How do you respond to a senior project member who wrongly accuses you and have your bosses and team copied on email?

Email can be a great thing. It can also be a source of a lot of friction, tension and time waste. In a recent discussion on one of the LinkedIn groups the following question was posted:

How do you respond to a senior project member who wrongly accuses you and have your bosses and team copied on email?

Within a few days more than 10 reactions had been posted and all of them had some really good things to say. Here we'll share with you some of those insights and suggestions.

First of all ask yourself what the reason could be:

1) That person does not have the right information and is mistaken
2) That person has the right information and is misleading.

Case 1) Facts. Provide the real facts. Try not to fall in the email trap. Go to that person and show the facts and ask him/her to retract the errand email

Case 2) A bit more difficult. Ask your self why that person might want to do that. Again, facts will be the key. If you can talk to that person (try to have a witness) and explain what is not correct in the message. Again ask to have the email retracted. Don't get sucked into an email exchange. Talk with your bosses and explain the situation and show them the facts. Same for your team. You have to nib this in the bud.

A few other quotes:

"Contact all he has contacted on the email, and put your case forward, do not put him/her down for wat (s)he has done, but if you have a strong case it shouldn't be a problem. If possible bring some humour in to it."

"Kindly note that rightly or wrongly accused, the approach of such an email I call a "shotgun" approach. Best management practices and team fundamentals do not support such communications."

"Do not start an email war! Nip it in the bud, by face to face or discussions"

"I also sought my Chief Executive’s agreement that the language and tone, and ‘blunderbus’ approach of the complainant’s e-mail was uncalled for."


In conclusion most agreed:

  • not to get into an email war
  • not to 'reply-all'
  • to inform senior management
  • to approach the complainant and talk it over if possible
  • to make clear to complainant that this kind of 'broadcast' - email concerning complaints is inappropriate
  • to provide the facts
  • to move on


Lessons learned:

  • React swiftly
  • have a short memory; In other words, move on and don't bear a grudge since that will blur your vision and assessment of future situations!)