very innocent follow-up question to actual information you've requested, then I don't know what to say. This kind of thing happens all the time. UPDATE: I didn't notice the "Will do in a while" comment until just now. Yeah, that 1st comment in combination with the 2nd is a little rude. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 10 at 14:18
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Besides the specific on how to respond this request (I partly agree with Dan's answer), the most important lesson to take home, in my opinion, is the following:

  • As a manager always offer a rationale behind any request.

If you don't currently manage people, maybe you will in the future and you will ask stuff to your collaborators very often. It's very important to let them know why you need what you asked for a huge variety of reasons. In this instance, I think that your manager is playing the authority card, which is not a good sign (even if, admittedly, for a trivial task; nonetheless a task that required some sort of explaination given that involved personal data).

So your manager acted wrong twice: The first time by not explaining why he needed the information before asking and the second by getting offended by your counter-request and implicitly thinking that you need to comply just because he is your manager.

This alone doesn't imply he is not a good manager, but they are not good signs either.

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Quick side note: managers usually check addresses at the start of the FY (which is usually end of January or November timeframe) and one of their task is to verify the HR address data is correct for their employees. I'm 90% certain this is what your manager is trying to do.

Let me first say it's always impolite to ask a question to answer a question. It's sort of like if you asked someone where is the bathroom? And they said, "What do you plan to do in there?" You also indirectly indicated you're going to delay providing the information until they answer your question. Your home address is something you'd know, not something that you'd have to look up. So you're basically saying, "I'm going to hold off giving you my address until you tell me why you need it?"

Emails are very impersonal and easily offensive especially with questions on top of an easily answered question. It's probably best to answer the question first, then ask what they want to do with it.

My thought on what to do: go to your manager and apologize for the misunderstanding. Start the conversation by first sending your address then going to his/her desk and say that you didn't intend for the email to be offensive and just wondered what the address is going to be used for? I would also hesitate to simply drop it for now because you may further anger your boss since he misunderstood your initial email.

In the future, I would write the email as follow:

Mr X, my address is 1234 Main Street, City, State, and Zip. I am wondering what the address update is for?

Then see what he says. You just answered his question and he'll probably answer yours.

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    I disagree with this. Maybe a better approach would be to respond with "i would be happy to provide this information, but may I ask what it's being used for?". Personal information should be closely guarded, and simply asking for its intended use isn't inherently offensive in any way. – Kaizerwolf Feb 8 at 16:25
  • @Kaizerwolf Sure there are many ways to reply. My way is one way that I can think of. Given the answer OP given, I can see how it could be misunderstood as something negative but you're right in that you could simply ask in a polite manner why or what the information will be used for. I still think emails are impersonal so it's probably best to simply call or write a much more polite email. I agree with Kilisi's answer as well in that both were probably taking it way out of context. – Dan Feb 8 at 17:06
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    I'd think it very unusual for a manager to verify address information. Especially at a Fortune 500 company, an employee would usually do this themselves with the HR department, and there should be a self-service system to do so. I don't think OP's manager is up to anything nefarious, but I still find it an odd request. – Seth R Feb 8 at 17:22
  • This is the right answer. Especially if the OP has a habit of asking questions in reply to fairly simple questions, the manager may be feeling like they are "high maintenance" and require "justification as to why they should do their job." Especially in a group chat, without the benefit of tone, this can read as challenging the manager in front of his whole team "why do you need that, I'm not going to give it to you until you justify it to me and maybe the other people watching this shouldn't either." Responses like this should be couched as "yes, and" and ideally done privately. – mxyzplk Feb 8 at 19:34
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    I agree with Kaizerwolf. If the manager needs this information, they should get it from HR. If HR won't give it to them, they should consider whether they really need the information. I can't think of any reason my manager needs to know where I live. Note that the OP said "residental address," not "mailing address." Mailing me something? Send it through official channels. Dropping by my house? No way. – shoover Feb 8 at 22:32
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Can someone tell if my statement is really that offending?

No it's not particularly offensive as it stands.

He may feel his authority is being questioned, but I don't see it as a big deal. I think you're both overdoing it.

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    Yeah, as a manager he should keep his cool instead of exploding on someone for a minor issue. He should assume it's a misunderstanding until he knows otherwise. His manager probably should have just said, "I need it for HR data. Please verify your address and send to me by end of day." If after that the OP keeps asking about why he needs it or he's being reluctant, then the manger has every right to discipline him/her. – Dan Feb 8 at 15:31
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The reason is because you referred to him by name without an honorific or by his title.

You should have referred to him as Sir John, Boss John, Supervisor John, Superior John, or his title such as Mr. Supervisor or Supervisor.

This shows a severe lack of respect for his authority and is very disrespectful.

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    Suppose if you work in Google or Microsoft I believe they have a very open culture and no one would refer their managers with Sir or etc.. I called him several times with his name in chat – user804401 Feb 8 at 14:06
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    Very culture dependent answer - in most western countries most communication is on first name terms. – Matt Feb 8 at 14:35
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    Geez. Jack, I thought it was funny. – Ask About Monica Feb 9 at 0:07

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