Yesterday I had an awkward encounter with a colleague. I just greeted him as I passed by him in the hallway and in return he accused me of not wanting to fix my algorithm for a report I have developed for their department. I told him I wasn't made aware of any bug and he accused me of putting the blame on them for not knowing what they needed. He left visibly angry at me and told me "It's fine don't fix it" in a very irritated tone.

I honestly have no clue at all what he was referring to. His coworker even commended me last month for my work.

Now my question: how do I defuse this situation? Obviously, if something is wrong with the report then I want to fix it but I'm not sure how to approach this. I feel contacting him only might not work so well as he's angry at me and will only lead to confrontation. I thought about contacting his boss but that may only aggravate the situation as he might think that I'm trying to make him look bad to his boss.

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    Don't go straight to someone's boss without first discussing it with your boss. The last thing you want is his boss coming to your boss and your boss being blindsided. – paparazzo Nov 29 '14 at 17:30
  • Remember also that everyone can be a little exasperated from time to time. The advice given by some of these answers is good (I suspect Wesley's spidey senses are correct here), but maybe be a touch premature. – Nathan Cooper Nov 30 '14 at 14:45
  • I agree with Wesley's answer. I would add that after you find out what the problem is, it is probably a good idea to follow up with this colleague and say you now understand what happened and explain that you simply weren't "in the loop" earlier. – teego1967 Nov 30 '14 at 14:58

Don't go to anyone else except your manager. Relay to him/her everything about the above encounter.

My "Developer Spidey-Sense (TM)" is telling me that your manager probably headed off an unfocused complaint from that department, and sent them back to document the details of their complaint.

Your manager is probably 3 steps ahead of you on this one. Check with them, first.

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Focus on the job that you're supposed to get done. So it seems there's a bug in the algorithm. Find a person who can confirm it and give you the information you need to debug and correct it. Send an email to the team in charge of validating your work (sounds like the department of said colleague), politely and professionally asking for information. No need to hint where you heard from about the bug, and no need to mention the colleague and your unfortunate encounter with him. Focus on the potential problem that needs solving.

Once you have authoritative confirmation that the job was done, or some correction is needed and you handle it, you can put this behind you. It's the colleague who has a problem with you, let him come to you, no need to cater for him. In fact you can probably do no help from your side right now. Take it easy, be cool.

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  • "Focus on the job that you're supposed to get done" Exactly, but everything after that is wrong. The OP probably has actual work to be getting on with and I doubt it's his call to spend his time proactively exploring vague bugs from other departments. – Nathan Cooper Nov 30 '14 at 14:52
  • The smart thing to do would be to check with your manager to see if he's across the problem already, as Wesley Long suggested in his answer. But seriously, volunteering to proactively triage a possible problem another department is having is the sort of positive attitude most companies would like to see their employees display, in my experience. – Carson63000 Dec 1 '14 at 4:36

Your first task is to get at the facts. Ask his coworker. If the coworker has no clue what's going on, you'll have to talk to his boss. If the boss doesn't know, ask the boss to refer you to someone who knows about the situation.

If the unfortunate fact is that your colleague is the only one who knows what's bothering him, contact him first by email saying that you were referred to him by his boss and that you expect him to cooperate with you. Follow up with a phone call. If he barks at you instead of talking to you, hang up immediately and tell his boss that your attempts to reach out to him were cut off by his hostility. Let his boss talk some sense into him. If that's not happening, wash your hands off the whole affair.

Your colleague may or may not look bad to his boss but it's collateral damage in your search for the truth and the collateral damage is not your problem. Sometimes, you need to let people act like adults and worry about their own bosses instead of you worrying about their bosses. Accept the fact that he is responsible for his own actions and that at the end of the day, the burden is on him to reach out to you for help and to tell you what happened. No need to obsess over those who would rather lash out at those around them than take the time to make a coherent request for help. People have the right to make their own choices no matter how poor those choices are, as long as no one else gets hurt.

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