I am not an outgoing individual nor do I complain publicly or even privately when it concerns my job (probably because of the money). I am EXTREMELY quite and I am ALWAYS working. I do not like disappointing my manager(s) nor do I like failure myself. Recently though, I feel like I am crumbling away due to sheer number of pressures applied to me. For example, today I was asked for reports that normally require 2 days to construct and complete. I had a mini panic attack because I would have to drop everything (getting behind) and scramble to prepare these reports, yet I did not speak up or say anything. I just accepted the task willingly knowing it will cost me in other areas. Then, after working to the bone, I presented the reports to manager and he snapped at me for some title/heading formatting. I felt like an absolute failure and that it was all my fault, I took responsibility for everything and stated I was sorry and that it will not happen again.

How do you approach such a situation? Was I at fault? How would I have fixed it/should've respond? How do you ask your manager to change deadlines? How do you deal with a manager who seems to be displeased with you and has not given any training or feedback? How do you talk to your manager? What are the strategies to keep everyone happy? Do you even speak up or just suck-it-up and move on? I've never acquired a good relationship with any of my managers (they have all either quit or been fired). NOTE, I have only been at my current position for a month.


  • 2
    Suck it up with a smile... you've only just walked in the door.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 18, 2016 at 7:18
  • 1
    "I took responsibility for everything and stated I was sorry and that it will not happen again." - If you promise that mistakes will never happen again, you probably can't live up to that. However, you can promise to correct mistakes as they are discovered.
    – Brandin
    Feb 18, 2016 at 8:22
  • The manager might have been in a bad mood. Just say sorry and that you will fix it
    – Ed Heal
    Feb 18, 2016 at 10:35
  • Brandin, for the formatting mistake I can make that promise, but yeah I get what you're saying. Ed, yes that is a possibility but it seems to be lasting for a few days now. Joe, no I am not new to the workforce. I just do not like being put on the spot or not having time to complete reports which may be shown to other managers/executives. I like making sure everything is perfect and accurate. Panic, in my terms, means that it sucked up all my focus and attention for the day. I do not want to be blamed for "false" data or analysis if I could have avoided it. I don't want to disappoint.
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 20, 2016 at 20:39

3 Answers 3


There are two basic questions here:

  • How should I react when I am criticised for a mistake?

Accept responsibility for your mistake, discuss it, if required, to ensure you know exactly what you did wrong so you can avoid making the same mistake again, apologise and move on. Mistakes happen. If you are genuinely unfairly criticised for a mistake then handling that is a separate question.

  • How should I deal with the imposition of conflicting or unattainable work priorities?

This happens all the time in the workplace environment. When someone gives you a job to do, your first question should always be "When do you need this done by?".

Once you know when it needs to be done by you should know whether you can deliver it in that timescale, or if delivering it in that timescale means something else will suffer.

In the first instance you should immediately say "I don't think I can complete this task by [that date/time] because [your reasons]". You will be expected to follow up immediately with an estimate by when you reasonably think you could complete it. Do not avoid that last step- if you do your entire position will not have credibility to the person giving you the task. E.g. respond with "I can't complete it by then because it will take more time than that, but I could complete it by [some time] assuming all goes well and I am not given other work to do that conflicts with this requirement".

If accepting the work in that timescale means other pre-existing work or plans will suffer you should say "I could achieve that [assuming you could], but it would mean that [some other work would get delayed or some other negative consequence]. In the light of that, do you still want me to proceed?" - This has the effect of shifting the responsibility for the delays or consequences away from you and on to the person that has actually caused the problem.

  • 2
    I'll go just slightly further and say that if the manager says to postpone existing work, make sure you notify anyone who was expecting that product that it will be delayed due to a higher priority.
    – HLGEM
    Feb 18, 2016 at 14:33
  • @HLGEM good call
    – Marv Mills
    Feb 18, 2016 at 14:37
  • I work in a world of ever shifting priorities! The fastest way to get into trouble is to have the priority shift and not let the people being delayed know.
    – HLGEM
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:27
  • I think this is perhaps the best answer. Though I have one question, what is the typical first thought and reaction and actual reaction from a manager that gets those time based responses? I do not want to seem like I can't prioritize or otherwise do my job.
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 20, 2016 at 20:42
  • Managers should be used to hearing this question- how can YOU prioritise work items that are given to you by other people? The answer is that you cannot, without information from them on when they need it completed by. If you don't ask then you don't know, and that leads to the stress you are experiencing
    – Marv Mills
    Feb 22, 2016 at 10:29

If you were really snapped at for something that requires only a few minutes additional effort to fix -- unless you really should have known the formatting convention and were conspicuously sloppy -- that's your manager's error, and you should find some time when there isn't a crisis to say something like "I understand you were stressed out by that deadline too, but it felt like you were shouting at me; is there any way we could tone it down a bit and just get the job done? What do I need to study so I get it right next time?"

The strategy for keeping your manager happy is to understand what they need, and to make sure they understand what you need in order to be able to deliver that. Making that happens means talking to them on a fairly regular basis, while kedping it from becoming a whining session. "I completed this, I'm starting that but I'll need those and I'm not sure where to get them; who should I ask?" goes a long way.

Once you're a bit more stable, you'll learn when it's ok to say that you honestly don't think you can do a good job and still hit the deadline, and to discuss how to prioritize subtasks or conflicting tasks.

You don't want to demand continuous guidance (you're supposed to become self-guiding), but communications is a hugely important skill.


It's your manager's job to manage.

Your own error was to panic. The last thing you should do is secretly worry that the boss has assigned you too many simultaneous tasks and its somehow "on you" if you don't get them all completed on time. Your statement "it will cost me in other areas" is revealing. No it won't, it will cost him.

It's very easy to simply say, "OK, but I also have this other thing to do, and these reports take two days. Which has the higher priority?" and not be afraid of being rude or overly aggressive. Dealing with that is what he's paid for.

And just as an aside, Snapping at someone for a formatting error is a bit unprofessional of him. He should have just nicely pointed out your mistake, after which you would agree to fix it. These things happen, unless it's a very basic element of your job type that's not specific to this particular company (you have just been there a month) or he has repeatedly explained to you the correct way of doing it.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .