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Let's say that I am working with my manager; he made some mistake which I have identified, and I want to point that out to him. So is there any polite way of saying "You have got it wrong."?

(By the way is the tense right in the question? I mean should it be

he has made a mistake which I would like to point out.

or

he made a mistake which I would like to point out.)

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@TimLymington did you mean but not He has made a mistake? –  noob Dec 24 '12 at 17:43
    
As useful a question as this is, it seems to be about politeness rather than anything specifically about English. We could go on all day about the best way to encourage a superior (or anybody) to change. There's no right answer here. Can you reword to ask an answerable question? –  Mitch Dec 24 '12 at 17:47
    
He has made is when you see the error on the sheet, as opposed to He made a mistake in his work; if he got the wrong total and wrote it in, but then corrected it, you could still say He made a mistake, but not He has made a mistake. And in future, please try to have only one query per question; otherwise it is really hard to know what is the best answer. PS thanks for noticing the typo. –  TimLymington Dec 24 '12 at 17:48
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4 Answers

If it were my managers, I'd probably break tchrist's rule, but you could use

When I worked it out, I got a different answer. I had... [and then state the correct version].

That gives the manager the opportunity to see that you may indeed be right; or to state that they don't care about your version and you should use theirs anyway. In either case, you have pointed out the correct version and your honour is satisfied. In putting it this way, you are calling into question your own ability compared to your manager's. There's a similar but not identical scenario in another question.

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All depends on culture. In non-Engineering disciplines, the correct response is 'Great idea!'. In engineering, the answer is 'Let's see what the calculations say...oh, I think there was a typo in your constants'. In medicine it is 'No, that would kill the patient'. –  Mitch Dec 24 '12 at 17:52
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Here are some polite options. You can mix and match, too.

I think you might be mistaken.

I think it actually works/goes/is like this..."

Even if you know your manager has it wrong, it is sometimes more polite (although indirect and therefore potentially confusing) to say that you think s/he might be mistaken. To avoid confusion (and be a little more direct) you could also say:

I'm afraid you're mistaken.

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I think in order to be polite you must accept the possibility that you are both wrong.

There are four possibilities:

  1. You have correctly identified areas where he is wrong, and you are correct. i.e. He is wrong and you are right.
  2. You have correctly identified areas where he is wrong, but you are also wrong. i.e. you are both wrong.
  3. Your manager is correct, and you have misinterpreted what he meant, you have proposed an equally valid solution. i.e. you are both correct.
  4. Your manager is correct, and you have misinterpreted what he meant, you have proposed an incorrect solution. i.e. he is right and you are wrong.

If you respect your manager's authority (or wish to at least seem to), you must assume that he (or she) believes he is correct, and that he has come to his conclusions in a logical manner. By the wording of your question you believe yourself to be correct, and I would assume you have also come to your conclusions in a logical manner.

If you both started from the same information, and both took logical routes you could both be correct.

Therefore a polite (and constructive) response would be:

  1. First raise that you have come to a different conclusion to your manager and that you would like to understand where the difference comes from. (Do not claim your conclusion is better than his)
  2. Confirm that you both have the same starting information. If you have uncovered more information that he did not have, then he may come to the same conclusion as you and thank you for informing him of this new information.
  3. If they have the same starting information, then you must have applied a different process to this information to end up at different answers. You can then compare how you came to your answer and how he came to his and decide between you which answer is the best.

The key to being helpful and polite is to accept the possibility that you may be wrong. If you go into the discussion convinced that you are correct and he is wrong, and you are unwilling to listen to him, then he will not listen to you.

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Courtesy demands that you never state that someone got something wrong.

You must instead point out what is right, without accusing him of having been mistaken, let alone that they have done anything wrong, which is even worse.

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