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I've worked at a small, family owned/operated store for two years. I have co-workers who have been there 10-20 (20 years is as long as the place has existed), it is a close knit work environment.

My manager and I have a good relationship. She asks me to do things, I say yes, she thanks me, and I get raises. She asked me to do something the other day, and, after saying yes, jokingly mentioned that someone else could do it. She took it as though I had said "I don't trust you to ask the right person to do something". Other co-workers later said that she was distraught, saying things along the lines of me not giving her respect. They also said that she had other things giving her problems and maybe what I said just pushed her a bit over the edge.

In a worker-manager relationship, who is responsible for initiating a dialogue to clear the air? I feel like I should do it because, well, that's the type of person I am. I also feel like she should because she's the manager and it's her job to tell me when I've done something wrong.

(Feel free to change the tags, I'm not familiar here)

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    "I also feel like she should because she's the manager and it's her job to tell me when I've done something wrong." So you'd rather wait for her to slam you at the next salary review? You are the one who initiated the misunderstanding. Clean up after yourself. Dec 22, 2016 at 22:14
  • Sounds like the manager has an issue with something, perhaps not this however. It seems odd to get emotionally distraught over a comment as you described. Are you certain there isn't something else going on (not involving you) or something else you did or said that could have set her off?
    – Andieisme
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:32
  • @VietnhiPhuvan good advice. To reply to others, she asks me to do all kinds of things always. I think it changed her perspective of me a bit. I don't want to cross some professional line by talking first.
    – Carl
    Dec 23, 2016 at 4:53
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    You initiate the misunderstanding, you initiate the corrective action. That's all there is to it and that's the only way you get back to the right side of the professional line. I once waved lazily at a colleague and I could not understand why he promptly went ballistic. It took me an hour or so before I realized that I had waved so lazily that somehow, my middle finger had stuck out. I apologized to him post haste. Dec 23, 2016 at 4:59

3 Answers 3

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In all things, communication goes both ways. Either/both sides should try to address the situation, but don't let it fester under the premise that "it's her job to come to me" (paraphrased).

You've been made aware that your comment upset your manager. It would be a good sign of respect to approach her and try and remedy the situation.


Ask for a quick one-on-one (you should address this face-to-face as opposed to via email or phone) and have a conversation along the lines of:

Manager, it's been brought to my attention that you felt the comment I made the other day was disrespectful. I apologize. I did not intend to be disrespectful or to undermine you in any way. I will avoid similar comments in the future, as I do respect you, and would not want to make it appear otherwise. I really appreciate the positive relationship we've had the past two years. (only say if true)

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Seems like she's making a mountain out of mole-hill. From a small joke like that to being "disrespected" is quite a leap, and leads to me to believe that this person may have some personal issues she needs to hash out.

You may indeed be better off apologizing before the "issue" grows even more serious in her apparently very confused memory.

Tread lightly around people who are that easily insulted. They're typically jumping at shadows, and seeking "hidden meanings" behind every comment.

My advice is to initiate a conversation, but don't act too contrite. Say that your comment was simply a joke, and that the task is now complete. Hopefully she will actually get over it.

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Sounds like a veiled threat from the manager: someone else could do it. Is the boss starting to thrive on power and expecting yes people under the not so subtle jab that you are easily replacable? Managers who command respect while toying with employees' feelings can be difficult unless you enjoy pandering to their every whim and jumping through hoops like their toy poodle. Maybe break the ice by asking if there has been a misunderstanding?

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    it was the OP, not the manager, who said someone else could do it. This upset the manager. Dec 24, 2016 at 10:44

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