Question: I recently made the mistake of including an inappropriate person on a group email. Someone tattled about this to my boss, who sternly warned me to never do it again. I’m not sure who the tattletale was, but I suspect three people. Two of the suspects are my co-workers, and the third is a manager on my boss’s level.
I need to find out who did this to me. Both co-workers have denied any involvement, though I’m not sure I believe them. The manager can be very prickly, so I have not yet spoken to her. Would it be appropriate to approach her in a professional manner and nicely ask whether she told my boss about this error?
Answer: Wanting to know who turned you in is perfectly understandable. But like many normal human reactions, this impulse is not particularly helpful. Therefore, the answer to your question is no, you should not interrogate the prickly manager about her discussions with your boss.
Despite your strong desire to ferret out the truth, you actually do not need to know who reported your mistake. Continuing to obsess about the tattler’s identity will just waste emotional energy and create unnecessary drama.
If you had been falsely accused, that would be a different matter. But since you did make an error, the appropriate response is to assure your manager that it will never happen again and then move on.
You should also consider the very real possibility that your basic assumption may be incorrect. Your boss could easily have learned of this event through normal conversation, with no tattling involved at all.
Q: No matter how hard I try, I can’t get my boss organized. He’s always late and constantly asks for information at the last minute. Although he told me to manage his calendar, he still makes appointments himself and sometimes gets double-booked.
I have offered numerous suggestions, but he hasn’t tried any of them. He doesn’t even seem to realize he has a problem. As his assistant, I feel that I should be able to fix this, but I don’t know how.
A: Sad to say, I am not terribly optimistic about your ability to improve this situation. In matters of organization, you and your scattered boss are simply opposite personality types. This combination is not unusual, because chaotic managers often rely on meticulously thorough assistants to save them from themselves.
While some of these assistants relish the feeling of being indispensable, others are driven absolutely bonkers by their disorganized bosses. If you fall into the latter category, you will have to decide whether your manager’s good qualities outweigh his inefficiency, because that trait is not likely to disappear.