Get advice on how to deal with jerks at work Check out the book 'Jerks At Work' and other titles by Ken Lloyd Ph.D. Return to the homepage Learn more about Ken Lloyd, Ph.D. Submit a question to Ken Lloyd, Ph.D.

You asked, Ken answers ...

This item is filed under these categories:
E-mail Communication Incompetence Condescending Treatment Feedback

I put together a summary of information that my manager requested, and I thought I did a good job. His response to me was a question mark, and nothing more. When I responded that I am not sure what he means, he emailed back and said, “figure it out.” What am I missing?

It appears that you are missing a good manager. One of the most important functions of a manager is to communicate effectively with his or her team, and that means providing clear messages, listening to the responses, and providing feedback. If there was a problem with your work, appropriate feedback from your manager includes more than a question mark followed by a directive to read his or her mind.

His response sounds arrogant, insulting, and nasty. The message is that he has no time for you or your work. Since he has not even given you a hint regarding the parts of your summary that need more attention, it would be tempting to send him a question mark in return, but you should not yield to that temptation.

He wants you to figure it out, and that is exactly what you should try to do. Go back over your summary and review it line by line. Try to think of your manager’s style and then tailor your summary to fit his preferences. For example, if he likes bullet points, use them instead of paragraphs in the summary. The real question mark is how much longer you are going to put up with him as your manager.

Comment on this item

Your name (optional)
If you leave this blank, we'll list you as "Website visitor"

Your comments
Please keep your comments focused on the topic. Thanks!