How to act when your MD is blatantly wrong?


I had a situation today in which I didnt know how to properly handle.

MD gave some verbal comments over the phone to apply to a deck which I diligently wrote down. I submitted the work. Then got a book sized email saying how he is confused with why I would give him the deck like that when it is exactly what he wanted. He also said he never said anything like what I did.

What is the best way to reply? Eat it up and move on? I dont have anything but my notes to prove what he said. I even ended the call with a summary of the to do list.

Any thoughts?

Comments (39)

Aug 9, 2020 - 6:33pm

This happened in a different setting in my office. Whenever my immediate superior gives specific instructions, I shoot an email either after the discussion or in the email with the deliverable summarizing the discussion.

"Hey X,

As per our discussion the other day, I made the following changes...

Please see the deliverable attached.


In this instance, if he's just blatantly denying it, my advice is to grit your teeth on this one and then make the habit of emailing summaries of discussions for future instances.

Most Helpful
Aug 10, 2020 - 9:37am

I wouldn't go so far as to email a checklist right after the call. Some MDs may like that but as a default, I'd expect the average MD to be slightly annoyed by that. It comes off almost like you're agreeing to a contract or something. Could be seen as (i) you trying to limit your role to precisely what's "agreed upon" instead of taking ownership and (ii) at a minimum, adding another chore for him in that he's being asked to read your checklist. Stick to the original idea of "here's the work, here's a list of changes". At most.

Aug 10, 2020 - 8:46am

Do this next time.....all the people saying to just "eat it" don't understand long-term office politics. If someone throws you under the bus, you need to find ways to avoid it happening again or outmaneuver that person. Don't get into conflict over that instance but plan for the future. MD cannot get mad at you for sending a to-do list after a conversation.

Aug 11, 2020 - 6:58pm

I agree, but would be interesting if you could give some examples of how you would do that, or even better, have done it, to better illustrate your point and make it more practical. It would just be interesting to hear your experience and how you reasoned and acted in order to resolve such issues for yourself.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 9, 2020 - 9:03pm

What I like to do is list any major changes to the deck to my MD. I specifically mention "as per your request to ....", that way if he decides he never said that it's easy for him to spot what I changed, but also to protect myself from him asking why I would do that change.

Aug 9, 2020 - 9:38pm

Let him fuck you, because he's probably get pissed if you, an analyst, told him off.

When I’m no longer rapping, I want to open up an ice cream parlor and call myself Scoop Dogg
  • Intern in IB-M&A
Aug 9, 2020 - 9:47pm

Eat it. It's probs not personal and dudes been looking for an escape from his issues at home and channels it to more time at work, hence, taking it out on analysts

Aug 10, 2020 - 9:42am

In this case eat it. Going foward, I would always follow up with an email stating "These are the changes we discussed. Please let me know if I missed anything from our discussion or there are any other changes that need to be made."

If I have any questions, I'll just include any clarification points. I do this just to make sure that I have a paper trail and a formal checklist of things to do. It's more process than anything. Plus, this way, I can keep track of how different people like things done. Things one person likes, another may not.

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Aug 10, 2020 - 11:19am

Not uncommon when getting verbal comments, a lot of the time with verbal comments an MD will have a clear vision in their head of what they want but may not be able to verbally articulate what they want in as clear a fashion. Just take it as a learning experience with this MD on the need to double check and be clear on comments. Just tell him you must have misunderstood and move on.

Aug 10, 2020 - 12:18pm

agree no value in fighting over this response would be "i must have misunderstood...will make an effort to get more clarity next time if i'm confused or unclear" and then just move on.

For future reference, i would suggest emailing immediately after the phone call or meeting a summary of what was asked by your superior....just for confirmation / record keeping because verbal requests can often be confused...and so in the future you can refer back to it. No harm in doing this...keep the summary brief and concise...and in a numbered list

something like this

email subject: Summarizing Johns recent verbal requests for project Hurcules
1) increase font size on title slide 2
2) add 2 years of revenue history to table on slide 14


ideally, you can write this email as you are on the phone taking the comments so you don't waste time re-writing it afterwards

Aug 10, 2020 - 6:15pm

I had this exact thing happen. The MD would dictate changes over the phone, and I would write them down. Later he's complain about why change X was missing, or why I made change Y when he didn't request it. So annoying. It's much easier to get a marked-up copy and then execute the changes.

I dunno how to deal. Could you have emailed him with the comprehensive list of changes he requested, before making the edits?

Aug 10, 2020 - 7:17pm

This is like asking what to do if God made a mistake. Just take it. I would even say that the odds are better on you having misinterpreted a tiny but significant detail of how he imagined the final product than him actually being 'wrong' here. It happens and it sucks but you'll eventually learn what your MD actually means when he says words.

Aug 11, 2020 - 12:16pm

Look man, it sucks but you have to just take this shit on the chin. It's annoying but certainly not a situation to blow any amount of political capital that you have built up (which is what you would have to use to argue with an MD). Some MDs will never be happy with your work regardless of whether is it perfect and if you diligently follow every change that they ask. Others don't give a shit about the materials and are going to wing it anyway. It's important to learn the style and tendencies of the MDs you work with and play to those. I'd argue the first guy is easier to work with because I won't spend extra time on that shit knowing that he's going to change it no matter what I send. Regardless, don't take it personal and just move on form this one.

Aug 13, 2020 - 1:28pm

This happens a lot. The response depends on your MD, that said, I would still point to the fact that you took notes during the call to make it clear it's not a blatant mistake on your part.

Going forward, the solution is to immediately send around notes summarizing what was discussed (send it over email) so that there's a paper trail of what was requested...

Again, it really depends on your MD's personality (some will be blatantly wrong and never admit it) but the point here is to make sure everyone's aligned going forward.

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