Did i mess up in front of my boss?

I am in an entry level position in a professional work environment and have been on my team for about 2 years since completing undergrad. Today my boss and I had a meeting with some external stakeholders who we have been partnering with on a project. We maintain professional relationships with them although many of our meetings are brainstorms which I consider to be less formal than a group that we would just present to. Additionally, a separate department of my company partially funds this external partner, which to me makes the relationship less formal as well. (If THEY were paying US, then I would feel the need to be much more formal with them, however it’s the other way around).

Anyways today in a virtual meeting the external group brought up wanting to implement the project in a specific city and asked if we had any objections. Since I just had my annual performance review this January and received negative feedback from my boss that I don’t speak enough in meetings I tried to go for addressing the question first.

— I said that the city was not within our service territory and that it did not overlap with our priority areas.

— External person #1 replied “I hate to break it to you but they are in your service area”.

— I showed a map on my screen of our service territory, which is most of the state and has several cutouts. It was zoomed into the city of interest and showed a line around it.

— External person #2 says “oh there’s a line around it, what does that mean?”

— I said “I think it’s a cut out”

— External person #2 says “maybe it is serviced by company A”

— External person #1 says “I used to work for company A and we did not service this city! If it’s a cutout it must be because the area surrounding it is not in the service area”

— At this point I look at the map and realize this is true. I was at first confused because there is no shading on the map, only outlines of polygons and several cutouts, so at places it is confusing to know what area is “in” or “out”. I begin to say “oh yes”… but get cut off by my manager who changes the subject.

External people continue the discussion in the meeting chat and provide links to the city’s website that lists our company as their service provider. I see this and note it to myself although don’t bring it up again in the meeting because my boss has already changed the subject.

About 5 minutes later, external person #1 emails me a screenshot of the city website link from the meeting chat showing our company listed as the service provider. The rest of the meetings ~10 participants are CC’ed. i have already seen this information in the meeting chat but reply all to the email “thanks for the correction!”.

The meeting continues for another 20 minutes or so but the subject of the city is not revisited. About 10 minutes after the meeting ended, my boss sends me a meeting invite for later in the week to debrief on the meeting that has just occurred.

I do feel a little dumb for making the silly mistake of thoughtlessly misinterpreting the map, however, I feel it was an honest and simple mistake that could have been explained and moved on from had my manager not changed the subject so quickly. I don’t have the best public speaking or facilitation skills, but I do consider myself an unassuming person and don’t have a problem with admitting I was wrong. Moreover, I felt that I was just explaining my reasoning by showing the map while External person #1 seemed to be getting more worked up over the matter. We service over 50k sq mi so I don’t think anyone has memorized all our cities. Finally, my mistake doesn’t really change my company’s stance on the proposal since it doesn’t overlap with any of our priority areas. The issue is that I feel I lost credibility to my boss and that he may have seen this interaction as a bigger embarrassment since he abruptly cut me off. And that I didn’t do any good toward improving my performance review feedback by opening my mouth to say something dumb.

What are your opinions on the situation? Was this a simple mistake or a big faux pas?

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Comments ( 4 )
  • darefu

    You opened your mouth because of your performance report. If you're going to do that and say things that you are not the absolute authority on, I would suggest learning to use non absolute phrases. Instead of saying that city is not in our service area, you could say "I don't think" or I'm not sure that city is in our service area. Unless I'm the approving authority I seldom use absolutes.

    There is an old cliche that fits this.

    Sometimes it is better to remain quiet and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    Especially if you're worried about your standing, do your research and know what you're talking about.

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  • kelili

    It happens. He'll certainly bring this up and you should take full responsibility for the mistake. Be an adult and don't over-apologise.

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  • 1WeirdGuy

    I dont think its that big of a deal

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  • bigbudchonger

    it does look unprofessional, but I don't think it's a huge mistake, and you did the right thing in saying "thanks for the correction". Some people are too stubborn and refuse to lose face, but you realised you were wrong and didn't dig your feet in, which would have made it a lot worse.

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