For exhibit and event professionals  

My ‘ROI’ adds up to trouble

July 5, 2011 By Editor

My boss mistakenly gave me an incorrect attendance figure for our quarterly program report. That figure made our program appear unbelievably successful. She corrected the error with the CFO, but she’s mad at me and acting like it was my fault. Should I swallow it and move on or call her out on this?

— Lilly, Trade Show Coordinator

But how much trouble depends on you

It would be bad enough if you made this mistake yourself. But when someone else is to blame and points the finger in your direction, you’re bound to feel angry and betrayed.

Our readers suggest you:

  • Let it go.
  • Clear the air.
  • Prepare for next time.

Let it go

What happened happened, and nothing can change that. So it may be better for you to give your boss a pass on this one.

As an exhibit coordinator says:

“Your boss is really upset with herself, not you, and she’s just misdirecting her anger. If the two of you have had a good working relationship in the past, and she’s a fair person, she’ll probably apologize to you once she’s had a chance to get over the embarrassment of having to go to the CFO.”

Clear the air

Anger and resentment can fester over time, and eventually, you may be unable to work for your boss. That’s why a private conversation may be your best bet.

A trade show manager shares his thoughts.

“Give your boss some time to cool off. Then schedule a short meeting with her. Be cooperative, not confrontational. Start the conversation with something like ‘I know there was a problem with some show figures, and I was just wondering if there’s anything I can do to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again.’

“If she apologizes, great! If not, you don’t look like you’re accusing her or whining. Taking the high road can only improve your standing in her eyes.”

Prepare for next time

In this situation, you can’t prove what happened and who made the mistake. But you can protect yourself in the event of an even bigger error.

An events manager explains how she handled this kind of problem herself.

“I had a boss who could never admit to any mistake he made, and I finally got tired of being his built-in excuse. I started emailing him confirmations of any and all discussions we had, with a note at the end of each: ‘If I’ve misunderstood any information you gave me during our meeting, please let me know.’

“To keep him from ‘tinkering’ with my data regarding shows and then blaming me for any inaccuracies, I not only posted my figures in a public file he could access, I also put them in a private folder and ran out a hard copy the day the file was created. The next time he tried to blame me for anything, I had the documentation to prove it was he, not I, who made the mistake.”


  • I think how you react to this situation depends on a couple of factors. Did your boss blame you when she spoke to the CFO? If so, would the belief you made this mistake cost you in terms of your reputation/chance for advancement? If it would, I’d recommend finding a roundabout way of dropping the dime on your boss. But tread carefully, because doing it the wrong way could be disastrous for you.

    On the other hand, if your boss accepted responsibility for this mistake, I’d play the waiting game and see how things go after the dust settles.

    That said, how would you pursue this matter?

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