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Manager giving nit-picking feedback to take the judge/teacher role

My girlfriend was taken aside by a curriculum manager at her work (teacher) saying that another teacher had complained she used too many exclamation marks in an email.

The background is he is meant to be dealing with this new teacher who is making a lot of mistakes and has received student and teacher complaints.  This manager is trying to play the 'oh you both made mistakes' game and give himself judge power pushing my GF down to raise himself up.

Her is the email from my GF:


Thanks for letting me know!

Will give you feedback after the tutorial on Monday

Need to prepare the session for Monday then!

This guy also claimed he hadn't seen the email (he was on the recipients).  He has lied to other teachers before.


I was going to get her to email back.


Hi Harvind

If you like I'll just clarify a couple of points from our chat today.

You mentioned you weren't aware of the email discussion.  No doubt you get many emails, you might have missed that one as you were copied on it.  I've attached it for your convenience so you can find it easily.

On the use of the exclamation mark in our professional communications I think you have to consider context.  In the attached email I was conveying a friendly and supportive tone and expressing my willingness to go along with late changes to the teaching schedule to support my colleague. 

I believe my communication was professional, supportive and appropriate.

You know how it is in a busy teaching environment, people dash off emails to catch people between classes and nobody is going to write the perfect email every time but I think this one was pretty good.

And I'm fully committed to great working relationships in the team so if you have any additional thoughts - happy to hear.


Would love to hear any thoughts you might like to share guys.




Hi Transitioned,

my take here is that the prospective email sounds a bit defensive, and I would probably not send it.

This is also for the reasons below:

Interpreting the situation as a fake triangulation

Since this curriculum manager seems to be textbook triangulating, ie pitting two people against one another (and on a non-issue at that) - and you also mention he is known for lying - in my view the resolution of the matter should be mostly internal here.

Meaning, your girlfriend should "flip an internal switch" where she goes (in her mind): "Oh, a manipulative guy. He's probably triangulating me with a falsehood to pit me against the other teacher. The other teacher probably did not even complain about my email, or was provoked by this guy into saying something".

And she should probably think that what this guy said is a total lie, and keep her relation with the other (triangulated) teacher as it was before.

Because: having your girlfriend justify, and/or get distance from the other triangulated teacher, is precisely what this guy wants. So first and foremost, don't give it to him.

Optional: letting the triangulator know she knows what he's doing

This to me is optional, because whether to do this or not depends on whether it is more useful to let this guy know that your girlfriend knows what he's up to, or is it more useful to fake being oblivious.

If best keep him in the dark, I think your girlfriend shouldn't do anything. Maybe she could even just "thank him" to lead him on.

If, instead, it's best to come across as "aware of his games", I would answer something like this:

Her: I don't know why you are telling me this. But I do know that I trust [other teacher], and I know he's my friend. And, I don't know whether I want to keep having this conversation with you. But I do know I will tell my friend what you told me and speak with him about this.

Or, lower intensity:

Her: Thanks. (<----- said with a "thanks for nothing" tone) I'll let other people speak to me directly if and when they may want to.

Or even lower intensity:

Her: Oh, thank you so much. If there is something to be said about my work I would prefer to hear and discuss directly with the source though.

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Lucio BuffalmanoTransitioned

Thanks Bel

I wasn't sure and there was no urgency to send so held off.

I guess the principle I was working to was 'mud sticks' I.e. don't let any public allegation go unanswered or people can run a smear campaign.

There s a bit more to the situation I had left out for brevity.  The previous email from the other teacher had been quite aggressive.  She had copied managers and put the subject in  capital letters.  So I don't  think it was false triangulation.  But it's a great  consideration because this guy is the kind of jerk who would use such a tactic. And I have added the options you described to my notes.

When this guy gave his 'feedback'. My girlfriend had rejected it and and pulled in the other 2 managers she normally works more closely with. Getting witnesses  because this jerk is a known liar.

Unfortunately they did the managers club thing, closed ranks and supported this guy.  Then after one of the managers said to my gf don't  worry it's just a small thing.

Which frankly is BS. Especially since those 2 managers use my gf as their go to troubleshooter any time they have stuffed up.  So the email I proposed was in the vein of formally rejecting unfair feedback.  And email is also  pointing out this guy lied because he uses 'chatting' then denying as his standard tactic.  That s another reason to put everything  in writing.

My gf is a great team member with 2.5 years there.  Dedicated, knowledgeable, easy to work with, liked by students and staff, reliable and diligent on her admin work. I know this is true because I have helped her with her work and socialised with her friends from work.

This other lady has had trouble with students and staff since she arrived.  The managers and particularly this guy are ducking their responsibility to sort this lady out.

So that s all the background.

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Lucio BuffalmanoBel

Hello Transitioned,

Cool, it sounds like your girlfriend has quite enough power to stand up against these games so I think it's fair to use it.

Yes, the email is quite strong, but if she has the leverage to reject the feedback and maintain that frame -including, important to consider, if her job is safe against this asshole-, why not.

If this situation is played well, it can turn out like this:

  1. Bad boss attacks
  2. She rejects the attack/allegations
  3. Bosses close rank to support their peer (respectable) BUT...
  4. ... BUT deep down the other 2 bosses both know the bad boss is an asshole AND
  5. ... AND the reputation of your girlfriend goes further up

After that, the best move would be for your girlfriend to be asked to have another boss and/or not having to deal anymore with the bad boss.

If she wins that, she's golden.

There are some risks though: for example, if the bas boss maintains his leverage on your girlfriend after the events, and then she may have an enemy who has power over her.

So a better mix maybe to:

  1. Accept part of the feedback, including to agree the explanation marks may have been too strong
  2. Vow to address the feedback in her future communication style
  3. Maintain the overall frame she's in the right 

On this one:

Quote from Transitioned on March 1, 2023, 8:43 am

This manager is trying to play the 'oh you both made mistakes' game and give himself judge power pushing my GF down to raise himself up.

From what you write, this may not be the case of what I'm about to say.

In general though, consider that some managers are almost obliged to do that (plus, some just don't have the internal strength or clairvoyance to put all the blame on one).

It's an effort to at least try to give a chance to the bad employee and save her face but, often, it's PR and they know who's the good employee and who's the bad one.

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Thanks everyone.  The situation changed today as this Lady had made another mistake.  I got my GF to ask 'innocently' if the process had changed 😉

That set the bomb off.   One of the better managers stepped in and sidelined Harvind 🙂   At that point I figured don't put your hand in while the pot is boiling so we won't send the email above.

To Lucio's point my GF would have to deal with this manager on learning content of her teaching units.  So no point making an enemy.

For the sake of bringing the thread to a tidy conclusion and learning by doing here's my second effort.


Hi Harvind

Thank you for the chat the other day.   Overall, I thought my email was good - supportive, and being flexible, supporting a colleague's last minute changing of teaching resources

Regarding your point on the use of the exclamation mark.  I was taking it as showing enthusiasm and a collaborative 'can do' attitude.  But from your feedback it sounds like other people might mis-interpret that.

So I will drop it in future emails.  Happy to hear any additional thoughts you may have.

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