Just a bit of background on the company I work for, and my position.

We produce cornice, skirting, dado rails etc and we supply a chain of building material shops under Walmart. I am the one who is responsible for this account.

Our lengths of skirting that we supply come with smallish stickers on them, displaying the profile information of that profile (size, profile name etc). Last year December, we had ran out of stickers for 2 curtain profiles, namely 3/67 and Bullnose. It is dispatch's job to put the stickers on the skirting lengths, but no one from dispatch had said anything about these 2 stickers running out, which had caused a big argument between my MD, dispatch and myself (account manager). We came to the conclusion that we are not going to put stickers on Bullnose and Coverstrip (just another profile) because they are low cost items (the stickers are expensive).

Now fast forward to halfway through May, he looses his mind when he finds out we haven't been sending Bullnose with stickers. He wasn't angry at me for it, but when I stood up for the guy running dispatch, all hell broke loose.

The guy in Dispatch, and myself have now been accused of twisting his words and "changing his policy without him knowing". This isn't the first time this has happened, where he does/says something and then doesn't remember it a few weeks/months later, because of this, I am getting into serious trouble and it makes me look like the fool. I do have another witness, but she is too scared to stand up for us.

Another thing, when we try and explain ourselves, he gets even more angry and shouts at us saying we mustn't interrupt him, which doesn't give us a chance to share what we have to say.

I really can't work like this under these conditions, especially when he makes a decision, forgets about it, and when "we made that STUPID decision, not him".

How can I get around things like this? There is no help in writing it down in my diary because he 'always remembers what he says, regardless if its written down in my diary'.

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    Does your boss have an email address? The answer to this is almost always sending an email to confirm the decision. – Erik May 15 '17 at 15:14
  • Document, document everything :) – madalinivascu May 16 '17 at 5:21

I've had co-workers like this, as have many people I'd imagine and it's not easy to deal with. The problem is not that they forget things, most people do that. The problem is that they take anything that highlights something they had forgotten about as critiscm or even a personal slight, especially if they are sensitive about their memory for whatever reason.

It's probably not the answer you're hoping for but I've never found a silver bullet that works for it. The best I've found so far is to use e-mail as an audit trail as @Erik suggested in his comment (the holy grail of this setup is when you can get them to reply and confirm to the e-mail but that's not always possible and is out of your control). Firstly (and most importantly) this covers you from anything coming back to bite you later. You really don't want to have one of these incidents go seriously sideways on you and have nothing but a "he-said, she said" to protect you. Secondly it can give you a way to de-escalate the situation - when the first thing some people with this tendency hear from someone is essentially "you're wrong" they immediately go to a mindset that they are being attacked and therefore percieve everything subsequent on the subject from that standpoint and reasonableness can go straight out of the window.

To use this situation as an example (obviously without a time machine it's not going to help you here) when they queried why the profiles were going out sans-sitckers you can say:

I thought you'd said that we weren't going to sticker them any more but I might be wrong. Let me just check what I said in the e-mail.

You then dig the e-mail out and forward it over to them or show on your screen, whichever is more appropriate.

The advantages of this approach are:

  1. By allowing for uncertainty in your own recollection of events you are implicitly suggesting that lapses in memory aren't a big deal.

  2. Doing it this way the first thing that contradicts them is an e-mail which is not only harder to dispute from a factual perspective but also you can't exactly get in to a shouting match with an e-mail.

As I said earlier this is no silver bullet, but I can say that I've seen it work, both for myself and for others at least.

Hope you manage to resolve your current dramas OP!

  • I'd suggest that presenting your boss (and anyone above him) with a policy/plan to require people to use email to explicitly state decisions and have a policy that people do not change existing practice unless they get an email could be suggested to all parties as a way of avoiding these pointless disagreements. Present it as a constructive process. – StephenG May 15 '17 at 17:23
  • The best way I've found to deal with those never get around to responding types is to add an explicit "If I don't hear back from you by XYZ I'm going to proceed forward with this plan" type language to the email. This avoids sitting around doing nothing while waiting for a response and makes it pretty hard to complain when you do proceed forward. If they say you shouldn't have proceeded you can just ask them to produce the non-existent email saying you shouldn't proceed. – Evan Steinbrenner May 15 '17 at 17:59

Documents remember what is said better than people. Going forward, you should consider protecting yourself by having a written manual to prevent disagreements going forward. It needs to be modified/amended on a regular basis.

Develop a manual if you don't have one already. Second, if you keep a diary then it should be simple to amend that manual occasionally based on your diary (daily, weekly monthly). After you make changes, provide those changes to your boss to review and "sign off on" going forward.

Remember, this is to clarify your conversations with your boss. It is to help you get clarity on what was discussed. Avoid doing this for the sake of "proving" anything to the boss (like his memory vs. yours), since that is likely to upset him and be unproductive. You need this tool (with his "perfect memory" he obviously doesn't need it).

  • 1
    +1 Document, document, document. After any meeting where a decision is made, send an email or note saying "this is my understanding of what was decided" - and list, together, all decisions that were made at the meeting. What is going to happen is that after the boss gets extra egg on his face when it is pointed out, a couple instances, that a decision he's complaining about was (a) discussed and agreed upon, and (b) he got the email listing the agreement and was fine with it - he's also going to start paying more attention and keeping track of decisions made, as well. – PoloHoleSet May 15 '17 at 20:01

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