Wanting to know who turned you in is perfectly understandable. But like many normal human reactions, this impulse is not particularly helpful.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.