Boss that doesn't own mistakes — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Boss that doesn't own mistakes

Get PDF file

by on
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: I have a new boss who does not "own it" when she makes a mistake. We often have to communicate with notes, since she is out of her office in meetings most of almost every day.  This is a very busy office with lots of deadlines to meet, so time management is essential.

Recently, she left me a note requiring an answer. I responded by note and returned it to her in-box. A few days later, we were talking about the note contents and I mentioned to her that I had responded and put the note in her office.  She said she "never" got it.
I told her I put it in her in-box, but she once again said she never got it.

When I again gave her the info she was seeking, I looked in her in-box and there was my note to her. She had not even bothered to go through her box.

This happens a lot and it makes me very frustrated with her. When I brought the note to her attention, she just talked over me and said the matter was a "done deal."

Any ideas how I can forgive and forget and not get so frustrated?  -- Anonymous, Wyoming


I'm afraid I don't have any good advice to offer since you are the subordinate and in this case what she says goes.

But you could offer to rearrange your system to be sure she doesn't miss the note - she may appreciate your effort.

Good luck.

Vidal Sasoon said it best...If we don't look good you don't look good! It's really up to you to manage her more efficiently. As you can see she's not very good with communicating by paper. Use e-mail or carbon message pads. Follow-up or remind her of certain items. Help her to get better organized and she will be forever indebted to you. Block out time on her calendar weekly or daily for you to meet to discuss any updates relating to the office. Fast pace offices require Admins. to react fast by taking control. I know because I'm a product of just that. I took it personal at first but, I now know that it made me a lot more assertive.

I have two suggestions, since you all use notes to communicate establish one set pattern for leaving and receiving your notes. My suggestion is that you use a particular folder (special color so that it stands out from other things on her desk) you may even want to write in large letters, SPECIAL ATTENTION REQUIRED or something to that effect. When you have to give her a note, place it in the folder and leave it either in the center of her desk, her chair or some other obviously noticeable place.

My second suggestion is to find a special place for her notes if you think the folder idea will not work. (i.e. for my supervisor I have a clip that holds phone messages, it is next to her phone and I put all important messages on it, whether they are phone messages or just a note from me b/c I need a quick response from her. It has worked well.

I agree with Donna. I had a similar problem and started making carbons of hand written messages and backed them up with a duplicate email. I also did verbal and email follow-up when time allowed.

I routinely do an email confirmation with any person I am responsible to. It saves a lot of hair pulling (my own). Persevere.

My manager also tells me "he never saw it" or "you never told me that" when it comes to a variety of things. I have started sending everything in e-mail. That way I have a record that I did get the information to him and can print it out to show him. He seems to be checking and reading his e-mail a little more frequenty and thoroughly and our communication is better.

I have had the same problem. I agree with the first commenter, and the second, you have to organize her better and then you both look good. One other way to keep up with what she has read or has not, although a pain for you - send her e-mails with return read receipts and keep up with what is important and it's deadline. If you don't have a return read receipt, you know she hasn't read it and you can remind her. This also is proof to her of when you did your part, politely letting her know she is the one at fault, not you.

I agree with Donna. I have a 5 minute morning meeting with my boss to go over issues, messages, etc. Our communication has improved 100%. Try to make an effort at person to person communication, along with written notes.

I agreed with all of the above. I believe the system that is being used now is not working and needs a change.

I know is our office it I put it in there in-box it sometimes gets lost for a day or two depending on the person. If important I put it in their phone message box instead. Not sure if that is how your office works but some other method should be tried.


I used to have a similar problem and I now use a green folder for all notes and papers that need my bosses attention. This has worked wonders.

If you use Outlook for your email, you can also set your inbox so that incoming mail from a certain person appears in a different color. I set my inbox so that anything from my supervisor appears in red. I also set hers the same way. As long as you don't send unnecessary mail to your boss, this can work well.

I would like to offer a suggestion to Anonymous in Wyoming. Create a unique, specific place or (very colorful and easily noticed) file folder to place your responses. Ask you boss what location would be the most convenient for him/her. Make sure you date your return note to your boss and make a copy of it and the original request from your boss before giving it to him/her. Set up a simplistic file system for quick and easily retrieval. The next time your boss inquires about a response you have already given, say "I kept a copy of what I forwarded to you, let me make a copy for you." Even if your boss still won't own his/her mistake, at least you will gain some satisfaction.

I think many of us have worked for people who “don’t own up.” All of these suggestions could work, but if she has as many meetings as it appears, getting her to have a “sit down” on a daily basis isn’t going to work.

Go with the colored folder, but go one step further and get colored paper, preferably fluorescent, as it attracts attention immediately. Also, don’t put your folder in the general IN box; I’ve found from working with very busy people who are negligent about the IN boxes (both computer and paper), by putting my stuff on their desk chair it draws immediate attention. They have to pick up the folder to sit down, and they always open it, if just to take a quick look.

Do you get these notes on scraps of paper, Post-It notes, or sheets of paper? When you type your response (always type and save), adjust your margins, font, and size so that you can tape the request to the top of the paper, then copy the whole thing before putting it in the folder. When you are able to prove to the boss what you gave her once or twice, she will undoubtedly stop with the accusations.

I think I sound paranoid, but training the boss is part of our unwritten job description and while in that process COA’s is imperative!

Over the years working with multiple bosses, I have studied and learned each of their individual styles of work and what works best for each them in order to maintain a good ongoing communications and that communications don't missed. With one of them I sent e-mail or use voice mail., with another I have weekly meetings to discuss ongoing projects, what has been done and what still needs to be done, and with another I keep daily communications in the morning or at the end of the day, and with another I personally have to handed notes. Perhaps a little meeting with your boss to find out what will work best for the success of your working relationship is due.

Most managers are not well organized. But you can start training them to be a little more organized. Start by creating colored folders that get returned to you "daily"; ACTION, READING, and SIGNATURE to help organize her work. The best is if budget allows, get her a treo or a PDA that is affordable. They all work great in keeping one on task where an alarm can be set for self reminding. It is a great tool for better communications (via phone, email, text messaging, all in one). It has a program to be loaded into the PC which will enable one to input with ease their important information on their calendar, etc., as well as (receiving) sending reminders, responses, etc while they are out of the office. I can't image being without it. They can even print out their calendar of events so you know their schedule. My boss and I have one and we are always in communication with just a key stroke.

All of the above ideas are good but the most important thing is to find the "right one" that will work with your manager. Beware of overwelming him/her with new systems. Try one at a time for about two weeks to a month (it takes 21-28 days to make a habit) and if that one is not working after that amount of time, move to a new one. Keep in mind that you have to be consistent (kind of like training a dog or a child, lol). However, with any system, remember CYA. Make dated copies of whatever you give to him/her so that you have a back-up. If your office is as busy as you say it is, even you can forget that you responded to a note.

PS. One thing I found works when nothing else does, neon colored paper or postits stuck directly to the front of thier computer monitor. If they want to use thier computer, they have to physically move the note and in the process, will usually read it.

Just an additional note about using folders . . . I learned this from a previous boss. She HATES the color purple (and color harmony was very important to her). Anything urgent or important was put in a purple folder. She would look in that folder immediately so that she could get it off her desk. Sounds silly, but it worked! (blue was for in-house communications; red was for invitations; green was for signatures; yellow was daily calendar and supporting info; and manila was for general mail). Perhaps post-its in that neon green will be off-putting enough for her to read right away to get it overwith?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: