Communicating Through Difficult Situations

Q. I work with a bunch of guys. The owner of the company isn’t here much and the 25-year-old guy he hired in IT now seems to be the boss. The rest of us are older and we report to a guy we like – also older than the tech guy.

The problem is the tech guy sends these ripping emails to our boss trashing him for mistakes “he is responsible for” and copies everyone. These aren’t even mistakes he made. Our boss complains to us about the emails and the tech guy sender. We don’t want to see these emails and we think the tech guy is a jerk, and somebody needs to tell him that. So is it us? The boss we like? The owner?

A. Communication seems to be a challenge at your company. Before you get involved in telling the tech guy what you think of him, lets focus on getting the right people to communicate the right messages.

Sending email messages to berate employees is not good. Sending those same emails to employees and copying other employees is bad management. Complaining to people who report to you about your boss is not good, at any level of any organization.

Inexperienced managers make mistakes and experienced employees can help those managers learn new skills to be better managers. Your boss can meet in person with tech guy and explain that copying all employees on communications pointing out mistakes doesn’t make people feel good about work, you as their boss or him as a leader.
Your boss should point out that he understands the tech guy wants things done right, and stress that he is committed to making that happen. He might say, “Lets figure out a way to communicate about problems besides through email.” I encourage him to suggest the tech guy call or text him if there are issues or email him directly without copying everyone else. The tech guy may not know his behavior is unprofessional and having that behavior pointed out can help him, your boss and the whole work environment.
If the tech guy isn’t interested in changing his management style, your boss should communicate with the owner. The owner may not be aware of the tech guy’s behavior, or the impact it is having on the organization. Our hope is he chooses to encourage a more developmental managerial style for the tech guy and if not, then your boss knows where the culture is being created.
For you or any of your colleagues to confront the tech guy is not in your best long-term, career interest. If anyone has a more solid relationship with him, I encourage setting up a private meeting. It would be in this situation where one could suggest that the emails are not having a motivational impact and everyone would benefit from finding an alternative method to minimize errors, and manage people.

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