I work on campus at my university. Earlier this month, my boss sent me and my colleagues an email, asking if we are willing to continue working during the fall semester. He said that the deadline to let him know about our decision is in mid August, and if we don't respond or decide to leave, he will be looking for replacements. However, one of my colleagues talked to the boss recently, and apparently the email in question contained an error; the deadline for our decision was supposed to be about two weeks ago. I do not know the details of the discussion that followed between my coworker and my boss, but it was a heated debate.

I myself haven't responded to the email; I was trying to keep my options open and reply to him a week or two before the deadline, but obviously this is an issue now. How should I bring this up to my boss? I don't think it's a good idea to mention how I found out about the error, as it would remind him of his argument with my co-worker. I don't think I will get fired because I, like the co-worker in question, am relatively difficult to replace. Although I would prefer electronic contact, the boss seems to like to keep his employees "on edge" and doesn't always answer emails he reads.

  • 2
    Double up on your efforts to look for alternatives, but don't let your co-worker's story change what you were going to do. Respond a week or two before the deadline as planned.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 6:29
  • 1
    @Helix, responding to your question about downvotes here, since it's not relevant to gnasher's answer. I'm not sure why the downvotes, but my guess is it would be for the same reason your question was put on hold. That being said, I don't think your question should have been closed, so I've voted to reopen it.
    – David K
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 11:54
  • 1
    Managers represent the company to the employee and also represent the employee to the greater company. When there is an error in a management email there is a liability aspect that varies per situation. I would always try to get the error clarified verbally first as you can navigate the conversation better. Also, get the answer in writing, if by no other means than sending an email to manager summarizing the conversation and asking him/her to confirm the facts presented. As mentioned in selected answer by @Rui F Ribeiro, CC / BCC all comms to a personal account.
    – Marc
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 18:29
  • This is very poorly stated as a question, that's why it got downvoted and closed, and people including me have given you a constructive critique of how to reframe this as an actual question at Why was “How to approach a boss…” closed?. Please urgently fix your question before this drama goes any further.
    – smci
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 14:16

4 Answers 4


Do not discount the situation. Know you local work laws, at least talk with your colleague.

Back in here, depending on the contract, your boss missing the deadline for a mandatory written notification of your dismissal/renewal, means either the prior contract is already automatically renewed, of if it is the 3rd renewal or 4th renewal (laws change), it means it becomes permanent automatically. There are pretty much similar laws about automatic renewals deadlines in most countries.

The point is, your boss potentially may have made a big mistake. The current email may not have any legal enforcement whatsoever, and the situation, or rather the inaction around it might have implications down the line in the not-so-near future in some legislations.

Forward a copy of the specific email to your personal address and/or print it and take it home ASAP.

The heated debate with your colleague may be because:

  • the email might have whatsoever no legal validity, depending on the jurisdiction
  • your colleague already had the expectation the contract was [automatically] renewed
  • the job market right now is closing for holidays
  • your boss has to do his job properly, especially when concerning the lives and expectations of others.

From uslegal : Automatic Renewal Clause Law & Legal definition

An automatic renewal clause allows an agreement to continue for a defined period if the existing agreement isn't renegotiated within a specified time measured from the expiration of the current contract. The term of renewal depends on the specific contract language, but such clauses generally provide that the contract shall be automatically renewed for the same period (or some lesser term) unless either party, at some stipulated and predetermined time (i.e., 60 days before expiration), gives notice to the other of its desire to end the agreement. Generally, if the contract doesn't provide a time period for the contract to be subject to renewal, it may be renewed indefinitely.

It is a clause which may be included in various contracts, such as an employment contract or rental lease.

  • 1
    But we can already infer the OP doesn't have an automatic renewal clause, since if they did, OP and coworker would have been automatically renewed, and the boss would never have had a "heated discussion". OP is unlikely to be able to negotiate an individual contract, let alone an automatic renewal clause. It would seriously help if they started giving us specifics, and knocked off the "Apparently"..."supposedly"..."He never responded to my email" stuff.
    – smci
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 14:28
  • The point of the answer is actually that if the due date of termination is not enforced, especially in cases where there are not renewal clauses, or were they are not valid anymore (too many), the contract becomes permanent. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 11:33
  • Rui, I understood you, and it's not a relevant suggestion; US universities will not negotiate individual contract wordings with each contractor, they'll have a standard contract. This is different to a private company hiring individual software contractors on an ad-hoc basis, where you might have leverage to negotiate.
    – smci
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 12:03

You say the boss doesn't take full responsibility for an error, when you don't even know that an error was made at all. All you have is hearsay.

You have an email saying there is a deadline in August. So you reply before the deadline. Just in case there was an error you don't wait until the last minute. If you didn't want the job anyway, then it doesn't make a difference. If you want the job and get it, then it doesn't make a difference.

If you want the job, and you are told you missed the deadline, then and only then you show your email. If you are lucky, your reply was only rejected because you missed the deadline, and the email shows it wasn't your mistake, and you get the job.

On the other hand, if someone else was already hired, your boss might say "well, that was my mistake, the deadline was wrong, but we hired someone else, tough luck". And if that is the case, there is very little you can do.

  • What if I send an email saying "yes" but he does not respond? Should I bring up the email in person and let him know that I've heard people say that the deadline was wrong?
    – Helix
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 6:30
  • Just to make sure I understood clearly, You are saying that in my first email I should not bring up the issue at all and act as if I haven't heard about it?
    – Helix
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 6:35
  • 3
    Yes. You haven't heard of it from a reliable source. And the "heated debate" indicates that your boss didn't want to hire your colleague again. If your boss doesn't want to hire you, he isn't going to hire you. If he wants to hire you, he will hire you. I would reply earlier than planned, so if there is a mistake it can be fixed.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 7:50
  • +1 for responding early and pretending like you don't know anything. And @Helix, if he doesn't respond to your "yes" email, talk to him and say "Hey, just wanted to make sure you saw my email, that I'm intending to stay on this fall." If he says you were late, then you can say "What do you mean? Your email said by August"
    – David K
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 12:32
  • 2
    @DavidK Thanks for the advice! I sent him an email and he was angry (supposedly he sent a correction email that I didn't receive) but everything is ok. I am wondering though if you have any idea about the downvotes? I am just curious what is wrong with my question, I thought it was clear and on-topic (as outlined here workplace.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic)
    – Helix
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:52

It seems that at the moment the OP discovered that the date of the deadline was in question, in the wake of having somewhat of a flaky boss, that human resources should have been consulted for an authoritative answer. This would have cut out the poor feedback loop between boss and employee. Why not just cut to the chase?

  1. I understood your main question to be "Missed my contract renewal deadline due to boss misstating it in email, how to respond?"; I had to reformulate the original title from "How to approach a boss who doesn't take full responsibility for his mistake?"
  2. How you react depends on what the "deadline" is exactly, whether it's one specified by your contract, or the date they requested you respond for their internal decision-making/hiring process (i.e. in the current scheme of things, if you don't renew, the date they actually stop paying you).
  3. If it's a legal question then relevant considerations are: what country and state you're in, whether you have a contract, what it says about renewals, deadlines, acceptances, whether this deadline the same for other depts, how the dept generally handles late renewals, whether your boss messed up like this before, if so what happened. Without knowing those we can't answer ("What happens to a person on a fixed-term contract in Jurisdiction expiring on Date if the renewal deadline is misstated to them? Can they legally hire my replacement?")
  4. "I was trying to keep my options open and reply to him a week or two before the deadline, but obviously this is an issue now. How should I bring this up to my boss?" Well, since your time's up, you have to give them your decision whether to renew or leave. It seems too risky if you're trying to buy extra time to interview/negotiate compensation or continue interviewing.
  5. For something major and urgent like this, it's better to communicate both in writing and verbally (memo in writing what you say verbally, include the date). Schedule a brief meeting. Then that should eliminate your concern "Although I would prefer electronic contact, the boss seems to like to keep his employees 'on edge' and doesn't always answer emails he reads."
  6. I get that you believe it's a big deal that your boss did not correctly notify your dept of the deadline or ever ask if you were renewing, it may be useful to have that email. But I suggest don't hang your hopes on him accepting responsibility right now, just get renewed.
  7. If your boss being non-responsive to emails is a bigger ongoing problem and you want solutions, you need to learn some effective techniques to deal with people like that (whether they're shy, flaky, or actively dishonest). A brief dated memo to your boss summarizing your discussion (or else your understanding), for major things, is useful.
  8. Two well-known techniques for dealing with flaky, uncommunicative or dysfunctional people: calendar a 1-on-1 meeting. Say, every month. Even for 15 minutes. Second, in emails, state a default course of action: "I plan to to do X unless I hear otherwise from you by Date".
  9. In your memo, you don't necessarily need to say something like "Apparently(?) email in question contained an error; deadline ... supposed to be two weeks ago." and don't reference the "heated debate... between coworker and boss," Then don't. Just say/write "Boss, I understand my contract renewal date was actually X, but I did not get notified of that timely/until Date/now. I'd urgently like to discuss my renewal with you, by Date."
  10. Summary: if as you say the deadline has passed, recommend you come to a decision immediately and communicate it verbally and by memo to your boss (and whichever other relevant parties).
  11. Your other criticisms of your boss are things you might raise after sorting the renewal out, if you believe he would change. It's far more important to get the contract renewal mess fixed ASAP than get the boss to take "full responsibility" for his miscommunications and their impact. It's strongly possible he won't change, and it's up to you how far you push that issue, and via what channels.

(The discussion of this question from Meta from the original version, which was closed, reopened and edited: https://workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4019/16071)

  • I have moved the comments here to chat as this question is now almost 2 years old and the comments seem to be largely about answering and not really about the question itself. There is also the Meta question linked above where it also seems appropriate to have this discussion.
    – user44108
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 5:28

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