Next Time Say “Why Not?”

| USA | Working | June 4, 2017

(I work in the United States and work closely with the London office of my company. It should be noted that I do almost all of the paperwork for the London office, and just email them the documents when they are completed. If I get a high volume of work, I sometimes do not have time to proofread my work as closely as I would like and depend on my colleague in the London office to catch the mistakes. Sometimes our calls go like this:)

Colleague: “[My Name], why is this information missing? I gave it to you.”

Me: “Because I forgot to put it in?”

Colleague: “[My Name], why did you spell this client’s name without the ‘I’? It should have an ‘I.’”

Me: “Because I made a typo?”

Colleague: “[My Name], why did you not send me that document for [Client] when you sent it for the other clients in that group?”

Me: “Because I forgot to add his document as an attachment?”

(It’s not the fact that he points out my mistakes, but that he always asks “Why?” when there is always an obvious explanation!)

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  • Rebecca Maracle

    Perhaps he’s tired of fixing your mistakes and is trying to make it just as annoying of a process for you as it is for him.

    What makes you think he has the time to do part of your job as well as his? He’s probably just as busy as you.

    • Tyria Thistle

      There’s worlds of bullshit surrounding paperwork, especially when the coworker is listed as a “Colleague” and not a higher-up. I do not feel it is unreasonable for someone to expect their coworker to double-check paperwork when the person filling it out *is on another continent.*

      • Mark_Summer

        I find it totally unreasonable. If you’re an adult you should be capable of tying someone’s name correctly.

        If the OP is so snowed under with work that s/he can’t take two seconds to glance at an email before sending it that indicates serious problems.

        • Deanna Klemm


          • James Samuelson

            Wait, tying a name isn’t how you do it? What am I supposed to do with all this string?

        • -BabsUvula-

          I take it you’re an adult who NEVER makes mistakes or typos…like typing the word “typing” as “tying.”
          Oh wait…
          Guess what? Humans aren’t robots. They make mistakes. That’s why the other person is there to proofread. They don’t have to be passive aggressive for doing their job. Paperwork is tedious and I think a lot of people on here really underestimate how easy it is to make typos. I’m a good typist and speller, but mistakes still happen because I’m not perfect. And if you’re going to berate someone else for not being perfect, you DAMN WELL better be perfect yourself. Which you’re not.

          • Kali Ravel

            The other person ISN’T there to proofread. That isn’t their job. It’s the OPs job.

            Note that writing comments without typos isn’t Deanna’s job.

          • -BabsUvula-

            Proofreading better not be your job either because I wasn’t replying to Deanna.
            And no, OP doesn’t explicitly say that proofreading is in the other person’s job description. But I’ve never worked somewhere that data entry was part of the job where somebody else isn’t expected to proofread it. It is ABSOLUTELY the job of the recipient to proofread what they receive as it is very easy to make typos in data entry. Clerical errors happen all the time. It doesn’t mean they’re bad at their job. It’s a very tedious job to have, and it happens sometimes. If something passes through ten hands, ten people are on the line if there is a mistake, not just the person who made the original typo.

    • The Vicar

      Wait, you think it takes LESS time to make an overseas phone call and passive-aggressively whinge at somebody on another continent than it does to modify a document on a computer? Either you haven’t thought this through, or you’re the world’s slowest typist and haven’t realized it yet.

      • Rebecca Maracle

        If he just quietly fixes his colleague’s mistakes he will clearly be doing it forever, since the OP already takes it for granted. If he’s able to correct the selfish and lazy behaviour now, he can go back to focusing on his own work.

        • ♛Winry♛

          I agree. If this were a few times, I can understand, but this seems to be a ton.

        • The Vicar

          And so your solution is to make a call, every time this happens? If it’s really happening as often as you are assuming, and there’s no way to complain to the superior in charge, then calling EVERY SINGLE TIME instead of just making the corrections will just end up wasting a LOT of time — the equivalent of “we take a loss on every sale, but we make it up on volume!”

          • Ian Rennie

            Making a call every time this happens is a pretty good solution actually. It corrects the problem at first cause and hopefully coaches the person being corrected to do better in future, if only to avoid more calls.

          • Ian Rennie

            Making a call every time this happens is a pretty good solution actually. It corrects the problem at first cause and hopefully coaches the person being corrected to do better in future, if only to avoid more calls.

      • Some Reader

        The colleague can’t very well modify things that the OP forgot to send as attachments.

      • N003k

        It takes less time to make those phone calls (and thats not much time if they’re using a skype for business client anyways) than having to carefully check and proofread every single document OP sends instead of being able to do a quick scan of it to ensure completeness.

        • The Vicar

          So… how, precisely, do you think they’re noticing the flaws in the first place? Psychic powers? They obviously have to read the documents, or else they wouldn’t be noticing already.

          • SailorMouth

            Let me get this straight. Because the colleague has a stronger work ethic, and pays more attention to detail, they should just pick up the slack?

          • Ian Rennie

            right… so rather than the colleague having to proofread every document that the OP produces, they’re picking the OP up on mistakes now to avoid mistakes in future.

          • N003k

            Perhaps they started reading them in that depth because they got complaints or caught off guard by the OPs mistakes and started carefully proofreading everything they did while trying to politely nudge them towards being more careful?

    • Carolyn Foot

      That may be true, but then it’s a really passive aggressive way of going about it, and unless the colleague has tried already to let OP know frankly, his behaviour does not impress me.

      • Mythagoras

        You may think it’s passive-aggressive, but someone else (perhaps particularly someone who’s British) may consider it standard politeness, and “You did this wrong, fix it” to be rudely abrupt.

        • That’s what I was thinking. A rather British way of pointing out errors, and I have to say, I like it: Being asked why there’s an error, rather than just being told there is one.

        • Carolyn Foot

          It is passive-aggressive. Whenever you take the confront part out of a confrontation, whenever you disguise a criticism as anything (including a question, especially when you can’t even do it well and it comes across as a stupid question), you make both parties look stupid. I’ve heard that there’s a stereotype that British people are more passive-aggressive than others lol, and maybe some people might consider it ‘polite’, but when you look at the underlying intention, it’s far ruder.

          • Mythagoras

            Since it’s your preferred style, let me be blunt: You have a poor understanding of etiquette.

          • Carolyn Foot

            Wrong again. I’ve simply taken assertiveness training. There’s a respectful way to communicate your misgivings with someone.

            It generally goes like this “When you do x, it has y consequence, and makes me feel z.”

            When you disguise your criticism as a question, you imply that I cannot handle, and need to be sheltered from, negative feedback. It makes me feel disrespected, and it also makes me feel like you are trying to avoid making me upset and defensive. Basically, by phrasing your criticism as a question, you are protecting yourself from direct confrontation with me in case it blows up in your face.

            I can see right through it, and I don’t consider it polite at all. If you have a problem, tell it to me straight and Grant me the respect that we can handle it maturely and non-aggressively. I wouldn’t treat you with any less respect.

            THAT is etiquette. I’m being entirely honest, and I have certain standards as to how I should be treated and how I should treat others. There’s absolutely nothing rude about standing your ground.

          • Mythagoras

            (Reposted without link, since original comment is still pending approval.)

            You just prove my point.

            Rules of etiquette are very culturally dependent, but generally in the field of politeness theory (Wikipedia link removed: you can look it up yourself), politeness is understood as a way to manage “face threats” and, yes, smooth over potential conflicts.

            For example, a direct command can be face-threatening because it is a form of coercion: it expresses that the person getting the command must do as the speaker says – they are in the speaker’s power and do not have freedom, which compromises their dignity. To get around this, commands are very frequently phrased indirectly: “Could you come here, please?” instead of just “Come here!” (“Please” is itself a shortened version of the phrase “if you please”, implying that the person has a choice, which may not actually exist.) This allows both sides to maintain a “polite fiction” that it wasn’t a command at all, just a request freely granted.

            Again, the precise conventions are culturally dependent, and also depend on the relationships involved and other aspects of the context. But indirection and various other “polite fictions” are usually a major ingredient. To dispense with all that will very often be considered rude, and for you to insist on a style of communication contrary to a person’s culture and what they are comfortable with would be both rude and aggressive towards them.

          • Carolyn Foot

            (I hate this comment pending approval nonsense too)

            You seem to think that there are only two options: being passive, and anything else is being aggressive. In confrontations, the basic formula of assertiveness does not involve any direct commands (when you do x, it causes y, and makes me feel z). Not a single command in it. Zero.

            And as for all the other stuff, ‘polite fiction’ is more of an issue depending on what it’s hiding. Some mistakes are so small that there ought to be no expectation or wariness of any ‘potential conflict’. If you do laundry and your partner/roommate/whatever discovers you didn’t check the pockets, it would be absolutely stupid to bring this to your attention by asking in all seriousness ‘um.. why did you put a pen in the washing machine?’

            Not all passive-aggressive behaviour is malicious. But there’s also a significant difference between using the word ‘please’ and beating around the bush when it comes to confrontation.

          • Mythagoras

            You have apparently adopted “assertiveness” as your religion, but there’s more to human communication than that, and just because you consider something “passive-aggressive” does not mean everyone else sees it that way, or that it is objectively true. To brand a whole culture as passive-aggressive and therefore inferior in its communication because it tends to use a certain politeness strategy and doesn’t conform to your preferred style of communication strikes me as the height of arrogance.

            Anyway, we seem to have established that this way of broaching an issue really is a matter of politeness within British culture, whatever you think of it. So the OP is basically mad at the London office for being British. (Another concept from research, “Cultural Intelligence”, is relevant here. Basically, to interact effectively with people from other cultures, you first have to realize that there are cultural differences, and then get away from the mindset that your way of doing things is the only valid one.)

          • Carolyn Foot

            That article I copy-pasted from was written BY a Brit who labelled that behaviour as what it was. Those were not my words.

            And again, understanding a culture’s ‘preferred way of doing things’ doesn’t mean we should tolerate it. Otherwise it’d be wrong to call out all sorts of things based on ‘cultural insensitivity’. In Asian culture it’s quite common to never disagree with your ‘teacher’ or ‘elder’ or ‘superior’. That deference to authority brought down a plane in 1999. ‘It’s cultural’ is not, has never been, and never will be, a good argument for doing something.

            One last thing: this was a trans-atlantic phone call. It’s not like OP has moved to Britain and now has to adapt to everyone’s weird way of not saying what they mean. Why is it the OP’s job to get their head around this wishy washy stuff? If this is just a ‘cultural misunderstanding’, why is it not just as equally the colleague’s job for STILL not getting the hint after however many identical phone calls? The logic just doesn’t stand up.

          • Mythagoras

            I don’t put much stock in an article by some random person on the internet, be they British or not, and the list of examples is a variation of what you often see on joke sites. If we’re citing comedy in support of our argument, I would say the Cabin Pressure episode “Ipswich” (currently available on BBC iPlayer) making fun of conflict-resolution style communication wins: “Hey, Chief! I might be wrong, but I think we’re flying into a mountain. This makes me feel … scared of the mountain! One thing we could do is pull up and fly over the mountain. How does that sound to… [explosion noise]”

            It’s no secret that British people (at least among some social classes and in certain contexts) are generally more circumspect than Americans. In politeness theory, this is described as putting a high value on protecting “negative face”.

            However, to label this strategy as passive aggression and seeing it as a negative thing you’re going to need better evidence than “I don’t like it”. For Asian deference to authority/seniority, you at least offer an anecdotal example of a drawback (though of course an easy response would be to point to all the deaths caused by lack of deference to authority in the US). Otherwise, your refusal to “tolerate” their culture is simply… intolerance.

            And as for the Brit “not getting the hint”, the OP didn’t give any clear indication that they resented the way the the problems were raised, perhaps apart from those question marks at the end of the answers. So now who’s being indirect and “passive-aggressive”?

            But like I said, I see that you are a true believer in this religion of yours, and I don’t expect you to acknowledge its limitations. If the rest of the world disagrees with you, well then the rest of the world must be wrong! Good luck with that.

          • Carolyn Foot

            I have labelled it as passive aggression because it fits the key behaviour of passive aggression – that is: not saying what you really think, trying to manipulate a response or behaviour from others instead of directly requesting it, avoiding confrontation so that you can pretend you never had any disagreement with the person. In this case, the colleague isn’t saying what he thinks ‘you made a mistake, please fix it/avoid making such mistakes in the future’, but clearly desires that OP respond to that underlying message and not the question itself (hence, manipulation), and by phrasing it as a question he can avoid coming across as a bad guy “gee why are you so defensive? I was just asking a question”.

            Passive aggression certainly ‘looks’ a lot like politeness which is why people often do it and get away with it. But there are key ways to tell the difference, not saying what you think, being manipulative and passive about confrontations is passive-aggressive (that’s why saying ‘please’ is nowhere near comparable – ‘come here’ vs ‘please come here’ still has the same intent and there is no ‘reading between the lines’ necessary to figure out what you’re being asked to do. On the other hand ‘Um – why are you just standing over there?’ Rude/condescending much?). OP’s colleague fits all three of these behaviours. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

            As for why passive-aggression is a negative thing, google is your friend.

            “(though of course an easy response would be to point to all the deaths caused by lack of deference to authority in the US)”

            Which is why it’s not good to be too meek/respectful of authority, or too rebellious/disrespectful. Ties in nicely with the theme I’ve been arguing this whole time.

            And OP probably doesn’t want to play this ‘guess what I want you to do/say based on what I’m alluding to’ game. They’re not saying anything they don’t mean or making any effort to hide their annoyance, based on the tone of the answers. Personally I would have stopped the colleague from the start, idk if OP has tried discussing it with him or not. My point was simply that if this whole exchange can be explained as simply a ‘cultural misunderstanding’, then OP’s colleague is at least as dense as OP when it comes to communicating in a way that the other finds respectful/appropriate.

          • Carolyn Foot

            Copy-paste from article: “Perhaps it’s something as seemingly benign as this — a couple is in bed and the man asks, “Who’s going to get up and turn off the light?” Seems like an ok question, right? But it is rife with passive-aggressive drippings. It’s passive because he avoids asking his real questions, “Are you going to turn off the light?” or “Will you turn off the light?”

            Because you don’t want to play the passive-aggressive game, a response might be, “I’m not,” or “Are you asking if I will turn off the light?”

            This demonstrates that you’re not going to play.”

            Also: yes, passive-aggressive is “a Brit thing”. according to this article, which you can google yourself: Things British People Say vs What They Actually Mean. “oh but everyone else here does it!” is never a good rationale for doing something. Just because it’s ‘cultural’ doesn’t mean it’s ‘good’. Sure it can help you understand the behaviour, but it doesn’t mean you should tolerate it.

      • UrbanDweller64

        I was thinking the same thing. The OP needs take responsibility for their own work and proof-read and ensure attachments are added. The co-worker needs to just out and out say “Hey, you forgot this and spelled this wrong.” And if it is an issue for the co-worker and it doesn’t get better, this needs to go to the next level so that the OP does a better job. Obviously the OP doesn’t seem to think that her/his poor communication skills are her/his problem. I would never be happy if I made this many mistakes.

  • Zen

    Why should he make assumptions about the explanations and why do you have such a problem giving a straight answer?

  • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

    Your colleague is giving you credit for having reasons, while politely reminding you to take the trouble to do your job right.

    • Carolyn Foot

      Really? “Why is this person’s name spelled without the “I” ” What POSSIBLE reason could there be other than a mistype? Gee colleague, I was going to put the extra I in there, but then a bookshelf fell on top of me and I was pinned under the desk, and a stapler came flying out from the shelf and hit the ‘send’ key before I could do anything about it. ._.

      This is just BS. People who ‘point out mistakes’ in this way are my biggest pet peeve. It’s really passive aggressive. You simply say ‘hey [colleague], you mispelled this client’s name, it’s meant to have an I – watch out next time!’ and sure, be ‘open’ to any further wild explanations for why there’s a mistype.

      • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

        Thank you for sharing your feelings!

        • Carolyn Foot

          Lol, no worries. Sorry for going off on you there, it *is* a pet peeve of mine so I identified with OP immediately. I’m happy that I’m now assertive enough that if someone ever tries something like this with me, I’ll be comfortable to call them out on it and tell them to quit it, even if they’re my boss. I want others to treat me how I would treat them.

          • It’s much better to treat people the way they want to be treated.

          • Carolyn Foot

            Sure, if you really want to, I can ask you condescending stupid questions to make both of us look stupid. But I’d rather be treated with an ounce more respect.

      • Rebecca Jones

        OP could think that the name is spelled that way when it isn’t or OP could have spelled it that way because that’s how it’s spelled and colleague is actually wrong. So by asking “why,” perhaps colleague means “was it by mistake, or did you do it on purpose and if you did it on purpose which of us has incorrect information?”

        ETA: I don’t necessarily think that that’s the case, but it’s usually the sort of thing I mean when I ask why something that could be a simple mistake happened.

        • Stephen

          Rebecca, why did you include the acronym for Estimated Time of Arrival in your reply?

          (Actually, despite using the tone of the original story in my question, I genuinely don’t know what ETA means in this context. Google comes up with nothing, so I can only assume it was either a typo or an acronym for a phrase I’ve not come across before)

          • Ross Thompson

            Edited To Add.

          • Rebecca Jones

            edited gto add

    • Cookie

      At only 5K sold of his debut CD, Nick Fradiani is the worse selling American Idol winner of all time. His season was the worse rated. He has yet to even go on tour.

      • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

        Yeah, you’ve been following me around Disqus for two years, spouting nonsense about some American Idol winner in convos that have nothing to do with the show. *shrug*

        • LordViking

          This has nothing to do with the topic but your comment made me curious.
          So for two years now you’ve had someone chasing after you on Disqus (I’m guessing after you showed an interest in this American Idol winner or said anything positive about them) to post negative tidbits about it?
          Because while I can see that getting old and annoying fast, as an outsider I can’t help but find that hilariously petty.

          • Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark

            “Hilariously petty” is about right. There have got to be more interesting hobbies than following my every online move — knitting little sweaters for rats from belly button lint, maybe?

  • Chet Thomas

    Next time, give some off-the-wall answer, like. “because Jupiter is in ascendance” or something like that.

  • Steve Mitchell

    If this happens often enough for you to have noticed it, then you clearly fuck up too much and need to have a word with yourself.

  • Aaron King

    OP is a shitty worker and doesn’t like being reminded of that . . .

    • Carolyn Foot

      Incorrect. Please reread this part: “It’s not the fact that he points out my mistakes, but that he always asks “Why?” when there is always an obvious explanation!”

      • WonderRabbit

        Yeah, the obvious explanation is OP’s ongoing incompetence.
        But it would be rude to just say that.

        • Carolyn Foot

          You don’t have to say that. You can say ‘Hey [coworker], when you make silly mistakes like xyz, I have to be more vigilant proofreading your work and it’s making me fall back on my own work. Sometimes I don’t have enough time and that makes me feel really stressed. Can you try a bit harder to watch out for those silly mistakes in the future?’

          Classic assertive style of communication. When you do x, it creates y consequence, and makes me feel z. It’s honest and respectful.

          Not ‘hurr durr hey why’d you make a typo?’

  • TheLastHonestLawyer

    That’s how you handle things like this. Rather than just pointing out errors, the person who made the error has to admit to them and explain them. Great motivator to do better.

    To be honest, the OP seems to pay attention to detail.

    • Carolyn Foot

      “Rather than just pointing out errors, the person how made the error has to admit to them and explain them”

      No thank you. Some people much prefer directness and honesty than this subtle, passive-aggressive stupid questions with obvious answers. It’s a major sign of disrespect to phrase criticism in such a way that shames the other person more than necessary.

      • TheLastHonestLawyer

        How is “tell me how you screwed up” passive? And guess what? Shame is part of life. When you work for someone, take their money, and screw up, you should be called out on it.

        I was a public defender for many years. You think my errors weren’t examined in just this way? Made me a better lawyer.

        • Carolyn Foot

          “Rather than just pointing out errors, the person how made the error has to admit to them and explain them”

          You are LITERALLY taking the ‘confront’ out of the confrontation. What do you think being passive aggressive is?

          “When you work for someone, take their money, and screw up, you should be called out on it.”

          Being called out on it is not the issue and you’re missing the point. Re-read it: OP has very specifically stated this in the last part of his/her post. “It’s not the fact that he points out my mistakes, but that he always asks “Why?” when there is always an obvious explanation!”.

          Oh wait, that’s right, you don’t like direct confrontations. Let me put it in a more ‘polite’ way shall we?

          Hey TheLastHonestLawyer, WHY did you read that last sentence, and still come to the conclusion that ‘being called out on [one’s mistakes]’ is the issue OP’s complaining about? Why’s your reading comprehension so piss-poor eh? You got a reason for that or smth?

          Cuz that was TOTALLY not condescending at all. It was in fact a really assertive, direct way of confronting someone about their mistakes, wasn’t it? *rolls eyes*

          Do you get it yet? Or do you need me to ask you some more stupid questions? Hey, critically reflecting on mistakes is a great thing, but ahh, WHY did you bring that up when OP was complaining about not being confronted directly and respectfully? Why did you think that was a relevant point to bring up? (For extra ‘politeness’, read this in the voice of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space).

  • ♛Winry♛

    I think you assume you are doing them a favor, when really you’re doing your job. So if you are overworked, perhaps you can ask for a little more time. I would think that sending the work a tiny bit later instead of wasting time fixing it, would be a better process.

  • Holly

    And the OP has not yet been fired? Why?

  • Roq

    He wants to hear you say it.

  • Paul F. C. Mundy

    If you are the professional office admin or secretary (if that position even exists anymore) then you should have done the proofread. If s/he is the official representative of the company in the U.K. then s/he needs to take responsibility of the proofread before distributing them. Better yet they should prepare their own paper work and submit it back to the company for proofread and approval only.

  • cursormortis

    If you don’t have the time to do it right, you don’t have the time to do it at all. In which case, you need to talk to your boss about getting some help. Your coworkers depend on you getting the work done correctly; you shouldn’t rely on them to correct your mistakes. That’s just a waste of time for everyone involved.

    • The Vicar

      Really? Then maybe the British office should do its own paperwork, and see how much time they “save” that way. I’m betting they would reverse that decision REALLY quickly

      • N003k

        Or, perhaps lay off the OP, and hire someone local to the office to do the job. Having these duties may be the companies way of keeping OP employed domestically.

      • Mark_Summer

        But it’s not their paperwork, it’s the OP’s paperwork… unless you expect them to extract the files from her office via telekinesis.

        • The Vicar

          Ah, I see you didn’t read the actual post. It says, explicitly, that this is the London office’s paperwork.

          • Cathina Haynes

            Yes, paperwork GOING TO LONDON.

  • Snowy Tundra

    Wow, you all are so perfect that you never make mistakes? Especially when the mistakes are minor? OP did say that it was only during times of high volume, when throughput may be more important to management than absolute perfection. Only in the USA can minor typos lead to firing. It’s not a wonder that so many people in this country are stressed out. From what I have seen on here, people who are incredible assholes, incompetent, sexist, racist and complete slackers keep their jobs, but one minor mistake that is easily fixable gets regular decent people fired. There are times when I am embarrassed to be an American. This kind of crap is often the reason why.

    And before y’all jump on me, yes, I have been a supervisor in a political pressure cooker that one director told me that I was handling it well and she didn’t want to get involved, but would if I absolutely needed her to. I once had an employee come into his yearly review stressed because his previous supervisor would nitpick his work to find minor errors and then rake him over the coals for them. He expected the same from me, especially when the environment was so volatile. When we finished the review and we signed off on it, he breathed a sigh of relief. He then told me about his previous boss and told me that I was so “nice”. When I protested that I had given him criticism, he said, “Yeah, you did, but you gave me ways to improve. My last boss didn’t, he just criticized.” After I left that job, I was in the office one day to go to lunch with a friend who still worked there, I ran into that team member. I asked him how the new boss was doing. His answer was one of the biggest compliments I ever got as a supervisor. “Well, he’s not you, but he’s okay.”

    • StephBWFern

      I actually agree with you. And I thing the incredible ammountbof assumptions being made by other commenters is just astounding.

    • Thomas Lacroix

      The sheer level of assumptions made in this thread is astounding. Like, really, I get it, this is just a minor issue and maybe this shouldn’t have been published, but good grief, cut him some slack!
      Do we need to put everyone who posts a story here on trial before they are graciously admitted to tell their story for your pleasure, so we can ascertain that these are indeed perfect individuals?
      I get the feeling we need a “not always commenting” section on this site…

  • kaninefat

    Wow, just wow!
    You screw up, your colleague is polite about pointing out your mistakes, and somehow you think he’s the one that should be ridiculed! Be glad that you have this colleague and try to do your job properly in the future!

    • Cathrope

      But..but then I wouldn’t have time for Facebook! 🙁

    • ShadeTail

      His colleague most certainly is not being polite about it. “Why have you done this, young man?! Explain yourself now!” It’s a form of passive-aggressive scolding. Polite would have been simply saying what the mistake was rather than demanding an explanation for it.

      • Dominik Raab

        That depends. We don’t have any information about tone of voice here. If this sounded like a genuine question, that’s an obvious politeness marker. Asking someone why they did x in a corporate/business context is similar to “I would like” instead of “I want” when ordering something. “I want” is honest, but rude. “I would like” is, looking at the literal meaning, an unnecessary conditional form, but polite and adhering to social norms.

        “Can you” or “could you” is the same thing, really. When I ask someone if the can/could do something for me, I’m not interested in knowing if they have the ability to do something, but whether they want, have time for or would mind doing something. OP might as well go ahead and complain: “It’s not that he’s ASKING me to do something, he was asking me if I CAN DO IT. Of course I can!”

      • heymoe2001

        He is being polite. He is avoiding the accusatory tone of saying, “You’ve left out this, that and the other.” Of the demanding tone of “Fix it.” He’s offering the OP a way to adjust the errors.

        • Carolyn Foot

          Why on Earth is it “accusatory” to say the truth? OP clearly prefers direct criticism over passive aggressive nonsense. Learn how to be assertive in the workplace, Grant other people the respect that they can handle negative feedback instead of mollycoddling them. It’s way more professional.

          • Ian Rennie

            OK, then let me be as direct as possible:

            Your obsession with this story is weird. Your insistence that everyone be as rude as you is weird. Your insistence that politeness and nuance is actually being “passive aggressive” is weird. You’re weird.

          • Dominik Raab

            I politely agree. 🙂

          • Carolyn Foot

            Manipulating people into admitting they’re wrong instead of just confronting them directly might *look* polite, and it certainly can pass as politeness closely enough that it protects the person saying it from being confronted – that’s ENTIRELY the point. It is also textbook passive aggressive behaviour. Passive-aggressive behaviour literally involves avoiding direct confrontation. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…

            Unfortunately, disqus doesn’t like me putting links into the comment section, so I’m going to have to copy paste from an article and you can google it yourself if you want further info:

            “Perhaps it’s something as seemingly benign as this — a couple is in bed and the man asks, “Who’s going to get up and turn off the light?” Seems
            like an ok question, right? But it is rife with passive-aggressive drippings. It’s passive because he avoids asking his real questions, “Are you going to turn off the light?” or “Will you turn off the light?”

            Because you don’t want to play the passive-aggressive game, a response might be, “I’m not,” or “Are you asking if I will turn off the light?”

            This demonstrates that you’re not going to play.”

            “You’re weird.” Duh? Tell me something I don’t know.

          • Ian Rennie

            Holy crap you’re paranoid.

          • Carolyn Foot

            Nope. Got that from an article explaining how to recognise and deal with passive-aggressiveness. Haha, words actually have definitions, who woulda thunk it eh…

          • Ian Rennie

            Sure, whatever. Kind of delighted I don’t work with anyone as rude or obsessed as you tbh.

          • Carolyn Foot

            I could say the same about you.

          • Ian Rennie

            OK, then let me be as direct as possible:

            Your obsession with this story is weird. Your insistence that everyone be as rude as you is weird. Your insistence that politeness and nuance is actually being “passive aggressive” is weird. You’re weird.

  • Paul Nieuwkamp

    Wow, bunch of perfect people here. Well, perfect… If you don’t have compassion, do you still qualify as perfect?

    I realize it’s a sample, but I count three mistakes here. Without knowing how many documents OP handles that could be anywhere “between “screwing each and every one of them up” and “less than one in a thousand documents has a small error”. And believe me, that last one is VERY impressive…

    • Matilda

      But op is still acting like the coworker is either stupid or rude for asking why the mistake was made. So op is still the bad worker here.

      • Carolyn Foot

        Because asking why stupid mistakes are made is a stupid question, and not appreciated at all by people who prefer to just get to the point. OP clearly stated they have no issue with being criticised, it’s this passive aggressive way of criticising that gets on OP’s nerves.

        • Ian Rennie

          “OP clearly stated they have no issue with being criticised”

          Yes, in the middle of a story that was an extended whine about being criticised.

          • Carolyn Foot

            Oh right, you need criticism phrased in stupid questions for it to sink in. Lemme rephrase that for you:

            Soooooo Ian Rennie, why did you read this sentence here: “It’s not the fact that he always points out my mistakes, but that he always asks “why?” when there is always an obvious explanation!” And yet come to the conclusion that it’s being criticised that OP is annoyed about? Why did you COMPLETELY fail to comprehend the meaning of the words “it’s not the fact that he points out my mistakes?” Please tell me Ian, why. Why’s your comprehension so dismal?

            Do you see why it’s condescending yet? Or do you need me to ask you more stupid questions?

          • Ian Rennie

            Look, I know you’re weirdly emotionally invested in this story, and it’s stopping you reading anything relating to it correctly, but you need to stop flying off the handle.

            Asking why someone made a mistake is a really common technique in coaching conversations. It’s a way of getting someone to reflect on what has happened and own their mistake. Unfortunately the OP is as oblivious as you are, so it’s not working here.

          • Carolyn Foot

            “Asking why someone made a mistake is a really common technique in coaching in conversations.”

            Yes, IF it is something you can reflect on. There’s not much you can reflect on if there’s a typo. Gee why did I make this typo? Why are the keys on a keyboard difficult to press sometimes? What is the meaning of life?

            Questions that promote thinking and learning, that have more complicated answers, are good questions. Then there are just stupid questions. There’s a difference.

            If you really wanted to go the route of “promoting reflection” the question would have to be changed entirely. It would be along the lines of “hey OP, you’ve been messing up a bit more than usual lately, any particular reason?”

            Also, the “reflecting” thing clearly didn’t work with you, as you haven’t given any explanation as to why you have constructed an entirely different narrative in your head instead of understanding what was actually said in the original post. The point is there are far more respectful ways to criticise someone than veiling your criticisms so condescendingly. The question “why did you make a typo” does not invite nuanced reflection in the slightest. It just makes you both look stupid.

            To be fair, OP may have a competency issue, and may be annoying to work with for that reason. But that doesn’t negate that there are more assertive ways to confront someone than this wishy washy nonsense.

          • Ian Rennie

            I’m still baffled as to why you’re gripping on so tight to this story. It’s looking a little odd to be honest.

            Look at the flippant bullshit answers that the OP gave to these questions. Is that the mark of someone trying to learn? Or is it the mark of someone who sucks at their job?

          • Carolyn Foot

            It’s the mark of someone who refuses to reward passive aggressive behaviour. Personally, I would just tell the colleague directly myself that I don’t appreciate it. But I have had people continue to do it, and if they don’t learn I’ll start giving them stupid answers as well until they finally get the hint. If OP is a slow learner, clearly the colleague is just as bad.

      • thefunkyJ .

        I get where the OP is coming from though. Some people are just trying to rub your mistake in and want to to make you feel stupid as a way to feel superior. I don’t know if that’s true in this case but it certainly happens.

    • NessaTameamea

      So by criticising someone or pointing out mistakes I automatically imply that I consider myself perfect?
      You criticise us for criticising OP, so, by you own definition, you surely think you’re perfect yourself?

      No one here states that they never make mistakes, in fact some of the comments explicitly say that making mistakes is normal and you can let them slide every once in a while. The problem the commenters have with OP is that they are a dick when asked about them.

      • Carolyn Foot

        Because OP doesn’t want to be asked stupid questions. Just tell it to them straight ‘you made a mistake, deal with it properly next time mmk’. Much better.

      • Paul Nieuwkamp

        I’m criticizing those who say: “Booh, you made a mistake, OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!! You are the worst excuse for a human being evah!”, because, yeah, that does imply (heavily) that you never make a mistake.

        If the problem you have with OP revolves around them being a dick, then don’t say the above. Instead, say: “Booh, you’re a dick about it, OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!! You are the worst excuse for a human being evah!”

        Also, please point out where I say “everyone” or something of that kind, because half of your “defense” seems centered around the fact that, indeed, not everyone is telling OP to go die in a fire because they made a mistake.

        • heymoe2001

          No one said that. People suggested if that many mistakes were made, perhaps that is the problem. Most people said that getting bent out of shape by the way someone is asking about another’s mistakes is pretty childish.
          Are you the OP or are you just one who cannot understand nuance?

          • Paul Nieuwkamp

            “No one said that”
            Nick: OP is incompetent
            Steve: you **** up too much
            Rebecca: Selfish and lazy behavior
            Aaron: OP is a s***ty worker
            Holly: And the OP has not yet been fired? Why?
            Do I need to go on?

        • NessaTameamea

          Okay, cool, thanks for the late clarification. Could have totally seen that in your first comment that was so super specific about who you blame there o.O
          You might not have use the word “everyone” but if you make a comment that’s kinda vague people might misunderstand it or take it the wrong way. Like me, for example.

          • I’m super calm bro

            Paul wasn’t even talking to you in their first comment, you’re the one who assumed he was talking about you.

          • NessaTameamea

            The way it was written, it could have applied to anyone in the comments who was pointing out OPs flaws.
            And because I referred to myself while asking about that first lines, that doesn’t mean I made that comment about myself and myself only. I could have just as easily said “we” or “the commenters”.

          • Paul Nieuwkamp

            I do only mention the mistakes, not OPs reaction to his coworker, but fair enough.

    • Mark_Summer

      Telling a colleague to do their damn job =/= thinking you’re perfect.

      • Paul Nieuwkamp

        But OP _is_ doing their job (and by the looks of it, London’s job as well)… It;s just perfect incompassionate a**holes who can’t see that.

        To err is human, and I’m hard pressed to think of a single coworker who doesn’t make three easily solvable small mistakes each day, and I’m very happy with the hard, and good, work they’re doing…

        • Cathina Haynes

          I think you mean, London is doing OP’S job for him/her.

          • Paul Nieuwkamp

            Oh wow. Reading comprehension really isn’t your thing, is it?

            You may not agree with my point, which is fine, but you cannot have read my replies and still think that is what I mean…

          • heymoe2001

            Perhaps reading comprehension is not YOUR thing.
            “I do all the paperwork for the London office” does not mean that every bit of paperwork the London office does is sent to the states to be done by the OP. It means that all paperwork that is TO BE SENT to the London Office, “all paperwork FOR the London office” is done by the OP.
            When it is received incomplete or with errors, someone in the London office checks back for clarity.

          • Paul Nieuwkamp

            English is not my native language so I concede the point, I suppose that is a way to interpret it as well. To me it reads: “I do all the paperwork, so the London office doesn’t have to”.

          • -BabsUvula-

            English is my native language and that’s how I read it as well. Although I do admit, it is unclear which they actually mean.

          • Mythagoras

            But even if that’s the case, the OP is obviously doing it as part of their job, not as some kind of random favor to the London office. So they’re not doing the London office’s job for them, they’re doing the work they’ve been assigned.

          • Paul Nieuwkamp

            Even if it is assigned, it’s still something that’s usually done on site instead of half a world away. Something being part of my job does not mean it cannot also be part of yours 🙂

    • Scott O

      Spelling a name wrong is a typo, it happens.
      Forgetting to include important information, or completely leaving out a client is something a bit more serious.

  • Nick

    Sorry but those answers are not acceptable. If the truth is that you are being given too much work to proofread properly then freaking well tell him that as the answer, every time. Maybe then they’ll see about getting additional resources in to deal with the workload.

    The way this comes across it just sounds like you’re incompetent.

  • NessaTameamea

    OP, if you need more time to proofread your paperwork, why not let them know? Surely there’s a way to sort this out. The answers you are giving make you look incompetent. How is the coworker supposed to know that you didn’t have time to proofread? “I forgot” or “I made a typo”, those explanations don’t in any way hint as to why you didn’t fix them. For all the coworker knows, you could actually have proofread your stuff and didn’t catch the mistakes.

    • The Vicar

      Because we ALL KNOW that businesses would NEVER say “that’s not acceptable, you MUST get the paperwork done immediately, you simply need to make sure there are no mistakes on the first pass”. Because businesses NEVER make unreasonable demands — and, I might add, British people are NEVER cynical, nit-picky, passive-aggressive nags who delight in being obnoxious to foreigners about things they completely ignore in their fellow countrymen. Never happens. Ever.

      • NessaTameamea

        Okay then it seems OP doesn’t want anything to change. That somehow rids them of their right to complain about the “stupid” calls I’d say.
        If there’s nothing they can do at their end but the London office won’t budge either, maybe make it more clear that their hands are tied and if the London office wants less mistakes in their paperwork, they are actually the ones who need to change something about the situation.
        I’d still say the way OP defends themselves ist very ineffective.

  • Tanith Kamelot

    Aside from typos, I wouldn’t say those are ‘obvious’ explanations. They’re mistakes that shouldn’t repeatedly happen.

  • Benny

    Now, now, everyone, just be grateful that OP doesn’t work in engineering or a medical field where a single typo can mean death.

  • Kyra Sedgwick

    I think this should be on NAR. There’s no reason to be so snarky when you’re making mistakes that, while innocent, could end up causing major issues.

    • Carolyn Foot

      There’s no need to ask stupid questions either. If you’re gonna confront someone, do it directly and respectfully. Otherwise, stupid questions deserve stupid answers.

      • Kyra Sedgwick

        I think the coworker is trying to be tactful, and not accusatory, which I can respect them for; however, I can’t respect the OP’s attitude.

        • Carolyn Foot

          The coworker doesn’t want to confront OP directly, so is veiling his criticism under stupid questions. Textbook passive aggressive behaviour. OP is right in not rewarding it.

  • James Smith

    “Why did this happen?” is a perfectly reasonable question, and the answers OP gives are not the only possible answers. Just some possibilities off the top of my head:

    “Why is this information missing?” “Because I was told by my supervisor to omit it.”

    “Why did you spell this client’s name without an I?” “Because it doesn’t have an I in it. You spelled it wrong.”

    “Why did you not send me that document when you sent it to other clients?” “Because they have secure email and you don’t.”

    My dad was big on this kind of question when I was a kid. The only time it really didn’t make sense was when it went like this:

    “Why did [x] happen?” “I don’t know.” “Why don’t you know?” Well, obviously, if I didn’t know the answer to the first question, I’m not going to know anything more about it.

    • WC

      Well, actually, even the last is a way of pointing out that you aren’t doing your job. Any time I got a question that sounded as stupid as “Why don’t you know the answer?” the person was trying to tell me that “I don’t know” isn’t an acceptable answer without just bluntly saying that.

      When I finally learned that lesson, I got a *lot* better at interacting with customers and coworkers.

      • James Smith

        Yeah, well, I was seven or eight years old at the time. The nuance escaped me. 🙂 This is what happens when your dad’s a former US Marine Corps drill sergeant.

      • Carolyn Foot

        I learned that lesson a long time ago, and it made me even more disgusted with it. I now firmly tell anyone who tries to do that with me, to knock it off. If you have a problem, say it straight, or say nothing. Don’t sugarcoat it, don’t disguise it, grant me the respect that I can handle direct criticism. I will grant you the same respect.

  • I have never ever left a comment like this in all my years on this site, but you OP are a jackass and your attitude is awful. Of course he is aware what the answer will be. But he is asking you why is your paperwork consistently lacking in quality in the same way that a parent would ask a young child why did they do something they knew was forbidden. And guess what, you’re replying to him the same way a young child would. Drop the smart-ass comments and give them a professional explanation or make sure the mistakes don’t happen again.

    • Carolyn Foot

      Stupid questions deserve stupid answers. If OP’s colleague wants a professional exchange, they can start by being less passive aggressive and directly confront OP about his/her issues. It’s not that hard.

      • poogiewoogie

        Carolyn, you really are obsessed with this passive-aggressive angle! As MANY other posters have said, asking the question “Why?” is polite and gives the OP the ability to explain. Again, as others have said, there could be reasonable explanations for the OP doing what they’ve done but it appears that the OP isn’t capable of handling their job and doing it properly.

        As a secretary, if I made that many mistakes, I would have been fired. I’ve been in a rush, handling multiple projects for multiple managers and I have double, even triple, checked my work. Yes, I still make mistakes but at least I’ve gone through and tried to correct things.

        Congratulations for being able to handle direct criticism; many people can’t. Many people respond poorly to it and do better with this type of confrontation. Just because *YOU* prefer it doesn’t mean everyone does or should.

        • Carolyn Foot

          Number of mistakes doesn’t tell you as much information as rate of mistakes. Depending on the timespan of these calls, OP’s rate of mistakes could be very tiny. Nobody can be 100% perfect.

          Asking “why” can be polite depending on the intention. Is the intention to genuinely know why/how the mistake was made? (i.e. it was not a simple mistake) Then it would be polite. Is the intention to confront OP about an issue but protect oneself from potential negative consequences of said confrontation? “Why are you getting upset? It was *only* a question! Seriously, there was no meaning behind at all…” (yeah, sure). Then it would be passive-aggressive. I can rule out the first because these are silly mistakes, so it has to be the second. (disqus doesn’t like people posting links in comments, but elsewhere I’ve explained in more detail, and copy-pasting similar examples from sites, when someone is no longer being polite and is instead phrasing very carefully to manipulate certain answers/responses out of you. Like a husband musing aloud to his wife “Hmm, who’s going to turn out the light?” instead of just directly requesting it. It’s not hard to draw similarities between the given example on the website, and the one posted here by OP…)

          If you *really* still can’t grasp how condescending it is to ask people dumb questions instead of telling them *small* corrections, imagine if every conversation was conducted this way.

          “*Why* are you standing over there?” instead of “Come here”
          “*Why* did you put a pen in the washing machine?” instead of “Oops, I think you forgot to check your pockets!”

          Do you get it yet? (Or perhaps I should I be more polite… “um.. *why* don’t you get it yet…” -.-)

  • Ian Rennie

    So what you’re saying is that you suck at your job and can’t read language cues.

    Also, the correct response to “[My Name], why did you not send me that document for [Client] when you sent it for the other clients in that group?” is “sorry, I must have forgot, let me send it now”, not facetious flippancy.

    • Carolyn Foot

      Wrong and wrong.

      The correct response to ‘why did you do x’ is an answer ‘I did x because [reason].’ Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. Passive-aggressive behaviour should never be rewarded.

      Now, if the colleague said ‘hey OP, you messed up again here, can you watch out for that?’ THEN the correct response would be ‘sorry, I must have forgot, let me send it now’.

      And if the incompetence is what OP’s colleague is trying to highlight, stop beating around the bush with it. ‘OP, when you make those kinds of mistakes it makes me have to work harder to catch them, and that stresses me out when I fall behind because I have my own work to do as well’. Direct, honest, respectful. Professional. None of this ‘err why did you do a typo, hurr durr was it on purpose?’

  • Sandy Pham

    Okay, why don’t you stop making stupid mistakes?

    • Cathina Haynes

      *insert stupid “obvious excuse here”*

    • I’m super calm bro

      because humans are, by nature, fallible, and we will continue to make stupid mistakes as long as we’re alive.

  • Derek Hartley

    I guess the real question is, why do you still have a job? You’re clearly incompetent.

  • Christine Harris

    Did he ever say “Thank You” for your doing their paperwork?

    • SailorMouth

      He’s not doing their paperwork. He’s working with that office and sending paperwork to them. Big difference.

      • Christine Harris

        “It should be noted that I do almost all of the paperwork for the London office, and just email them the documents when they are completed.”

        Read the OP again or see the quote from it (above). The poster said they DO almost all of their paperwork and email them the documents.

        Again, Did he ever say “Thank You” for your doing their paperwork?

        • SailorMouth

          Again, he is not doing their paperwork. He’s been assigned to do work FOR that office.

          • Christine Harris

            And again, what part of the concept of them saying “Thank you” to the OP don’t you get? Focusing on the wrong thing and missing the actual point of my post.

            I am assigned to work for people at my office. They say “Thank you” when I do something for them. It’s part of that unspoken social contract that we have as people (which, BTW, TOO many people are ignoring these days). I do something for you. It may be part of my job, but you say thank you.

            And following the flow, the mail people bring me packages, etc. It’s part of their job. I say “Thank you.”

          • heymoe2001

            Maybe the guy from the London office doesn’t believe in the concept of everyone getting a trophy for participation.

          • Okay, but it’s this person’s JOB. Also, what part of this conversation implies no “thank yous” are ever said? Odds are the email responses include a standard, “thanks,” in reply to receipt, but why would OP bother to include that? This is an odd question to ask.

            And again, OP isn’t doing “their paperwork” as though it’s some favor to them. This is their ASSIGNED JOB.

    • Laurnado

      Do you get “thank you”s for doing the job you’re paid for?

      • Christine Harris

        Yes. Don’t know who you’re working for but my people DO have common courtesy.

        • Weird. My boss doesn’t make a habit of thanking me each day for doing my assignments. I’m 35, not 8.

      • thefunkyJ .

        Lol, reminds me of a Scrubs episode where J.D wants to be thanked by the patient for doing his job as a doctor and the patient says “I’m a garbage man, how many times a day do you think I get thanked?”

  • No Days Off

    Those do seem like odd questions, it makes you feel like you made the mistake purposefully. My mom does that, it’s just strange. I would suggest that when they ask that question, in your own mind change “why” to “how” and answer that. It’ll be less frustrating.

  • Not actually Joe Pesci

    “OP, why aren’t you paying attention to your work?” would be the implied question here.

  • Andrea M Downes

    Honestly, if you made that many mistakes as my coworker, I’d mention them all until you did your job properly. Seriously, grow up

    • Carolyn Foot

      So by that many, you mean 3, and by “mention them all” you mean “passive aggressively disguise your criticism as a curious question, making both of you look stupid”. And that’s supposed to be how “grown ups” do it, is it?

  • Passenger_Zero

    I don’t know, this seems very snarky and smart ass’y to me. I would never say this at my job. Even if I thought the questions were dumb.

  • Ali T 1

    I would suggest that your company evaluate your workload and perhaps get another member of staff. If you’re so busy you can’t perform the work to the required standard you need some support. If you’re just not checking the work though you need a kick up the…

  • Tell him you’re doing it just to mess with his mind.

  • Glenn Davey

    So you’re mad that your colleague continually has to question your competence? Yeah, that would become quite annoying after a while, I imagine…

  • [My Name] why are you still working here?

  • allahboleh

    Why are there two people doing one job? It sounds like if you bothered to spend a little extra effort to get things right the other guy could be fired.