Trying to keep this brief: I report to two managers, A and B. I meet infrequently with A (~1x/month) and my day to day work has no impact on her ability to do her job. I work very closely with B and talk to him every day.

I asked A for permission to work remotely for two weeks. She told me it was fine if B approved. B told me it was not a problem at all. I brought it up in a meeting with both of them at once and it appeared that everyone was on the same page.

A month later, I mentioned in passing to A that I was leaving soon to work remotely. She had forgotten our earlier discussions, and became very frustrated that I had made plans without consulting her. She went on to tell me that it showed a basic lack of professionalism to do what I had done, but that it was common for new hires like me to "lack the emotional maturity" to manage their time effectively.

I was very confused by her reaction and I mostly locked up during the conversation. I assumed that I must not have actually told her my plans. I tried to explain that B, who I work with every day, reassured me it was a totally routine thing at the company so I didn't understand why it would be such a big deal. She told me that it was against policy for me to work remotely.

After our meeting, she emailed me to say that it turned out no formal policy existed, but she had worked other managers related to her position to create one. (Because of strangeness with the way I am managed, this policy basically only applies to me and a handful of other people across the company.)

I confirmed with B later that yes, I had mentioned it in a meeting with both him and A and that A said it was fine pending his approval. I had 100% followed the correct protocol and okayed it with multiple other people on my team whose work would be affected by my absence. It never occurred to me that I would need to make a bigger deal of it to A, since everybody I talked to --- including her, twice --- was extremely nonchalant about it.

I cancelled my plans to work remotely. Obviously, misunderstandings happen. I'm sure I was not as clear as I could have been when I discussed it with her. My work is very important to me and I'm not at all bothered by changing my plans... but I am extremely offended by the level of vitriol she responded with because of a misunderstanding on both of our sides. Even if I had made plans without consulting her, I feel like it was totally inappropriate for her to comment on the "emotional maturity" of one of her employees.

Is it best for me to just bite my tongue, or should I try to talk with A to resolve: (1) the offense I entirely accidentally caused her and (2) what I feel was a personal attack that she gave me in response? Do I write this off as a loss and just never bring it up again, or try to clear the air? I continue to report to her for about 4 more months, after which I will report only to B.

  • Yes, bring this up that you brought it up in front of her, and that apparently you have a witness. Don't push your luck about the emotional maturity part thought. The label she used to describe you is not important, but the fact that the misunderstanding did occur is important, so try to clear up the misunderstanding at the very least. – Stephan Branczyk May 27 '16 at 6:03
  • @Stephan: I worry that this will come across as me trying to get the last word in and undermine her authority more. – Patrick Collins May 27 '16 at 6:07
  • 1
    The important lesson here is that you need to create documentation. Next time write a follow-up email which summarizes the meeting including their agreement to you working remotely. – Roland May 27 '16 at 8:17
  • @Lilienthal: I wanted to ask "should I let it go?" because I've learned that for questions like "I find my teammate to be distracting, should I confront him about it or let it go?" the best move is to bring it up so that it can be resolved quickly, rather than sitting on my frustration. I would confront A if she were a teammate. But I don't know what to do about disagreements with a manager, since it seems that even bringing it up may be too aggressive. – Patrick Collins May 27 '16 at 8:50
  • 1
    Send an email then. Phrase it in the nicest possible way without blaming your manager. From my point of view, she was the super aggressive one, not you. Also, it seems to me like she may have been in a very bad mood at the time, may be she has cooled down by now. If you wait six months and if she includes this incident in your yearly review, it will be too late by then. – Stephan Branczyk May 27 '16 at 17:30

Lesson #1: always take good notes and create a paper trail. Send out e-mail confirmation for any non-trivial decisions. Working two weeks remotely is non-trivial especially if it's the first time. Include all the specifics so people can pick at them. Example

"Hi A&B, as discussed today and approved by you I will be working remotely from AAA to BBB. Thanks for making this happen and let me know if you have any questions or concerns"

Miscommunication requires resolution: Not to assign blame, but to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Check with manager B to fact check your version of the story. Make sure you have all the details right. Then approach Manager A constructively and ask how to avoid this going forward. Example

Hi A, I was very confused about our interaction on (date ZZZ) about me working remotely. I had already discussed this with you and B on (XXX date) and I was under the impression that both of you had agreed to this. Apparently that's not the case, so what should I have done differently here and how should I go about documenting these types of decisions in the future?

Ignore the insult. You are in charge of your own behavior not hers. The better you behave, the better will the people around you behave as well.

| improve this answer | |

So the sequence was: You asked A, she said it's Ok if B agrees, you asked B who agreed, and a month later you ask A, who has forgotten. She then attacks, using terms like "lacking emotional maturity", when it is all her fault.

This was not a misunderstanding. This is a manager either having a leaky brain and taking no notes, or having changed her mind, and what happened here is entirely her fault and her responsibility.

Normally you would reply with an email that you checked your notes, that she was told a month ago, that she said it's Ok if B agrees, that you asked B who agreed, and that you strongly reject her accusation of "basic lack of professionalism" and "lack of emotional maturity". Especially if you told B that you talked to A before asking him for permission.

However, that would require a manager A who has some basic professionalism and emotional maturity, and I suspect that both are lacking. Given that, let it pass, take a very strong mental note that manager A has to be treated with care. Take notes on any interaction that you have with her.

And when you are in a stronger position in the company, you will enjoy to help taking her down. She is not an asset to your company. Her behaviour with a personal attack on you would have been inappropriate even had she been right, which she wasn't.

| improve this answer | |
  • 8
    I'd suggest dropping the last phrase. If you must take revenge in the workplace do so by outshining people, not taking them down. – Lilienthal May 27 '16 at 8:56
  • @Lilienthal: No, it's not going. It's there intentional. You can only outshine people doing the same job as you do. With that kind of behaviour, and the OP being a fresh starter, hopefully this manager will be gone before the OP reaches a position to outshine them - if that is even what he wishes to do. How would you ever outshine the guy in payroll who messed up your payment, and when you complained calculated your taxes too high and sent too much to the tax office? Or the cleaner who put important papers on your desk under water? – gnasher729 May 27 '16 at 11:44
  • 4
    Trying to "take her down" just adds to a toxic work environment full of petty vendettas from petty people. – Laconic Droid May 27 '16 at 12:48

I concur with everyone who says you should create a paper trail. That doesn't mean going crazy like writing formal letters with each of their thumb prints on it. But it does mean simpler things can be done to "remind" folks of things. For example, if you knew you had to ask for a 1 month long work from home, then maybe you can fire out an email post meeting or set up a calendar of sorts so that it'll be there, they'll know it, and they can't say you didn't told them.

Ex. "Why you're working from home!? That is unprofessional." You: "I'm sorry, I thought it was clear when I sent out the email, dated X/Y that we were on the same page about me working from home."

| improve this answer | |

Take it on the chin and learn the lesson that things important to you, are not even worth remembering sometimes to others.

You may have struck the manager on a bad day, or some other reason, but it's not constructive to conjecture on why's and why nots, put it down to experience and remember what you have learnt about this person.

| improve this answer | |

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