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I am a manager in the cybersecurity division of the company I work in. I have been in management for about 5 years and am well respected by my colleagues.

This week, one of the cybersecurity engineers escalated to me a story about an angry / agitated internal customer who perceived he was not heard and whose request for elevated Domain Admin access was denied (rightfully). When I met with the internal customer, I said I understood his ask, but cannot grant him elevated access as such access is 1) Not needed for his use case and 2) against our security policy of least privileged access.

The internal customer began to become agitated and accusatory, saying security doesn't care, is trying to sabotage his job role, and decision to deny access was made arbitrarily. None of this was true as I showed him the policies, told him him he agreed to comply with IT security policies as a part of new hire conditions, and explained our reasoning for such rules. I remained professional / almost stoic with very little emotional display

However, as a protective step, I brought in my boss who is a director so this incident can be documented. He said I did the right thing and commended me on my poise shown in a stressful situation.

In an 1:1 today, I said to my manager how seeing an angry customer must have been upsetting and stressful and how I wished he did not have to see what he saw. I said I did not intend to stress him out and understood if he had any distress. No one wants to deal with yelling / unreasonable accusations so such feelings are understandable.

His reaction was rather confused and he told me that he felt what I said in 1:1 was a bit excessive / not needed.

Are my comments to my director excessive?

Is there anything I could have done more to shield him from having to experience such stress in the future, if our position was in the right as my boss confirmed?

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    Did your boss say to you that he experienced stress?
    – nicola
    Nov 2, 2023 at 9:20
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    The whole thing swirls with strangeness. You describe a colleague as an "internal customer". He apparently asked for access he didn't need, then flew off the handle when denied. And finally you remark that your director must have been "upset" and "stressed" at having to deal with other employees, and apologise for involving him?
    – Steve
    Nov 2, 2023 at 10:54
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    "how seeing an angry customer must have been upsetting and stressful and how I wished he did not have to see what he saw. I said I did not intend to stress him out and understood if he had any distress. No one wants to deal with yelling / unreasonable accusations so such feelings are understandable." Honestly, that sounds like a way you might to talk to a child. I can definitely see why your boss wasn't happy with that.
    – Dnomyar96
    Nov 2, 2023 at 13:19
  • ahh how the pendulum swings least privilege access... Until the 1001 inefficiencies finally cause the company to give everyone access to everything. Which will lead to security vulnerabilities and running the other way yet again...
    – Questor
    Nov 2, 2023 at 20:58
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    @Anthony You still don't get it do you Nov 2, 2023 at 22:50

6 Answers 6

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From my perspective...

In an 1:1 today, I said to my manager how seeing an angry customer must have been upsetting and stressful and how I wished he did not have to see what he saw. I said I did not intend to stress him out and understood if he had any distress. No one wants to deal with yelling / unreasonable accusations so such feelings are understandable.

You're claiming your manager became upset and distressed, and that, somehow, it's your role to shield you manager from such situations.

Expressing those views are infantilizing.

Your manager is an adult. They are capable of dealing with their own emotions, and don't need a subordinate to comfort or console them.

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  • Nice answer. This is what I was attempting to convey in my answer. Thanks for doing so more eloquently and more to the point then me.
    – joeqwerty
    Nov 2, 2023 at 15:37
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My best guess is that he thinks what you stated in your 1:1 wasn't needed. You had already dealt with the issue, he agreed with how you dealt with it, and the matter needed no further discussion.

It isn't your job to protect your boss from uncomfortable situations, nor to apologize for his being in them. I'm assuming he took your apology for the situation as unneeded and inappropriate.

You didn't create the situation, so your boss being pulled into it isn't your fault, and therefore you needn't apologize to him for it, and doing so may have struck him as patronizing.

My suggestion... in the future if this happens again don't broach the subject in your 1:1 meetings unless your manager brings it up.

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Your conversation with your boss was condescending.

In an 1:1 today, I said to my manager how seeing an angry customer must have been upsetting and stressful and how I wished he did not have to see what he saw. I said I did not intend to stress him out and understood if he had any distress. No one wants to deal with yelling / unreasonable accusations so such feelings are understandable.

In many cases (but not all), someone at a director level in a company is in that position because of a proven track record of being able to deal with people like your internal customer. Your statements to your boss conveyed the idea like he was going to fall apart over some bruised feelings. I think your boss's choice of word, "expressive", might have thrown you off. "Insulting" might have been a more direct, but less politically-correct alternative word.

If it crossed your mind but you didn't say what you said, it would have been no big deal. It would have been better for you to keep that viewpoint to yourself.

DON'T go back to the guy and try to clean this up. You've said enough. Let it go.

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Now, for me - I wouldn't think what you said was excessive, not by a long shot.

However, I can see a point of view that this line:

"how I wished he did not have to see what he saw. I said I did not intend to stress him out and understood if he had any distress. No one wants to deal with yelling / unreasonable accusations so such feelings are understandable."

could be seen in a negative light.

To clarify, I don't think there's any malice or negativity intended in it - but it could be seen as either patronizing:

"You are too mentally weak to handle conflict"

or it could be seen as white-knighting:

"I must shield you, Oh My Boss, from all the harsh realities of the world"

If you have a similar situation and you want to discuss it - I would avoid talking about how your boss must have felt. Instead, talk about how you felt.

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To me the bizarre thing is that the OP's boss congratulated them for how they handled the situation, and then the OP later undercuts that by abasing themselves and saying they wish the boss hadn't seen it.

He said I did the right thing and commended me on my poise shown in a stressful situation... I said to my manager how seeing an angry customer must have been upsetting and stressful and how I wished he did not have to see what he saw...

This is, at least, tonally weird.

"Take the Win".

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Are my comments to my director excessive?

Maybe, he thought that your comments were a bit excessive because you described the customers as "angry" and that the customer's behavior made you feel "upsetting and stressful".

Most directors/managers prefer seeing their employees remain calm, cool, and professional when dealing with customers regardless of how unreasonable the customer's manners and demands are.

We know that you treated that customer in a calm and professional manner per your post.

But, perhaps, the director wanted you to describe that customer in a calmer tone in your 1:1 meeting with the director.


Is there anything I could have done more to shield him from having to experience such stress in the future ?

Maybe, you can try to describe the customers in a calmer tone regardless of how upset, angry, and unreasonable they might be when you deal with them.

Probably, the director already has enough stress from other sources, and he does not want to hear unfavorable comments about some customers in a 1:1 meeting.

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  • No, I said my boss must have felt upset for having to be exposed in the first place. If I did not have to pull him in and could have shielded him, I would have.
    – Anthony
    Nov 2, 2023 at 12:46
  • It's right to avoid pulling your boss in if it can be avoided because he has delegated the work to you and has other stuff to do. It's not because he might get upset or stressed. In this case, it sounds like you were right to bring him in though. Nov 2, 2023 at 16:59

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