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I was in a email chain with boss and a coworker and basically I said that there was some issues with a project that said coworker worked on and was asking him to fix it. The coworker got pretty annoyed at me saying things like "it's obvious what this error should mean" etc. Should I apologize to him or am I just caring too much and this is his problem? My boss assigned me to work on this project so that's why I included her in the email.

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    Could you give us a bit more context please? What sort of things did you say in the email? That way we can give better answers. How do you know you "made your coworker look bad"?
    – DarkCygnus
    Oct 15 at 3:54
  • I basically said there is some issues with the data he got and some of it looked inconsistent and wrong as stated in my question. I dont know I made him look bad thats why I'm asking this question but he seemed annoyed with me from the email exchange.
    – bakalolo
    Oct 15 at 3:57
  • What other things did the coworker say that give you the impression they were annoyed? Because "it's pretty obvious what this error should mean" doesn't necessarily mean that somebody is annoyed. Tone is notoriously difficult to get from written text. And why did you ask them to fix it instead of (just an example) put it on the general backlog/bug list?
    – Jeroen
    Oct 15 at 6:37
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    One thing to consider is it is often not the facts but the way it is communicated. A great technique for dealing with situations where you know something isn't right when somebody else is responsible is to play "stupid" somewhat. "Fred, you are a pro with this aren't you? I am struggling to get my head around this in the data.. can your expert eyes see anything I am missing?" - You will find they will become a rockstar, solve the problem and be happy and motivated to do so. Also, think about a no blame mindset. It's not "their work" its "our system".
    – Techlead
    Oct 15 at 7:52
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Well... plenty of reasons why your coworker is upset.

  • Bringing up "issues" in a project is always a criticism of what the person working on it before did. You don't criticize someone in front of their boss, without talking to them first.

  • You were assigned to help your coworker with their project. Instead of doing that, you assigned them a task. Not only is it not your job to assign them tasks, it's the exact opposite of helping them with their workload on the project. You did not lessen his workload, you just added to it.

If you wanted to do a good job as a part of a team, instead of being the guy that comes in, criticises and makes more work appear, why not offer to help?

Hey Bob, I noticed there are some inconsistencies in the data we use. It probably didn't have a high enough priority until now. Should I start working on that, or do you have something more urgent that I should do?

There you go. You addressed the issue by offering help, instead of creating more work for the person already overworked. Ideally, you ask this without your boss in the chain, so Bob is free to actually talk about the project instead of thinking about politics and making a good impression to higher ups. In addition, your boss is not bothered by long chains of mails they are not interested in.


Should you apologize? That is a question hard to answer, because it depends on your coworker. But it cannot hurt to let them know you understood why they are upset and you will not do that again in the future.

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this is his problem

It's best to ignore anything that could create a potential conflict. Any further action could also be misunderstood. Let the coworker deal with it.

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