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I'm leading a new department at a new company I've been there for a couple months. I have someone who used to do some of the duties in that department. This person seems to find ways to call me out on mistakes or things I've missed in front of other team members and department heads.

They don't do it in rude way. Sometimes they are good suggestions but I feel like that could be sent to me in private. Should I just say thank you for catching this and move on, when she is mentioning them in front of the team member?

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    I once replied saying "it was a long-standing" issue that was now being dealt with... Take care how you play.
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 14, 2022 at 16:15
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    Without actual examples, it's really difficult to judge the situation. But yes, saying thank you in the moment works, there is no need for an argument in front of others. But you may want to pull them aside privately and ask them to correct you privately (especially, if you can not make the correction right away). If there are any colleagues you trust, you should ask them about this. Only they would know if your concern is justified, or if you're just being too insecure. Dec 14, 2022 at 17:27
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    Is this person bringing up mistakes that they discovered outside of these public occasions or mistakes that you are making during these public occasions?
    – sf02
    Dec 14, 2022 at 19:00
  • Does this person point out the mistake of everyone in the team in public ? Or does he only do this to you ? Dec 14, 2022 at 21:15

4 Answers 4

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If the issues are genuine and being raised promptly, thank her and move on. You may be being a bit too sensitive here. Even if you aren't, being prickly when minor errors are reported is not a good look.

If there is a delay in reporting (e.g. waiting for a meeting with senior attendees), you should still thank her but could draw attention to the delay. E.g. (gently)

Thank you for spotting this. Please feel free to raise this with me directly next time.

then, if that doesn't work, still polite but showing some disapproval

Thank you. There's really no need to wait for an audience. Please remember to report any issues as soon as you spot them.

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    This: "being prickly when minor errors are reported is not a good look." People sometimes make mistakes or miss something - no need to feel too sensitive about that fact..
    – iLuvLogix
    Dec 14, 2022 at 16:07
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    If it really, REALLY bothers you and they aren't taking a hint, you could ask your manager to have a gentle chat with them about "praise in public, criticize in private." Correcting problematic workplace behavior is part of what a manager does. But be aware that they may honestly be trying to be helpful and just not understanding how it reads to you; start by trying to correct gently. And apply the same advice I've just given: Praise in public, criticize in private.
    – keshlam
    Dec 14, 2022 at 16:41
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Thank the person for pointing out the mistakes/improvements and then address everyone in the meeting/team that they can all feel free to point of anything you may not be doing incorrectly, at any time, and that you will soon be up to speed, learning curves hey?

Reason I like this approach:

  • Shows humility
  • If the person is genuinely trying to help, will open this up to others in the team, accelerating your learning
  • If the person is actually acting maleficently for some reason, it takes away their power. You open it up to the floor and accept the help from all, so how are you bad?

Worse thing to do would be to dig in ones heals and make a point out of it. In another month or two, you will no longer have this issue, so the long goal is how you want the team to view you in two months time.

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I see this situation as an opportunity.

You indicate that this individual has previous history with your department functions and has some good suggestions. That is an asset. I would recommend pulling them aside proactively to discuss any concerns or suggestions they may have with your processes. Be the instigator for the conversation and then use their knowledge to help improve your area. This will make them feel heard and will set a precedence for private meeting being the best communication tool for these types of conversations.

In addition, you may benefit from doing some communication training to learn helpful tools for how to get presentations back on track when someone interjects with a disruptive comment or question. I find one of the best tools is the phrase "That's an outstanding concern/point/question. Let's take that offline to discuss." This is a great way of validating someone (even if you don't necessarily agree with their comment) but ultimately redirecting everyone's attention back to the topic at hand. Make sure you do follow-up with the individual afterwards when possible as this will again set a positive precedent for communication.

Lastly, if you do get to a point where you feel that this individual is purposely trying to undermine you (after all it is sometimes hard for someone to let go of old duties), first try and sympathize and understand where they are coming from. Attempt to explain your reasoning for doing things differently in private but ultimately be firm that these are now your responsibilities and due diligence means that your department practices need to be justifiable and not exist just because that is how things have always been done. Be extremely sensitive here and act in good faith that this person is just having a hard time letting go.

Know that at a certain point it is painfully obvious when someone is nitpicking work in public. If you are able to stay professional and kind while not allowing distractions to your presentations, it won't be a bad look for you but rather the person doing the disrupting.

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So I had two colleagues who together were responsible for some job. Everyone else cared about whether that job was done or not. If colleague A had told us about mistakes that colleague B made, everyone would have been astonished.

Yes, if B was useless and A complained “I can’t do this job with B because he is useless”, that would cause some action. But everyone makes mistakes (including A) and pointing out B’s mistakes to the world will make most people question A’s character and not B’s abilities.

When your colleague informs others of your mistakes, while you are present, you could publicly thank them for making sure that everyone knows about your mistakes, and tell them that you will take more note of her mistakes in the future.

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  • Seems extrem though... No matter how rude/unprofessional the remarks might have been, do you really need to push that red button and start nuclear war?!
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 17, 2022 at 11:49

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